Friday, May 20, 2011

What Is The Proper Role of a Patriot?

Anonymous commenter last night/this morning (1:45 EDT) posted this thought-provoking comment:

“Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong”

— Stephen Decatur

Elections have consequences. Obama won the Presidency. He is our President. Not saying that this shouldn't be an issue in the 2012 campaign. Sure it should be.

But until then America needs to support the President and this policy. EVEN IF IT IS WRONG!

To do less makes one a traitor!
One of the things I've always admired about the military is that when the president changes, they take down the old portrait, hang up the new one, and get on with the job.  I recall saying almost those exact words to a technician working with/for me just after the inauguration in '09.  I will salute the new guy, and get on with life. 

But is this correct?  Are we under no obligation other than "our country, right or wrong"?   Does all politics stop at the water's edge?  It was only a few years ago, under W Bush, that the left was saying "dissent is the highest form of patriotism".  Hillary Clinton famously gave a talk where she said just that in those legendary dulcet tones of hers...

Today, of course, dissent is treasonous.  I am not putting words into my commenter's mouth (or keyboard, as the case may be) and implying they're saying anyone who protests the administration is a traitor.  For all I know this person is to the right of Genghis, or even Sylvia, Kahn (obscure reference!) and believes the only proper response is to wait for the next election.

Perhaps the best illustration of how differently dissent is handled is how virtually identical political images of W and Obama were reacted to so completely differently.  In this image, the one on top was in Atlantic magazine and praised as brilliant, while the one on the bottom was condemned with every level of vitriol imaginable.

An analogy:  I've worked for my current employer for 15 years.  Over those years, I think I've demonstrated my loyalty to them.  But we make safety critical systems, where a bad design decision that gets out in a product could kill hundreds of people at a time, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  What if I see the project leaders making a decision that my years of experience says is dangerously stupid?  I have an ethical, moral and legal duty that exceeds loyalty to the company and I need to point out the mistake.  Let's take it farther: let's say I tell them they're doing something that can get people killed and the leader ignores me.  What then?  What if I go through every level in the company and nothing gets changed?  If I'm convinced by my analysis that they are doing the wrong thing, and the company will do nothing about it, I am obligated to either accept it (that is, be complicit) or leave.  Love it or leave it.

To drive home the point, it's the same thing with our nation.  I think it's our duty, when we see the servants we elect to do our work do that work in a patently stupid and potentially deadly way, we have an obligation to point out the mistake.  You can rest assured that my ramblings do not end here, when I believe bad policy decisions are being made.  Unlike my employer, the option to leave is not really there. 

In the wake of the police raid that took blogger TJIC off the net, I wrote:
The founding fathers, after all, were in armed rebellion against the legal government they were living under, right?  They were British citizens shooting British citizens.  Unless you are of the belief that no system of government is ever so oppressive or so tyrannical as to need to be overthrown, you must agree that (TJIC's) is not an unreasonable opinion. (emphasis added this time - GB) 
The word patriot has the Latin root patria - country or "fatherland".  The modern definition is "one who loves and zealously supports and defends his or her country".  The modern patriot movement may well love, and zealously support a country that doesn't exist anymore. In the words of this famous video, "This is America! - It Ain't no more".

Edit 2125  Inadvertently used an HTML tag in the quote and words disappeared!


  1. Would this person continue to cling to his rigid worldview if Hitler were his President? What if this President we currently suffer under were to insist upon a policy of arresting every evil capitalist who has an income over $250,000 a year, as well as confiscating all of that person's property and other assets, to use said assets to fund forced abortions for every women who has already had one child?

    Blanket assertions that anything a President does is acceptable are demonstrably false, are prima facie invalid. This is often true of statements that include "any" or "all" but it especially applies to blanket acceptance of any behavior or any demands from a political figure, President notwithstanding.

    When applied to such a lying, Marxist, arrogant, narcissistic excuse for a human being, such an assertion is obscene. It is beyond ignorant, beyond tasteless, beyond foolhardy. It is criminal not to resist the planned destruction of the America we inherited from our Founding Fathers, the mutilation of our representative republic into a socialist state. The only choice a thinking, rational, patriotic individual has is in how to resist, what manner of action is proper considering the circumstances.

    This individual is certainly allowed his opinion, but thankfully, the First Amendment clarifies my right to state that it is an ignorant and irrational opinion that I would not have even graced with a reply had not our gracious host, SiGraybeard, posed the question.

  2. Only those of us in the Executive Branch have any sort of requirement of loyalty to the President (and of course that loyalty is supposed to be subordinate to the one we have to the Constitution). The rest of you all are under no such obligation, and in fact it is dead wrong for a normal citizen to exhibit such blind loyalty to any politician. You guys are supposed to be the bosses, dammit!

  3. To do less makes one a traitor!

    The President is not an omnipotent ruler (at least not yet). He is the chief executive officer of USA, Inc. (No, I'm not being funny -- the United States of America is no less a legal fiction than any corporation.)

    Disagreeing with him, refusing to support him whether right or wrong, is not treason. Quite the contrary; supporting the President when he's wrong (or violating the Constitution or his oath) is the greater act of treason.

    @Xenocles: Those in the Executive Branch (and the others) swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution; you are bound to follow lawful orders and directives made thereunder. There is no mandate of loyalty to any government officer, and certainly not the President... is there? If I'm wrong, I'd love to know how and why. Please cite facts and not opinion.

  4. To belabor the point: Our government is supposed to be subordinate to the citizens, not the other way around.

    How did we ever get to the point where people never learned it, or, upon a moment's reflection, can't figure it out from the clear and ample evidence available to anyone who cares enough to read a few pages from the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution... ?

  5. BS Footprint - to extend the analogy of POTUS as the CEO of the USA, Inc., a share of stock in the US is one greenback.

    You can see how well the stock is doing as they keep issuing more shares and no one wants to buy.

  6. @BS Footprint-

    That's exactly what I meant.

  7. @Xenocles:

    Thanks for clarifying. I thought that's what you meant, but wasn't sure. Anyway, I apologize if I offended, wasn't my intention.

    I get very worried when we start talking about the whole 'personal loyalty' thing, too many 'ominous parallels' if we go down that road. The Cult of Personality surrounding our politicians, the President in particular, is worrisome, IMO.