Re. Shannon’s Obama’s Misunderstanding

Some points:

1.Democrats might begun to understand that looking straight into the camera is counterproductive.  We don’t like to feel gamed.  Clinton looks at us & says he didn’t have sex with “that” woman; Kerry tells us he’s reporting for duty; Obama says he’s putting country first.  We expect politicians to squirm and obfuscate.  But we are offended when they become earnest in their pretense; looking us straight in the eye implies a contract.  And we know they either don’t understand or don’t care that they aren’t holding up their side of the contract – that it is a lie.  (Shannon’s incredibly productive:  this reinforces the post he put up while I was writing.)

2.  Re. his earlier post:  Obama speaks to people that don’t understand because much about our culture discourages what we long considered virtues:  integrity, loyalty, duty.  All these require putting something or someone’s good ahead of our own.  Our customers, our children, our spouse, our community – the point isn’t to game them for our advantage but to enter into an appropriate, sympathetic, productive, and reciprocal relationship.   Of course, in some, “appropriate” is hierarchical, in some it includes making a profit.  But appropriate still arises from respect.  The misunderstanding of this has led to a cynicism and disengagement that permeates our society.

The last comment on my “Pride & Passion” post was “Indeed. Deutschland uber alles!”  Then the hurricane hit and I wasn’t able to respond.  So, this is an oblique comment on both your post & my commentor:

Michael Ignatieff’s Blood and Belonging discusses the ambivalent and ambiguous feelings of nationalism in Germany in a deeply thoughtful way.  (Unlike those that reflexively bring up Germany when nationalism is viewed in any but a negative way; of course they also ignore the quiet nationalism of “Since You Went Away” and “Mrs. Miniver.”) Ignatieff worries that nationalism is expressed either in terms of a “dream of a Germany that never existed” and others “suppose that patriotism is for fools.” He argues that Germans need to regain a healthy, chastened but real patriotism – that it is important.  We can see why. 

Saddam Hussein and Putin (who value above all personal power) bribe leaders like Chirac or Schroeder; accepting, the Europeans demonstrated little sense of duty or affection for the country in  which each held the most representative and consequential of positions.  I have my doubts such an absence of patriotism or even national pride is a model.

2 thoughts on “Re. Shannon’s Obama’s Misunderstanding”

  1. “Indeed. Deutschland uber alles!”…there seems to be a fairly common thought process that runs: Hitler and other Axis leaders used patriotism to motivate people to do terrible things. Therefore, patriotism is evil.

    This is structurally similar to an argument that, since the Nazis used trains to carry people to concentration camps, we should eliminate railroads.

  2. Dr Johnson is supposed to have said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel but I don’t suppose he meant that all patriotism was bad. Patriotism or nationalism are not good or bad in themselves any more than nation states are virtuous or not virtuous in themselves. It is what you do with these concepts that matters.

    We have to produce these arguments over and over again when we are told that all nationalism except the one that is being built up by the European Union for a European identity is bad and will necessarily lead to a Nazi system and concentration camps. Funnily enough, none of those people like to discuss the international and, indeed, supranational Communist system that also led to concentration camps. Though it is true that from 1941 on Stalin used nationalism and patriotism as he realized that people are unlikely to fight for the glory of Communism though they will for Mother Russia.

    That was very convoluted but it is an agreement for those who say patriotism or nationalism does not equal Hitler or Nazism.

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