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Thoughts On Patriotism By: Benjamin Kepple
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 16, 2001


IF ONE EVER needed proof that libertarianism is an oft-flawed philosophy, Daniel McCarthy has provided it. Consider his essay on LewRockwell.com, which slams Jennifer Kabbany's recent article on the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. McCarthy writes that it provides a wonderful illustration of "how the right-wing over time adopts the values of the left." He also tells readers that they are not "furthering the socialist cause just by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – at least as long as you, like Walter Williams, omit the word 'indivisible.' "

These are strong words coming from someone who espouses a philosophy with no values at all. Despite libertarians' admirable love of laissez-faire capitalism and their calls for minimal governmental inference with commerce and speech, they screw things up when they begin excoriating the government's "intrusion" into matters of morality. Never mind that the rule of law is moralizing in its most basic sense, and that the social compact American life is founded on requires some bit of it. And God forbid a citizen have the audacity to upbraid their fellow citizens for their behavior! After all, they're exercising their rights. To be polite, I won't get into McCarthy's views about the naturalization process, which he hints is A Sinister Federal Plot.

Still when it comes to the Pledge, the libertarians do much better than the leftists, who can't muster up decent arguments on anything any more. Writers like Ken Sanes only use the Pledge to bash America again for its past misdeeds. Considering we're talking about pledging allegiance to ideals, and a government that exists in the present, this is inherently silly. And McCarthy, for his part, misses the point too. He goes on far too long with a discourse about the Old Right and neo-conservatism, instead of the real issue at hand: what the Pledge means nowadays, whether our government lives up to the ideals within it, and if not, what we should do about it. That's what's important, not quibbling over whether uttering the word "indivisible" in the thing means aiding the Red menace.

Now, that's not to say that Miss Kabbany's arguments did not strike a nerve with me. They were only subtle if smacking her readers across the head with a two-by-four is subtle. And my first thought after reading her article, being the incurable rebel I am, was to vow never to say the Pledge again. Further I was going to ask her to pay for my one-way ticket to the Bahamas, which is a bit like America, except with no income taxes and much better weather.

Then I cooled off and began thinking about it, solicited advice from wiser people than I am, and realized my original, off-the-cuff view was in the wrong. Still, those three questions that come to mind along with the Pledge are relevant – and the answers to them make it clear why it is wise and just for Americans not to simply regurgitate the Pledge, but to commit its ideals to their everyday life.

Its ideals are simple ones, really. We value liberty – the right to express our political beliefs without fear, the right to worship God in the way we choose, the right to make a life for ourselves in this land free of the State's interference. We value justice – the right to a fair and quick trial, the right to face our accusers, that the rich and poor receive the same treatment. We value our republican – not democratic – form of government that protects our freedoms from the passions of the mob. And finally we acknowledge and beg for the protection of God so that we may uphold these beliefs – a subject Kabbany wrote on at length.

Now the key test: does this Republic hold true to those ideals? There's no denying that since our Golden Age – the 1950s – we have strayed considerably from that path in many ways. In other areas, notably civil rights and taxation (really), we are doing better at keeping the Pledge's principles. Still, the core principles that the Republic was founded on are standing strong. We are free to express our beliefs, and we are free, within our societal compact, to live our lives as we see fit.

Sure, I'm frustrated when penny-ante local bureaucrats are arbitrary and unyielding, and upset that pressure groups and the courts have all but expunged religion from our schools. Sure, I get angry when I open my paycheck every week and see just how much money I am feeding into the federal maw. I get despondent when I see some suffering lackwit of a judge issue a ruling proving he has no fundamental knowledge of how the world works. And I despair when I see demagoguery lurking behind the forced smiles of officials promoting "campaign finance reform."

But it is worth remembering that the officials we elected set those tax rates. They're the ones who nominate and confirm those judges in their posts. And if those officials or bureaucrats act stupidly, or rashly, or without regard for the rights our Constitution has given us, that same document gives us the right to correct that situation, peacefully and within the law. Nothing stops us from changing things – except maybe complacency.

It has been pointed out on FrontPage that many Americans who did not find the happiness or the opportunity they were seeking for here have in fact emigrated – many to Canada, some to Mexico, some to places more remote. I hold no grudge against them, and I wish them all the best. Yet it is not a choice I see myself making.

For better or for worse, I am an American. Like my ancestors before me, I shall work to keep this land and my fellow citizens free, and work to protect the rule of law and the fabric of society. That is not a challenge I expect either leftists or libertarians to take up. But it is the rock upon which I stand.




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