Â "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" - Samuel Johnson, 1775
Dear readers of this blog are likely already aware of a story that occurred Tuesday, the Fourth of July. In celebration of the day, NPR tweeted out the Declaration of Independence
, in Tweeteriffic 140 character chunks. Low-information tRump voters (is that redundant?) were outraged
. Why because they thought it was an attack on tRump
Yes, that's correct - they didn't recognize the Declaration of Independence on the day we celebrate its release. These self-described patriots don't even know one of the most important founding documents of our country.
It shouldn't be that surprising, though. If you made a Venn diagram of tRump supporters, rednecks, and Tea Partiers, it would very nearly be a perfect circle. These are people who use patriotism as a bludgeon, who drape themselves in the affectations of America, without really understanding the history behind them.
Take - for example - the Gadsden flag
The flag grew out of the original "Join or Die" cartoon by Ben Franklin. Indeed, the rattlesnake was our first animal symbol (before we made it the bald eagle). The meaning is meant to represent the colonies as a whole. It is NOT meant to represent individual liberties. It was also one of the country's first flags, and as such is as much a symbol of a unified
United States as the stars and stripes.
The same lack of historical knowledge goes for the confederate flag. It was the battle flag for only one VA regiment, not the flag for the confederacy as a whole. Those who flew it were traitors to the country, trying to protect the right to own slaves, and - ultimately - losers. People call it a "rebel" flag, but they're only rebelling against intelligence and historical accuracy.
These people always make claims to support the Constitution, but the only parts they really know are 1/2 of the 2nd amendment (that "well-regulated militia" part always seems to get forgotten), and the 10th amendment (or their interpretation of it). They proclaim their 1st Amendment rights all the time, but forget that it also declares freedom of the press (i.e.: the media), and freedom of religion. Islam is a religion; so is Judaism and Hinduism. The 1st Amendment does not declare "freedom of Christianity".
What the Constitution does
proscribe (in the preamble
) is "... a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty". Yet they might describe "a more perfect union" and "promote the general welfare" as government overreach.
The United States has had a few mottoes through the years. Closer to our formation they were "e pluribus unum" (from many - one) and "united we stand" (which got bastardized on awful T-shirts as "we stand united" immediately after 9/11). Nowadays, however, we are less united than ever. The Civil War was an attempt to disunite us. It failed. What war could not do, though, is happening via propaganda, lizard-brain reflexive partisanship, and a lack of interest in history, civics, and respect for real information.
The divide is not entirely geographical, which makes another civil war unlikely. The lack of civility in general, however, is making the divide more dangerous. Hiding behind symbols of patriotism and claiming to love one's country more than "the other" cloaks the anger and hatred in a sheen of respectability. Only knowledge, understanding, tolerance, and empathy can bridge the chasms. Whether we as a nation have the desire to do so remains to be seen.