Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Country, Right or Wrong

Here’s a request for hypothetical advice: say I’m giving a backrub to my significant other. It so happens that I love him a great deal (this part is NOT hypothetical) and I’d be devastated if ever I lost him.

Now, while giving him this backrub, let’s say I happen to notice that he has a malignant melanoma on his back. That’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, though it can be cured if treated early enough. It’s also a hideously ugly sight. Certainly not the sort of thing I want to see on his handsome self. What do you think I should do?

A. Say nothing, because I love him too much to admit he could have any imperfection, let alone one as ugly as a melanoma; or

B. Raise hell about it, because I love him too much to let him die from a problem that's easy to treat if caught early enough?

Of course the answer is “B.” Only a lunatic would believe that loving someone means denying the existence of a problem which threatens him, even if that problem is an ugly and vile one. Indeed, the uglier and more vile the problem is, the more upset you'll be about it, if you truly love the one who suffers from it.

So why do so many ostensibly sane patriots take approach A when faced with the problems which threaten our country?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, but have you ever *tried* to give America a backrub? It's hairy as hell, there could be elephants and space shuttles hiding in there.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Jeff P said...

I don't understand this post.

All patriots do is complain about what is "wrong" with the country. A constant shrieking about immigration, gays, secularization of culture, and terrorism. And we are seeing more and more vocal dissent among the conservative ranks about the war, civil rights, spending, and other things that are actually problems.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Perhaps I should have been more clear, Jeff. I've been yelled at many a time (by the right-wing extremists) for suggesting that maybe the Patriot Act is a bad idea, maybe civil-liberties erosions are cause for concern, perhaps the executive branch's power grabs are problematic--and then heard some variant of "love it or leave it," "if you don't like how things are going perhaps you should go to Canada," and so forth.

2:07 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

One mistake is to think that love is a feeling.

If you take your kid to the dentist, it's not from a feeling.

It's more an ordering of concerns.

Stanley Cavell (``Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare'') notes that the female dementia correnponding to make skepticism is fanaticism about love. Male skepticism is the need to know beyond the human conditions of knowing ; and female fanaticism is the need to love beyond the human conditions of loving.

Anyway it affects the line of argument.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...


I think that this basically "knee-jerk" reaction you are addressing is a combination of things: "herd mentality", taking things personally, etc.

Ultimately, it all comes down to "whose ox is getting gored?" Those who (think they) have a vested interest in the status quo will resort to any means - even (and especially) illogical ones - to protect the way things are.

They claim that they "love our country", but in fact demonstrably do not - they love (or at least, are comfortable with) their situation in the existing society, vis-a-vis both their socio-economic situation, and their moral/ethical stances. They take any challenge to the status-quo personally: since they support it, and you say it is "wrong", you must be saying they are wrong, too.

Unfortunately, they can't seem to deal with the concept that you can address particular issues separate from the whole shooting-match. You don't like/agree with some particular issue/approach, they think you want to throw the whole thing out.

Naturally, the sheep are encouraged in this behavior by our elected representatives. There is nothing like getting a bunch of people riled up on a "sound-bite" bandwagon to generate votes.

I think your cancer analogy would be a good, even great, one to use on the "unwashed masses", if you could get them to pay attention long enough for you to drive the point home. Sadly, many people just "know what they know", and anything that seems to challenge their current prejudices simply MUST be wrong, so they don't even get the full explanation, much less giving things reasonable consideration.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Last few posts haven't been so good. No offense intended, but stories and quatrain poetry and the like are not what I read for (at least not here). This is much better. Glad you're back.

They claim that they "love our country", but in fact demonstrably do not - they love (or at least, are comfortable with) their situation in the existing society, vis-a-vis both their socio-economic situation, and their moral/ethical stances.

No. They love their VISION of what their "country" is, as it probably has very little to do with thier actual situation. For instance, their view of the country as 'free' is in direct conflict with the aforementioned Patriot Act, yet they continue to have the fiction in their head.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Godfrey said...

Hm... it seems to me that the issue is whether valid discourse is permitted. I can certainly see Jennifer's point; many right-wing "patriots" conflate criticism and negativism to the point that all conversation is quashed.

But that's true with many groups, especially groups who feel they are on the defensive (as when some black activists conflate any criticism whatsoever with outright racism).

I think the point here is that the inability of some people to accept or engage in constructive debate is potentially harmful.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Godfrey said...

Btw, Anne, I finally answered your post in the "Whosoever Believeth In Me" thread.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Thanks, Godfrey.

I have made a rather long-winded (even more than usual) reply.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Not the best analog there Jennifer. Yes, the conclusion you make in the boyfriend part of it is sane enough. But it doesn't necessarily map.

One rather obvious difference is that many right-wingers don't see the "spot". So, they wouldn't agree to the mapping right there.

Second problem is related to the green-lantern theory of state action. Many people on the right and left believe that perceptions are an important part of reality. I.e., some will say that the evildoers attack America because they think that we are weak. To criticize the state is to weaken its policy -- that's why you do it, of course.

Consider an adaptation of your analogy where the ugly spot was a fungus that was sensitive to stress: if the host gets stressed, the fungus gets nasty and kills him; but if the host is not stressed, then it just sits there perhaps causing some mild harm, but not that much.

8:07 PM  

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