White Coat Underground

Why I am a patriot

I am a patriot. This word means different things to different people, but to me it means pride in my nation, one founded by brilliant thinkers and built on the acknowledgment of basic human rights. It does not mean that I agree with everything my country does or with all of my fellow citizens. It means that I believe in our basic values enough to love this country. Patriotism also recognizes a shared fate. There can be no patriotism unless there is a shared identity and a shared fate. Because we share this space, these values, what happens to you very much matters to me. To maintain our identity as a nation, we have public education and other public services which ensure our health and welfare. Since I am a patriot, I believe in caring for my fellow citizens, for sacrificing through taxes or through service in order to maintain the health and well-being of us all. In return, I benefit from these same services, and from knowing that I am helping to build and maintain my country. Today, I am a very proud American.

President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace today. It would seem this news has united many from the left and the right in incredulity. After all, Obama hasn’t been president very long; what could he have done to warrant such an honor?

A look back at previous laureates shows an assortment of organizations and individuals of varying levels of accomplishment. Some were successful in explicit battles for peace or against injustice. Others not so much. The committee’s mandate for the prize is rather broad:

According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

Their statement explains their choice:

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

This statement contains a not-so-subtle snipe at unpopular American policies, but also implicitly acknowledges American exeptionalism. There has always been politics in the award, and clearly the committee is giving Americans a nice carrot. It would seem that some of Obama’s foreign policy decisions hold with what the committee has observed. For example, pulling missiles out of eastern Europe may have given him the ability to help contain the Iranian nuclear threat. Whether Obama or any other American president would agree that our policies should be based on “values and attitudes…shared by the majority of the world’s population” is pretty shakey. Foreign policy is ultimately based on what is best for the nation, and if that is best for other nations, great. What if the majority of the world thinks Iran “deserves” nukes? Should American foreign policy reflect this?

What the committee may or may not have meant is that Obama seems to be more interested in at least understanding the beliefs and desires of our friends and enemies, and using this understanding as a basis for diplomacy.

So while the award may seem quixotic, it’s not unprecedented. The Nobel committee is in essence saying, “we know the US is enormously powerful and influential, and we’re happy to see that you may be using your powers responsibly.” To paraphrase Sally Field, they really like us!

How should we, as Americans, respond to this honor? It is and honor. We are a true representative democracy, and our elected head of state was just given the world’s most prestigious award. It is an endorsement by others of many of our basic values. This is an opportunity for us to say to the world, “yes, we are uniquely important” Many of our values are universal. The world still looks to us as a model democracy. After years in the wilderness of world opinion, we are being recognized for our accomplishments and ideals. I like that.

Comments

  1. #1 El Picador
    October 9, 2009

    Why do you hate America?

  2. #2 JLK
    October 9, 2009

    I’m with you, Pal. I’m preferring to think of it as positive reinforcement designed to shape our behavior and attitudes.

  3. #3 William9
    October 9, 2009

    The problem is that a number of other candidates who ran for President in the last election would also have caused a major shift in US policy. It’s almost like the Prize was awarded for the current President being not-Bush.

    Hey, I voted for Obama, and would understand a Nobel a few years down the road if he accomplishes even half of his goals. But this seems like a Nobel based on hope and wishes. Makes it look sort of sad next to the more technical Prizes which people won for, like, revolutionizing physics and technology. You know, little things like that. ;-)

  4. #4 Dave
    October 9, 2009

    Acorn must have rigged the voting!

  5. #5 Denice Walter
    October 9, 2009

    “Basic values… shared identity…shared fate”.Yes. But I worry when I see a “Don’t Tread on Me” (a/k/a the Snake) flag on a house here in the heart of liberal NE NJ.Scary. Didn’t the colonial revolutionaries also have a “snake” flag that said, “Unite or Die”?

  6. #6 K
    October 10, 2009

    You think the rest of the world suddenly likes America again?

    You don’t start liking the bully with the stick because they’re using it less for the moment. Pull out of Afganistan, pay reparations to Iraq, prosecute Bush and Cheny for war crimes, get yourself a decent health service, stop pandering to creationists and cut the teabaggers loose. That would be worthy of a Nobel prize or two.

  7. #7 Skepacabra
    October 10, 2009

    Is it weird that I accidentally read the title as “Why I am a parrot” initially? That sounds like an interesting blog article too.

  8. #8 luna1580
    October 10, 2009

    i must admit, i’ve had my days (mostly back in high-school) where i didn’t feel much like a patriot. lately though, i’ve been thinking about this idea often, see, i work at a local, family-owned candy shop which is dedicated to supporting the US (and international forces when we get a name) people in the armed forces abroad, politics of the wars we are in be damned -we just want to support the individual people who may be “over there” somewhere.

    i feel the most like a patriot when i am making and bagging and boxing something as mundane as caramel corn to send to our people in military service overseas, and i think about that a lot when i do (at least 3 days a week).

    p.s. -if you send an address to the below link we will send them a box of about 45 bags of caramel corn (and any other “wish list” things we’ve been given) for the service person to share w/their whole unit. we get letters. they really like it :)

    if anyone else wants to send a box of caramel corn to a service person here is more about it:

    http://www.napernutsandsweets.com/operation_caramel/OperationCaramelCorn.html

    i am liberal/progressive to the core and don’t support either war the USA is now in, but damn i support the people “over there”…….

  9. #9 PalMD
    October 10, 2009

    Luna, sent your links to some military fams i know. thnx

  10. #10 santa
    October 10, 2009

    I’m not a patriot but it is good to see the U.S. led by somebody with some intelligence. I voted for Obama and would again today in spite of the fact I’m gravely disappointed in his accommodationism with regard to conservatives and his failure to bring our young men home and social justice issues. Left leaning liberals like myself may be unhappy with the reality of Obama’s presidency but it is vastly preferable to Bush or his cronies.

  11. #11 Kathy
    October 10, 2009

    To quote Man and Superman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Nope, not “Spiderman” as many think)

  12. #12 Calli Arcale
    October 12, 2009

    The only problem with bagging candy corn is that people generally either love it (I love it!) or hate it (my hubby hates it). Few are ambivalent. ;-) So some of the troopers may not be quite as thrilled as others. But it’s the thought that counts, and they *will* feel the thought, and will likely trade candy corn for other goodies if they’re not candy corn fans themselves.

    So kudos, luna1580. ;-)

    One of my favorite TV shows is “Babylon 5″, and it explored in great length what it is like to be a patriot who disagrees with his government’s actions. Captain Sheridan is chosen to succeed Commander Sinclair precisely because he is a patriot — and later, he is chosen to begin doing things which go against his government, again because he is a patriot. It’s an interesting series, and highly recommended, not least for its attitude that stories don’t always have to end neatly, because real life doesn’t, and the real purpose ought to be to examine the hard issues which don’t always have good answers. Of course, you really need to watch the *entire* series, start to finish, to really get the sociopolitical stuff it was doing, since a lot of it is set up weeks or even years in advance.

  13. #13 PalMD
    October 12, 2009

    I watched the whole thing, start to finish (except the last season and the movies) last winter….

  14. #14 Katharine
    October 14, 2009

    Patriotism strikes me as absurd, because 1) civilizations eventually fall unless they work out their kinks, which the United States doesn’t look as if it’s doing, and 2) civilizations are arbitrary groupings of people.

    Hence why I am not a patriot. My allegiance is to humanity, the Earth, and the universe I live in.

  15. #15 craig
    October 17, 2009

    palmd, if you so love taxes, you can pay mine. and oh yes, you can have the services too. i don’t want anything from the goverment.

  16. #16 DirtPile
    October 27, 2009

    Craig: likes roads, electricity, water, police protection, free speech, borders, laws, etc.?

  17. #17 Blake
    February 22, 2010

    I agree with you William9. I voted for him as well, and think maybe there were others that could have deserved it more, for actually DOING something. Yes Obama has high hopes for this country, but he hasn’t done much for anything they said, Climate stuff for example. I hope to see some legislation coming up pretty soon, because I am looking for to the new technology, and as this letter states, the WORLD is too. And they are counting on US.