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  • awertheimer

opinion: This is not patriotism

Note: The following article is an opinion piece. The beliefs expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other faculty, staff, or students at Olivet College or WOCR, other than the author. The author welcomes any civilized response, be it posted in the comments below, in a separate article, or via other means, so long as that response is respectful and follows the Olivet College Compact. Again, this is my opinion, not the opinion of Olivet College or any other faculty, staff, or students.

There is a difference between patriotism and nationalism.

The two are very similar. Both refer to a love for one's country. Patriotism, however, is a loyalty to the core ideals and beliefs of a country. In the United States, being a patriot means that one fundamentally believes in the concepts held within the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Nationalism holds the country as superior to every other on the planet. Nationalism is loyalty to the country and government itself. In the United States, this would look like people holding the opinions of particular politicians or government officials over the aforementioned documents. A patriot will criticize the government. A patriot will vote against party lines. A patriot will put the country over the political expediency of a party or the whims of a certain individual.

Those who support this administration are not patriots.

It is easy to see patriotism as the Vietnam War-era view of "My country right or wrong", the idea that you stand by what your government is doing, no matter how horrible. This, however, is more akin to nationalism. 'My country is right no matter what it does because it is the greatest country in the world. And even if my country is doing something wrong, I still defend it because it is my homeland'.

The fact is that America is not the greatest country in the world. We fall far short of that claim. Our electoral system disregards the will of the majority for that of the minority. Even now, there is a case before the Supreme Court that argues that members of the Electoral College cannot be punished for voting against the person who won the popular vote. If this is true, then it is totally irrelevant what the public wants. The presidential election would be decided by 538 individuals who can vote against their party's nominee with impunity. The will of the people becomes a suggestion. In America, corporations are considered individuals and have vast amounts of control over politicians. In America, the top 1% owns as much as 90% of the country and will soon own more. Jeff Bezos, for example, has 146.3 billion dollars.

Let's put that in perspective real quick: Suppose that you are immortal. You enter the workforce at the beginning of the Common Era, year 1. You find a fantastic job that enables you to earn $7,000 every hour of every day. Because you are immortal, you keep this job throughout the centuries, all the way up to present day. If you earned that salary of $7,000 every hour of every day for 2,020 years, then you still would not have as much money as Jeff Bezos does right now. You would actually be about 22.43 billion dollars shy. Now, no one is immortal. We all die eventually, even Jeff Bezos. There is no conceivable way he can spend all of that money in his lifetime. Now, naturally he will want to leave that money to his family. And he should be allowed to so. But a small portion of that money could increase the standard of living for millions of Americans. A tax on the super-rich is far too complicated to get into here, but I recommend anyone interested read about it here and here. The point here is that the money that can save and better millions of lives is here. It is in this country. And there are ways to invest that money in American citizens without turning to Communism, as so many ignorant people believe left-wing voters want to do.

The wealth disparity is one of many ways that America falls short of the rest of the world. Only 12 weeks of non-paid maternity leave, no government healthcare, unaffordable health services, and an abysmal minimum wage. The United States is an outlier in the developed world, not because we are a city on a hill, but because we are the only first-world country that does not seem to care about its citizens. Women go back to work after three weeks of maternity leave. Stories of parents sitting in emergency room parking lots with their babies, waiting to see if their child's fever will break. Why don't they just go in? Because they know they can't afford it. Legally, the hospital is required to provide care, but practically, the parents cannot survive the trip. If you ask me, I do not care what kind of money this is saving the government or what kind of returns it is having for health care companies. I think a system that forces parents to choose between getting their babies potentially life saving care, or feeding that same baby, is fundamentally broken and abhorrent.

Proponents of such systems say that it is in line with the American ideal of freedom and liberty. Corporations should operate free of government control. After all, we provide faster ER wait times and the best healthcare in the world. My response to this is two-fold. One, the quality of care is irrelevant if the majority of Americans cannot afford it. There are trace amounts of gold in the ocean. If you could filter out that gold, you would have a decent amount of cash. $771 trillion to be exact. Remember Jeff Bezos? That is roughly 5,270 times his current net worth. The immortal earning $7,000 an hour would need a raise to make up that deficit. However, that gold is impossible to obtain, so it is worthless. My point is, amazing healthcare is great, but if Americans cannot afford access to that healthcare, then it is as useful as the gold in the ocean. Two, when Americans are tied down by the massive amounts of money they must pay to health insurance companies, then their ability to spend money on other things (food, housing, family vacations, etc.) is greatly diminished, if not destroyed outright. The point is, the freedom of healthcare companies to charge Americans outrageously high prices undercuts the average citizen's freedoms to basic amenities. The question, then, is which do we prefer: the freedom of a small amount of individuals to crush average citizens under massive healthcare costs in order to earn cartoonish amounts of money, or the freedom of the average citizens to have access to healthcare and still have money leftover for other essentials.

This is always the line of argument: America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and if you disagree or criticize that, then you can get out. Love it or leave it. In pursuit of that freedom and liberty, people vote for the party that pledges smaller government. That is the Republican party. To be clear, I want conservatism in the government. The conservative view tempers the liberal view and vice-versa. That is not how it works in America. In America, the conservative party does whatever it takes to stay in power. The Republican party as it exists today no longer stands for conservative views. Now, the Republican party fights for the aforementioned super-wealthy, abandoning even the upper class.

Those who believe that the likes of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Stephen Miller, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, or Devin Nunes care about America are fooling themselves.

The truth reveals that this administration cares only about maintaining power, no matter what. Donald Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. That is a fact. He held up military aid to push them to announce an investigation. In doing so, he assumed powers that the Constitution relegates to Congress alone. As such, he was impeached by the House of Representatives, and his Trial was held in the Senate. One of his defenses was that if the President believes that his actions are in the best interest of the country, then they are not unconstitutional. Therefore, if the President believes his reelection is in the country's best interest, then anything he does to secure that reelection--up to and including bribery and interference in the election--is constitutional. The President is above the law. This premise was rejected when Richard Nixon attempted to use it during Watergate, but the Republicans accepted it now.

On the topic of Impeachment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, on TV, that he would not be impartial. That he would not weigh the evidence. That he would work hand-in-hand with the White House to secure Trump's acquittal. He then took an oath to be impartial and to weigh the evidence without prejudice. He took an oath, the most solemn and heavy oath a member of the Senate can take, and he violated it. And he bragged about violating it on camera. This is a juror saying that he already knows that the murder defendant is not-guilty because he knows the guy and hates the prosecutor. Such conduct is grounds for dismissal from any trial, let alone one on impeachment. One has to wonder: if Mitch McConnell is fine with violating the most important oath he can take while in office, what is stopping him from violating his entire oath of office? What is stopping him from breaking his oath to uphold the Constitution?

But, the precedent is set. The President does not have to listen to Congress when they subpoena documents from him. The President can decide where and how money is spent. The President is above the law.

If I were so concerned about freedom (and I am, look at the length of this article) then I would not be concerned about the party that wants to restrict access to guns or give every person in America universal healthcare. I would be concerned about the party that refuses to hear the President's Supreme Court nominee while the President has another year in office, I would be concerned about the party that openly wishes they could lock people up without due process, I would be concerned about the party that violates the most solemn oath they can take, I would be concerned about the party that invites foreign interference in US elections, I would be concerned about the party that undercuts the democratic process to stay in power, and I would be concerned about the party that wants corporations to play a bigger role in politics.

If you made it to the end of all of this, I applaud you. If you want to share your opinion, feel free to leave a comment, so long as it is respectful. Unlike the Republican party, I welcome opposing ideas. A dialogue is how we move forward. The most frustrating thing about democracy is that it requires people to disagree in order for it to work. At the end of all of this, some people may call me a hater of America. But this is where we come back to my starting point: the difference between patriotism and nationalism. I only criticize this country because I want it to be better. I want it to be better for me, for you, and for our children. That is what being a patriot is all about. Believing in the ideals of the Constitution, eve when the people at the top do not. And, in fairness, it is not only the Republican party that struggles with this. If I had my way, both parties would be fundamentally changed. But the discussion on Ranked-Choice Voting is for another time.

To be patriotic means to criticize the government. To challenge it. To make the country better. The patriots are the people in the streets in the 1970s, burning the American flag to protest the war in Vietnam. They are exercising their freedom of expression to get the message that they want out of Vietnam through to the government. The patriots are the people fighting for this country who will disobey an order because it goes against who America is. They are laying their entire career on the line to protect American ideals. The patriots are the people who will tell the truth, even (or especially) if that truth is not politically advantageous. They are forcing reality on those of us who would rather live in fantasy.

Nationalism is not patriotism. Putting the people in charge above the actual country is to go against everything America stands for. The Republican party has ceased to fight for American ideals. They long for total control, whatever the cost. Donald Trump and the Republicans have disregarded the Constitution time and time again. They are in the process of tearing it apart, all because it allows them more power. Their decisions will relegate the Constitution to a list of suggestions on how to run the country. They will remove the entire heart of the country, resulting in its downfall. As a friend of mine once said, some people are content to ride over the waterfall, so long as they get to wear the captain's hat.

Donald Trump and the Republicans are aimed at the waterfall, full steam ahead. They are willing to steer us all over the edge, desperately clutching their hats.

The only question is, will we let them.



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