Tourist shops here in the D.C. area sell a t-shirt that says, “I love my country, it’s the government I’m afraid of!” (sic, the comma splice) I believe it was first worn by liberals opposed to George W. Bush. Now it’s being worn by conservatives opposed to Barack Obama. (I present this as evidence for my assertion that both liberals and conservatives have become cynical when it comes to patriotic ideals.)
Now I understand the point. It’s possible to love America with its purple mountain majesties, its history, its people, and its ideals while being utterly opposed to the government. That’s a commendable distinction. At the same time, in a democratic republic, the people choose their leaders and elect their government, so there is going to be a connection between the country and the government. There is a fine line between hating a nation’s government and hating the nation.
In the older patriotism of my childhood, which I talk about in that other post, there was a palpable distinction–parallel to the rejection by orthodox Christianity of the Donatist heresy–between the office and the person who holds the office. Critics respected the office of the presidency or of a Senator or Congressman, even if they attacked a particular office holder. A person might complain about politicians in Washington, but not “Congress” as a whole.
Today. . . .I don’t know. I worry about the preservation of our institutions if hardly anyone has any respect for them.
I suppose some people are afraid of their country–thinking the American people are essentially racist, plutocratic, and oppressive– but love their government, which they want to protect them from society. Is there a similar danger in the sentiment on the t-shirt?