Over the weekend, noted conservative Rod Dreher issued a nasty diatribe against NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In a short article in the American Conservative, Dreher accused Kaepernick of “hating America” and cited a recent tweet that Kaepernick sent out. Kaepernick is the black NFL quarterback who, a couple of years ago, incurred the ire of conservatives when he took a knee during the singing of the national anthem before a game to protest police brutality of blacks.
The tweet that set Dreher off stated the following:
Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & and are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all.
Dreher’s response was interesting. He stated, “Well, okay then, you multimillionaire ingrate. For all its faults, this country has made you richer and freer than anywhere else on earth.”
Was that meant as a denial of Kaepernick’s point? Or was it meant to say that since Dreher has become a millionaire, he lacks standing to make the point?
Let’s first deal with Independence Day. Although we call it a revolution, actually it was nothing of the sort. A revolution is when the citizens of a country rise up against their own government and attempt to take power.
That’s not what the British subjects in America did. Instead, they seceded from their government and claimed the right to do so. Moreover, at the time they seceded, they established a nation based on slavery of blacks. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what the Confederacy did?
Why should any black be expected to celebrate any secession that brings into existence a nation whose government enslaves blacks, whether it be the United States of America or the Confederate States of America?
Does that mean that a black who refuses to engage in such a celebration “hates America?” On the contrary, he’s saying that neither America nor any other nation should stand for slavery or any other mistreatment of people based on race, color, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation. What’s wrong with making that kind of point?
A big part of the problem here is that conservatives have long conflated the federal government and America the country. For them, they are one and the same thing. Another part of the problem is that many conservatives view the federal government — and actually government in general — as their god. Criticize their god and conservatives will unleash all-out hell on the critic.
Actually though, the federal government and the America the country are two separate and distinct entities. That point is confirmed in the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country (i.e., the American people) from the federal government.
Thus, it is entirely possible for people to criticize wrongdoing by their own government in the defense of their country. A good historical example of this phenomenon entailed the White Rose, a group of college students in Nazi Germany who criticized their own government while defending their country. Of course, that’s not the position the Nazi regime took. It accused the White Rose members of hating Germany and executed them for “treason.”
While conservatives celebrate the military success that resulted in the defeat of British forces, many of them hate the real importance of Independence Day, which are the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, such as:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.
Consider, for example, conservative support for immigration controls and conservative opposition to the libertarian principle of open borders. Given that all men (i.e., not just American citizens) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that naturally includes foreign citizens.
Given such, why does the federal government, with the full support of the conservative movement, jail and punish immigrants for exercising such rights? Aren’t immigrants simply trying to sustain their lives through labor by freely entering into mutually agreeable trades with American employers? Aren’t they pursuing happiness by coming to America and trying to better their lives?
What happens when a libertarian condemns immigration controls and supports open borders? Naturally, conservatives go on the attack and assert that libertarian critique of the federal government’s system of immigration controls, including President Trump’s beloved Berlin Wall, shows that libertarians are a bunch of no-good, rotten ingrates who “hate America.”
Or consider the drug war, a federal program that has long been a conservative favorite. Heaven help a libertarian or a black who condemns this tyrannical, corrupt, oppressive, and racially bigoted government program. Conservatives will turn on him and declare that he “hates America” and maybe, for good measure, even declaim, “America: Love it or leave it!”
Of course, we witnessed these types of nasty conservative diatribes during the Vietnam War, whenever someone demonstrated, protested, or spoke out against that conservative intervention that resulted in the meaningless deaths of 58,000 American men. Back then, conservatives accused war critics not only of “hating America” but also loving communism.
Don’t forget that conservatives were saying the same sorts of things back in the era of segregation. When people demonstrated and protested in the South against segregation, they too were accused of “hating America,” which was why many of them were murdered, lynched, fire-hosed, tear-gassed, or beaten, or had vicious dogs sicced on them.
I’ve always been intrigued by one point that conservatives make when anyone criticizes their beloved government — that “this country has made you richer and freer than anywhere else on earth.”
So, let’s see if I have this right: If all other countries are vicious, tyrannical bastions, Americans should celebrate their own government’s tyranny and oppression — or at least remain mute about it — given that our government’s tyranny and oppression is not as bad as everyone else’s.
Couldn’t the British have said the same thing about those British subjects who criticized their government within the Declaration of Independence? Come to think, they did.