Wednesday, November 13, 2019

America First

Patriotism Is Essential To National Security

Speaking as an American to other Americans: If you don’t believe we should put America first, as Americans, why are you even living here? If you are a citizen, and you don’t believe we should put America first, please get the heck out of here, because our country faces constant danger and we need to be working together to stop it.
  • To be a patriot is to love your country.
  • To be a nationalist is to prioritize your country over others.
Bottom line: Patriotism/nationalism are not just good, but essential qualities for every American regardless of political belief. Since we are all in it together, and there are countless national security threats facing us, as a citizen of America, you must love and prioritize America — or you are actually a threat to national security.

That said, you may vehemently disagree with American policies. You may hate the President. You may believe that our borders should be relaxed enough to take in people who genuinely need it. WHATEVER.

But that fundamental attitude has to be there, or you are not truly an American.

As far as antisemitism goes, it is a fallacy to equate love of one’s own country with hate of other countries, religions, or races.  A completely separate conversation can be had about the history of various political parties in this country and the ways they have weaponized Jewish fear for political aims.

Troubling Historical Connotations

But what about the racist context, meaning the history of "America First" as a racist political party in the early 20th century, in America, during the Holocaust? 

I do not think this is a simple matter: It is always the same problem. You have an idea, and then you have the way an idea is used and misused. 
  • In this case, we have “America First” the racist phrase.
  • We have “America First,” the non-racist, simple patriotic phrase.
  • And then of course we have the politicized phrase which connotes support for President Trump.
I have a saying that I have adopted lately: “patriotism is not partisanship.” So when I talk about patriotism, I am talking about the second version.

Note: As an Administration priority (a meaning distinct from the partisan one, although related in the sense that the President takes political credit for its success) "America First" means that we aren’t subsidizing the priorities of other countries anymore. That’s it.

"But It's Racist To Be A Nationalist"

The premise of any nation is that the nation must put its own interests first. That in and of itself is not racist. The problem that occurred with the rise of the Nazi party (and eugenics more broadly) was the notion of national PURITY. The idea that the refugee is somehow inferior or dirty plays into this sick mindset.

We know that in the establishment of the state of Israel, eugenics-thinking played a major role as Ashkenazim discriminated against Sephardim. This does not and should not diminish one’s Zionistic fervor. It is a separate kind of wrong.

And I agree strongly that you can be patriotic/nationalist in a stupid, blind way and support horrendous things. I think this is what a lot of us struggle with when we read about horrific crimes committed by our own government and in the name of “national security” etc.

This whole discussion reminds me of the term “feminist.” When I was growing up, the word “feminist” was something I aspired to. It was also something that was uttered with a fair amount of spit. As in, religious men literally getting spitting mad over anything that challenged their hegemony. (“What are you, some kind of *feminist*?”)

Same thing with Zionism, it riles people up.

Psychological Reasons for the Intolerance of Patriotism

From a therapeutic point of view, when you're talking to survivors of abuse, it makes sense that there is this desire to identify and cut off the cancer (the abusive monster) as a way of protecting the self. People who think this way also think that the history of "America First" disqualifies the concept completely.

The benefit of this approach is of course real. Cutting off abusers actually does protect us from abusers, who are notoriously sophisticated and insidious in their sick and twisted behaviors.

The problem though is that most people are mixed, and as a result, trying to cut off all the abusers (like all the racists) is a mindset of seeking a kind of purity that doesn’t exist.

I can think of many examples where the answer is not clear. For example, in the Holocaust, Jews did abuse other Jews. In yeshiva it is the rabbis. And so on - the people closest to us also sometimes hurt us.

Much study has revealed that American money poured into the Nazi enterprise. Yet we are Americans. That piece of history exists but it does not define us. It does however need to be talked about and talked through.

By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Public domain.