Loving my country while loathing its government
Last October, a reporter asked Barack Obama why did he refused to wear his American Flag lapel pin. He, as well as other Congressmen, wore the pin right after 9/11 as a sign of unity and American pride. But October 2007, Obama said refusing to wear the pin was from principle: "You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest."
Some of the neocons might get steamed. Neoconservatives--and the rest of the conservatives, and liberals today--think that refusing to wear his American Flag pin is the opposite of patriotism. They say the act is a lack of this noble gesture.
Although I find fault with many of Obama's positions, I applaud him for that. I know there is a difference between loving my country and loving its government, and Obama knows it too. As for me, I love my country, but I don't trust its government.
In fact, the Founders and many important people in government in the past think like me. Thomas Paine said, "It is the duty of every patriot to protect his country from its government." Carl Schurz said, "The peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: 'Our country -- when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.'" Theodore Roosevelt said, "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country." Are all three men unpatriotic?
Even the founding documents had a difference between the country and the government. When you look up the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, you will see that the "Bill of Rights" doesn't give us rights at all. On the contrary, the Bill of Rights is actually a bill of restrictions restricting the government from interfering with our unalienable rights!
If you ever want to befuddle one of these people who conflate the government and the country, remind them that the very purpose of the Constitution, with its equal but separate branches of government, those branches are checked and balanced by the other branches, and adding a Bill of Rights before ratification, is to protect the country from the government. Their systems will begin to short-circuit as they try to figure out a response.
A perfect example of true patriotism was the White Rose. The German newspaper, consisting of a number of the University of Munich students, was a resistance leaflet opposing Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany during World War II. All of the students were beheaded because of it. You tell me, were members of the White Rose patriotic, or they were just traders?
That's why John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and the rest of the Republican presidential candidates were angry and confused when Ron Paul said the reason for 9/11 is American foreign policy and "blowback". In fact, Rev. Jeremiah Wright (Obama's pastor) preached the same thing during his "America's chickens are coming home to roost" sermon (except both speakers use the word "we" too much--it's more accurate if they would switch "we" with "the American government"--I didn't nuke Japan, or I didn't starve Iraqi children or make them have diseases) . But the other Republican candidates can't understand the reality that the country and the government, including our foreign policy, are completely different. In their minds, Paul's philosophy is to "blame America", because (in their minds) the federal government and America are conflated into one entity.
But don't blame it solely on the conservatives. In 1995, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed (I live and was living in Midwest City OK, a suburb of Oklahoma City, when the bombing occurred), I felt a lot of emotions. But when I asked the reason why the terrorist(s) wanted to do this, I made the correct conclusion and concluded that the OKC bombing was exactly two years after the fire and deaths of 74 innocent victims outside of Waco (the OKC bombing killed 168 innocent victims), so OKC was a reaction to Waco. Many people made the correct conclusions also. And the reasons that the Murrah building was the building to be bombed was most of the ATF and FBI agents was stationed in that building. Some people (including me) made Timothy McVeigh seem almost human (although I totally condemned his actions). When word came to Washington, Bill Clinton was flabbergasted. He said in disgust, "There's nothing patriotic about hating your government or pretending you can hate your government but love your country." He can't understand how Americans could love their country while disapproving of the government's massacre of innocent men, women, and children at Waco.
Many conservatives and liberals can't understand it either. They would rather put on your American Flag lapel pin, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, wear red, white, and blue clothing, and never question the government's motives. That, to them, would be a true patriot.