Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Patriotism of Dissent

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
This quote is often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson (they are actually the words of historian Howard Zinn), but regardless of who actually said it, it couldn't be more true. Now, some will argue that not all dissent is patriotic (such as dissent against an ongoing war), while others (like Bush) seem to think that patriotism means never questioning one's government, but both groups are dead wrong.

Waving a flag as so many did after 9/11 doesn't make you a patriot. A patriot is "a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors" (Oxford American Dictionary). People like Bush seem to be under the mistaken impression dissent is a form of detraction. On the contrary, dissent is an attempt to protect a nation from potential threats from its own government by righting or averting a perceived wrong. While it's true that not all dissenting opinions are actually beneficial, even those that aren't require a conscious effort to attempt to better one's nation rather than following blindly, and that is patriotism. Supporting the government's decision can also be patriotic, but only when one does so after analyzing that decision and coming to the conclusion that it is a good one. Blind loyalty is unpatriotic. As the preceding implies, patriots can be on either side of an issue, and can even disagree with one another. Patriotism speaks only to ones effort and intentions, and a vehement but misguided patriot can also be an enemy of his country, from whom other patriots try to protect the nation.

President Bush is such an individual. I believe that he is convinced that he is doing good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and he is doing more harm than terrorist or military force ever could.

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