PATRIOTISM DEFINED

“Patriotism opposes the lone representative of democracy who was brave enough to vote her conscience instead of following an angry mob. (Several others have confessed they wanted to vote the same way, but chickened out.) Patriotism threatens free speech with death. It is infuriated by thoughtful hesitation, constructive criticism of our leaders and pleas for peace. It despises people of foreign birth who’ve spent years learning our culture and contributing their talents to our economy. It has specifically blamed homosexuals, feminists and the American Civil Liberties Union. In other words, the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder?” This is Barbara Kingsolver’s response to the many, many Americans who are not for intimidation, censorship, bigotry, sexism and whatever, and yet who also take pride in a symbol of country and freedom. Kingsolver still won’t sign on to Old Glory, and her view of history is, to say the least, a little undeveloped. Here she is on the Gulf War: “In the Persian Gulf War we rushed to the aid of Kuwait, a monarchy in which women enjoyed approximately the same rights as a 19th century American slave. The values we fought for and won there are best understood, I think, by oil companies. Meanwhile, a country of civilians was devastated, and remains destroyed.” Hmmm. No mention of Iraq or Saddam or aggression or the invasion of Kuwait. The selective nature of some of these people’s memory is truly remarkable. No mention either of the truly fanatical hatred of women, gays, Jews and so on, represented by the Taliban. I have been asked by many to stop quoting these idiocies of the far left. Sorry, but no deal. I absolutely, categorically defend far leftists’ right to write or say whatever they think, without fear or intimidation. But equally, it seems to me that exposing their nihilism, narcissism and illogic is also an important duty. Some people take these writers seriously. It’s time they didn’t.

DUNKIRK IN NEW YORK: A beautiful piece somewhat mitigating the dreck the Observer has been running elsewhere. An Australian, Peter Carey, pays tribute to his new city: “Now our neighbourhood has become a command centre. That evening we are standing on the corner of Houston and 6th Avenue watching the huge earth-moving equipment and heavy trucks rolling, bumper to bumper, in a never-ending parade towards the devastation. Here is the endless might and wealth of America. Here are the drivers, like soldiers, heroes. These are not military vehicles but huge trucks from small companies in Connecticut and New Jersey, from Bergen and Hackensack. Seeing all these individuals rise to the crisis, with their American flags stuck out of windows and taped to radio aerials, I am reminded of Dunkirk. I am moved. We are all moved. The crowds come out to cheer them. I do too, without reserve.”