During a meeting of a local, non-political group to which I belong, one of the speakers decided that it would be appropriate to offer an Independence Day message to all of we, the un-enlightened. He started by saying how we should be proud of our military and all of those who fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. You know, the standard hyper-patriotic lines worshiping military might, willingness to die for our county, and American exceptionalism etc, etc, etc.
He then pivoted and, quite inappropriately, brought up how Obama is killing us with taxes (he failed to say which taxes, since Obama really hasn’t raised any on the middle class) and the standard Republican talking points about how the country is going in the toilet and all the other unsubstantiated garbage that those of his ilk like to say to each other to reassure themselves that they actually have any knowledge of the world around them. They don’t.
Anyway, after this derivative and reductive diatribe about how we’re all going to hell if Obama has his way, I asked him a series of questions. The following is a true account of those questions and answers. I’ll call him Steve
Me: So, Steve, I’m curious about some of what you said. You seem to think that patriotism and military might go hand in hand.
Steve: I do
Me: So, should I assume that you would agree that the height of patriotism is the willingness to die for your country.
Steve: Damn right (or something to that effect)
Me: Would you be willing to die for your country?
Steve: Of course!
Me: But you’re at least my age, so I can’t imagine a scenario where you’d be called upon to die for your country. The military doesn’t want guys our age, and I don’t see any foreign armies attacking the US via the west Florida coast, so you’ll agree that there is little likelihood that you would actually have an opportunity to die for your country. I mean, it’s pretty easy to say you’re willing to do something that you know is never really going to happen, right?
Steve: Yeah, but I still would.
Me: Hmm. Steve, what’s more important, your life or your money.
Steve: Pretty stupid question buddy. My life of course.
Me: Well, I figured that, but that confuses me.
Me: Because you’ve just said that you’d give your life for your country, which you just acknowledged is more important than your money, yet, earlier, in your speech about patriotism, you complained about taxes. So if your life is more important than your money, and you’d give your life for your country, why do you bitch so much about giving some of your money for your country?
Steve: I didn’t say that…
Me (interrupting): I mean, money is renewable. You make more of it every day. You can replace it. But your life is not renewable. Once you give it away its gone. You go around saying that you’d give your life for your country, knowing full well that there is virtually no chance that you’ll have to, but giving your money to your country in the form of taxes, which is much easier and less permanent, somehow offends you.
When you pay taxes, you’re actually doing something for your country, whereas claims of willingness to die for it are easily made and have no real cost. Could it be that paying taxes is actual patriotism but assertions of willingness to die for your country, when you know that you really won’t have to, are merely patriotic hyperbole?
Steve: (Offensive, obscenity-laced, Fox News-esque, spit-mixed screaming rant including words like socialist, communist, Marxist, Nazi, wish I had my AR-15, I’ll kick your ass, referring to me as resembling various female body parts, cowardly draft dodger (?), probably like having sex with boys and other colorful words, serving only to reveal his lack of sophistication, upbringing and education. None, however, not one, addressed the matter at hand).
Your patriotism is based on offering something that no one is asking for (your life), but when your country asks for something it really does need (money to run the country) you have no problem telling them to go to hell.