May 20, 2005

False Dilemma

Filed under: — Chap @ 8:04 pm

I think I’ve gone about as far as I can in the debate with Dylan Barrell of Get Real. He posts on his site:

.I enjoy these intellectual jousting matches…especially when I think that I am winning…the good thing about this debate is that it has allowed me to articulate an important question you can pose yourself as it relates to Nationalism, Patriotism and things like The Pledge of Allegiance…and the question is this…

…would you fight against your country if your country had mutated, in a constitutionally acceptable way, into something akin in its nature to the Third Reich (details are not important here and you can actually replace this with the USSR, Apartheid South Africa or your chosen obviously evil regime)?

It must be said at the outset that this isn’t just an intellectual jousting match. Citizenship, patriotism, love of country is not merely “stupid”. I mean it. I live it. I act it. This is not a little game.

My previous comment:

I think the critical difference between our viewpoints is this. We both think that under an evil and ugly regime there is an obligation to remedy that (cf. Declaration of Independence).

What is different is that I am not just against something bad but for something I see as good. If the only reason for patriotism is to be the last refuge of a scoundrel, if there is no point to being a citizen, if the flag and the pledge of allegiance are but a weak symbol and a flawed, stupid idea, respectively, then you and I are on irreconcilable paths.

It is possible to love one’s country and be a patriot without being a jingoistic screed. It is possible to reject false egalitarianism and say that American exceptionalism exists and is good without being an Ugly American imperialist wingnut. This is a path I attempt to take.

Now back to his Question. Perhaps one may find oneself in a moral society but an organization that is doing something immoral–some whistleblowers come to mind. In the question about “fighting against your country” there are other answers than “yes” or “no”, and not just that there are many different levels of Evil Nazi to consider. Reality isn’t always cut and dried like these easy moral dilemmas, and sometimes you have to find the correct path. Was Thurgood Marshall fighting against his country by changing a strongly held tenet of a large section of the country through a long trail of legal precedent? Were the Sugiharas fighting against their country by violating procedures to save thousands of innocent lives in a time of brutality? Again, it’s a false dilemma, late night college bull session stuff.

In the links to my last post I identified some people stuck in the system that found a way to be true to their love of country and still be moral. Some were violent, some were not.

More importantly, this is not just typing on a computer. I’m living my choice, not just positing things for rhetorical points. That’s the commitment. That’s the reason for the Pledge. That’s the context in which I have invested emotion in a symbol that represents that citizenship and that commitment.

And that’s why I hold so much utter contempt for those who will not part of anything larger than themselves, but who sit on the sidelines issuing feckless and callow propositions.

4 Responses to “False Dilemma”

  1. Get Real Says:

    Symbols and Allegiances : Very Real

    When I posted my retort to Chap’s post last night it was late and I missed a very important point… In his criticism of me he said the following: “It must be said at the outset that this isn’t just…

  2. 74 Says:

    I think a lot of people just don’t get the “investment” part of what you are talking about. It’s easy to talk about how you would act in combat before it happens, but quite possibly your actions will be much different when the bullets start flying. This has been seen time and again. Certainly Get Real is entitled to his opinions but I would be more inclined to believe what a person says about patriotism if he willingly exposes himself to danger on a daily basis on my behalf –for little pay and a lot of invective from people who’ve never had to walk-the-walk.

  3. chap Says:

    Oh, and get this–the trackback objects to exactly this “do, not say”–so he challenges me to…say stuff to people!

    Again with the challenges! Eesh!

  4. #3 Says:

    If someone is convinced that a desert has no water, even though they haven’t actually been there, it will never have any.

    You cannot instill a sense of duty or obligation, nor a sense of pride in someone. Either they have it, develop it on thier own, or they don’t.

    In response to his question about fighting agianst your fellow brother in arms- No, I probably wouldn’t. But then, since the whole arguement is rhetorical, and your point is to trivialize those who serve, or have served, I have no further use for your comments or theoretical discussions. Develop cold fusion or something- then I’ll pay attention.

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