In its coverage on the arrest in Russia on espionage charges of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the Journal published an article entitled, “Evan Gershkovich Loved Russia, the Country That Turned on Him.”
The Journal is mistaken. Russia did not turn on Gershkovich. The Russian government turned on Gershkovich. There is a difference, a big one.
The conflation of a government with its country is a mistake that conservatives have long made. In their minds, the government — especially the national-security-branch of the government — and the country are one and the same thing.
But they are not. The government and the country are two separate and distinct entities. Therefore, simply because a particular government turns against a person doesn’t mean that the country has also turned against the person.
Among the best proofs of this phenomenon is the Bill of Rights. It expressly protects the country from the federal government. In this respect, the Bill of Rights has always confused and confounded conservatives, given their belief that the government and the country are one and the same thing.
One big problem with this conservative mindset is that it ends up perverting the concept of patriotism. That’s because conservatives inevitably interpret criticism of governmental misconduct as hatred for the country.
We witnessed this phenomenon after the 9/11 attacks. When we libertarians pointed out that the deadly and destructive interventionism by the U.S. government in the Middle East had motivated the 9/11 attackers, conservatives went ballistic, claiming that libertarians hated America. That’s because in their minds, the federal government and America are one and the same thing. Thus, in the minds of conservatives, criticism of governmental misconduct is equivalent to hating America.
The same thing happened during the Vietnam War. Antiwar protesters were considered to be America-haters. One of the popular conservative mantras during that war was, “If you hate America, why don’t you just move to North Vietnam?”
Conservatives simply could not see that the U.S. government was one entity and America was another entity. Thus, they also could’t see that by invading Vietnam, the U.S. government was engaged in misconduct that was harming the nation.
The much deeper problem is that conservatives view the U.S. national-security establishment as their god, one that can do no wrong. Thus, whenever anyone questions or criticizes the Pentagon, the CIA, or the NSA — the three principal components of the national-security establishment — he or she is considered to be questioning or criticizing god. In the conservative mind, that is akin to heresy.
In the mind of the conservative, their national-security-state god is what protects us from being taken over by the Reds, the terrorists, the Muslims, Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, the drug dealers, the illegal immigrants, and all the other boogeymen who are supposedly coming to get us.
Since conservatives conflate the government and the country, they are unable to see that in the process of keeping us “safe” from all these enemies, adversaries, opponents, threats, and rivals, the government has destroyed our freedom, our money, and our economic well-being, not to mention the fact that it has also made life unsafe for the American people, as Evan Gershkovich can now attest.