Fr. Rob Johansen

Fr. Rob Johansen April 11, 2012

…on National Pride.

Patriotism is healthy and good. National Pride is poisonous and addictive.

If ever a nation was a living demonstration of the Crystal Meth-like effects of National Pride on the common sense, civic health, economics, and overall sanity of a people, it is the United States in the year of Our Lord 2012. Never has a nation managed to simultaneously combine massive rot, corruption of its own most fundamental traditions, contempt of its Ruling Classes for the populace, imperial incompetence, and contempt for God and the weak with such an amazing certainty that anything less than feeling really good about ourselves is “guilt-mongering” and not the common sense first step toward recovery.

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  • Dan C

    Imperialism is the norm for American behavior. If there is a question about that, discuss American imperialism at a Catholic parish on the Navajo reservation. Or in Chile. Or at UCA in San Salvador.


  • Jayjay

    Never has a nation managed? Look around the globe, Father, and reach back into history, too. You might discover that America isn’t so unique.

    • no one

      Other nations have succumbed to socialism and godlessness and we’re next.

      America’s the last bastion and we’re sinking fast, period.

      It’s attitudes like this, “not so bad, looky over thar” are ridiculous. Who cares to look at a bouy in a swampland?

  • JayJay has a point. If anything, the problem is we are divided by those who still insist that ‘my mother, drunk or sober’ vs. those who instead insist ‘my mother, drunken whore, let her die.’ That tug-of-war between two extreme assessments is probably more the root cause of America careening over the cliff of history than any other attitudes about the country that I can think of. Especially since the closest thing to a counter argument to those extremes so often sounds like ‘OK, so she’s a worthless inferior drunken whore, but I still love her.’

    • Jayjay

      Well said, Dave G…hysterically well said, in fact.

      I would expand your quote to read, “OK, so she’s a worthless inferior drunken whore, but when I look around at all the rest of the worthless inferior drunken whores on the planet, she looks pretty damn good by comparison.”

      • no one

        That’s just silly.

        That’s like saying, “I look around and see guys drinking at bars and going to the strip clubs. At least I’m not them!”

        or the lax Catholic saying:

        “who needs to be a saint? who needs to aim for perfection in this life? I’m good enough! … because I SAY I’m good enough!”

        good grief.

        • Jayjay

          I don’t think anyone has suggested that “almost as bad as everyone else” amounts to “ideal”, no one. The point is that the USA is hardly unique in the flaws that have been attributed to it by way of this post.

          • no one

            your “she looks pretty damn good” is your ideal and both writers say it stinks.

            you don’t.

            neither writer was making a comparison against any other nation, so your point is irrelevant.

            seems to me you don’t like anyone talking bad about America. the truth hurts — but it’s only when the drunken whore admits she’s a drunken whore that she can get better.

            this is not about any other nation.

            or maybe you just like drunken whores.

            • Jayjay

              Boy, it’s a good thing you’re no one. If you were someone, your foolishly insulting response would annoy me.

              • no one

                if it makes you “feel good,” Mr. Jayjay Anonymous.

    • ds

      I would insist your mother, drunk or sober.

  • Ted Seeber

    He’s right on national pride, he’s wrong on scarcity. Jesus Christ once showed us what the world might be like if there was no scarcity of food; but he did so by the power of God.

    It isn’t by economic fiat that the fundamental economic rule of scarcity has been broken. It is by industrialization, globalization, and automation; in all of it’s worst and dehumanizing forms. All scarcity left is artificial- created by those who have to keep those who have not in their place. We have forgotten that economics isn’t nature- it wasn’t invented by God, it was invented by man to oppress other men.

    • You’re not wrong on the effects of industrialization and automation re: artificial scarcity. However, I don’t think that the dehumanization is for the purpose of “keeping those who have not in their place.” It’s much simpler than that; it’s about greed. Stepping on the poor is a side effect of that greed.

      Not that that makes it any better, of course. I’m not convinced that the rich hate the poor so much as they just don’t care about them at all, seeing them as obstacles to or tools for their own profit.

  • vickie

    I think what Father was warning about is our inability to say no to ourselves. So we think that we can invade multiple countries to impose our will and max out the collective credit card, so to speak, but some one else has to pay the bill -in treasure and even life. So, a coed thinks other other people should pay for her birth control pills, and when she forgets to use them, the child should pay for her mistake. We randomly bomb strangers thousands of miles away and yet resent the fact that they don’t want to emulate us.

  • Lisa

    I think Fr Rob has overstated his point. The motivation for invading Iraq was not hubris but fear. It turned out to be unwarranted. The same could said for our other stupid international adventures: Grenada, Panama, Viet Nam, Cuba. Industrialist lobyists whispering in the ears of fearful politicitians can wield great power.

    What would Fr Rob say to the millions of happy democrats in South Korea? “Your happiness and good fortune are the result of Ameican sin.” I don’t buy it. Another question: Is it sinful to be proud of the Catholic Church? Was it sinful arrogance for the Jesuits to think that they could Christianize Asia and the Americas?

    America has the highest rate of church attendence in the world. Why? Because it is the only country that was founded on the principle that human rights come from God whilst restricting its government from getting into the God business – a magical recipe. I for one am VERY proud of that.

  • Peggy R

    I don’t entirely dislike national pride. It depends on how far it goes, where it leads, how it is exhibited. Germany’s National Socialism is the prime example, but communism was intended to be global, though rooted in Russian pride in practice.

    My first thoughts about the dangers of national pride were about the local story of St Stan’s a formerly Catholic parish founded by Polish immigrants in St Louis archdiocese. Their ethnic pride outweighed their faith. They are now led by a laicized priest who preaches in favor of the usual moral matters that the Church opposes.

  • j. blum

    If the USA “feared” Grenada and Panama, then the USA was a fraidy cat. Jimmy Carter claimed “the destruction was mutual” in the Vietnam War, which must be true, because unexploded NVA ordnance is still killing Americans in the rice paddies of Detroit and San Antonio, so clearly we were justified in “fearing” Vietnam. No, Father is right about hubris. And so was Russell Kirk.

    • Ted Seeber

      One of these days I’m going to have to look into Grenada, but IIRC that was a rescue operation with a way oversized American force.

      Panama, OTOH, is a vital link for shipping- without it, it’s an additional 8000 miles from the west coast to the east coast (or vice versa) by ocean.

  • j. blum

    But he was wrong–a relative quibble–about Iraq having been “a primitive society” before Bush-Clinton-Bush decided to annihilate it. If it resembles one now, that’s another story.

    • Lisa

      and Kabul was a modern city in the 70’s, before the Man From Plains began supplying arms.

      I concede, when it comes to Carter, hubris is the right word. He’s still full of it, that little piker. Just last week, he declared himself to be nuclear physicist again (in fact he has a three year industrial arts degree with a non-credit course in nuclear reactor operation).

  • Andy

    The key is hubris. We, or at least the ruling crowd, and it appears many others, have this belief that because we are the US we can do anything we want. Pride – one of the seven deadly sins is: excessive belief in one’s own abilities, that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God. We possess that in spades, and until we are willing to put pride away, we are getting what we deserve. I think that Father has hit the nail on the head.

  • Hubris has infected the North American continent since the mid 1800’s, starting with the Whig/Lincoln/Republicans.

    It’s had it’s ups and downs, but within the last 60 years or so there has not been an abatement of it, and I agree with Father’s whole article.

    • Michael Lynch

      If ill-advised foreign adventures were a manifestation of North American hubris in the mid-1800’s, then I’m afraid it wasn’t a purely Yankee phenomenon. (William Walker, John Quitman, the whole Mexican-American War, etc.)


  • j. blum

    The blood was barely dry at Lexington and Concord when we decided to have a go at Quebec. Hubris could be said to be there at the root. In re Panama, it was our hubris that invented Panama as a country–and our hubris that made Noriega an “asset,” before we decided he was a supervillain (like Saddam in both). Did he really pose a threat to a well-protected canal?