Hyper-patriot games

Some years ago, when my children were in high school, I went to a local 4th of July open-air concert in my town. It featured the high school band playing the usual tunes that bands play. In between, the band-leader spoke about the meaning of Independence Day and what struck me was how over-the-top his praise of the US was. In his words, it was the greatest, freest, most noble, most [insert any good quality here] in the world and always had been. What was striking was that he was an immigrant and still spoke with the strong accent from his native nation.

I was reminded of this when thinking about Andrew Sullivan and his pending retirement from blogging that I welcomed. Like the late Christopher Hitchens, he was a British expatriate who, up to and during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, was as bloodthirsty and hungry for war as any neoconservative and as jingoistic as any Tea Partier. It struck me that these people were somehow insecure about their place in the US and their hyper-patriotism reflected their need to show other Americans that they should be accepted here.

I have noticed this in other immigrants too, that they often are far more fulsome in their praise of the US than most Americans. In my social circle that has some Sri Lankan expatriates, there are people who seem to think that because they are immigrants, they must go the extra mile and not only refrain from criticizing US actions like its wars and torture practices and crackdowns on whistleblowers, they must actually defend them or at least find excuses for them.

As someone who despises patriotism as a concept, I have never felt a similar need to defend the indefensible. As a naturalized American, the one thing I cannot do is run for president but in all other respects I feel have the same rights as anyone else. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone and feel as free to criticize the wrong things that the US has done as strongly as any native-born person. In fact, I feel that one has a greater responsibility to criticize the country that one lives in because that is where one has the most influence to try and improve things.

Wrong is wrong and right is right, and it should not matter who does it or who points it out.


  1. Nick Gotts says

    Possibly related: it’s interesting to note that Napoleon was a Corsican, Hitler an Austrian, Stalin a Georgian. All made extensive political use of the chauvinism of the nationalities they adopted.

  2. says

    The worst example of the phenomenon you speak of is Dinesh D’Souza. And before him, all the Cuban expats who made virtual careers of hating Castro, and hating everyone who didn’t hate Castro as mindlessly as they did.

  3. machintelligence says

    It may well be a case of “new converts syndrome” where those newly converted (to a religion, say) are the most devout. The long term faithful have heard it all before, and are rather bored.

  4. david73 says

    One of the great attractions of patriotism -- it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.

    Aldous Huxley

  5. Mano Singham says

    Raging Bee,

    How could I have forgotten D’Souza? You’re right, he is the worst.

    As for the Cubans, hating the place you left behind is, I think, a different phenomenon from hyper-patriotism, though it may be a cause of it.

  6. dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!" says

    Not that the Castro regime has been beyond reproach, but if you read the stories of the typical Cuban exile with a critical eye they tend to boil down to “my family got rich under the despotic Batista regime and had to leave all their ill-gotten gains behing when they left. Boo-Fucking-hoo.”

  7. Trebuchet says

    I noticed years ago that immigrants I worked with here on the Left Coast were more likely to drive large American cars than the actual natives, who got Hondas and Toyotas.

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