Hating your countrymen is the new patriotism

In political debates, liberals often accuse conservatives of saying that liberals hate America. This was particularly common as the left in this country began turning firmly against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Dissenting from the policies of the ruling Republicans, according to the left, was not just a political opinion, it was really an act of patriotism.

With Barack Obama as president, that line of argument has gone the way of the dodo on questions of foreign policy but the attitude behind it is manifesting itself in the debate over the propriety of the proposed Islamic cultural center/mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. The project is widely unpopular with the American public and also among New Yorkers but for some reason it seems to have found a number of passionate defenders among the liberal commentariat, top Democratic politicians, and the left-wing blogosphere.

Critics of the “Ground Zero mosque” do not simply hold an incorrect opinion in the minds of defenders like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, they are “un-American” for allegedly believing that all Muslims are the same as the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center.

Mosque critics believe no such thing but that does not matter to its liberal defenders, many of whom seem to have taken a renewed sense of patriotic furvor in embracing this argument.

It’s a puzzling argument to those of us who don’t buy into it. How can being in favor of an Islamic mosque and cultural center in close proximity to a place that was destroyed by Islamic terrorists possibly be patriotic? In his Best of the Web column for the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto answers this question by arguing that liberal elites have a very different view of what patriotism entails than most Americans:

What is the nature of this contempt [for mosque opponents]? In part it is the snobbery of the cognitive elite, exemplified by a recent New York Times Web column by Timothy Egan called “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings”–or by the viciousness directed at Sarah Palin, whose folksy demeanor and state-college background seem terribly déclassé not just to liberals but to a good number of conservatives in places like New York City.

In more cerebral moments, the elitists of the left invoke a kind of Marxism Lite to explain away opinions and values that run counter to their own. Thus Barack Obama’s notorious remark to the effect that economic deprivation embitters the proles, so that they cling to guns and religion. […]

The Ground Zero mosque is an affront to the sensibilities of ordinary Americans. “The center’s association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence,” as the Associated Press has reported. That Americans would find this offensive is a matter of simple common sense. The liberal elites cannot comprehend common sense, and, incredibly, they think that’s a virtue. After all, common sense is so common.

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined a term to describe this attitude: oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: “the disposition, in any conflict, to side with ‘them’ against ‘us’, and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably ‘ours.’ ” What a perfect description of the pro-mosque left. […]

There is one important difference between the American oik and his European counterpart. American patriotism is not a blood-and-soil nationalism but an allegiance to a country based in an idea of enlightened universalism. Thus our oiks masquerade as–and may even believe themselves to be–superpatriots, more loyal to American principles than the vast majority of Americans, whom they denounce as “un-American” for feeling an attachment to their actual country as opposed to a collection of abstractions.

In short: liberals don’t hate America, they simply hate Americans, especially when they won’t go along with such obviously good things such as President Obama’s healthcare law, “economic stimulus” spending, nationalizing student loans, unilaterally disarming American nuclear weapons, or raising taxes in an anemic economy. Having fully embraced the notion that Judeo-Greco-Roman society has engaged in systematic “cultural imperialism,” the modern Left has embraced what might be termed “cultural inferiorism” as a means to atone.

One could argue that conservatives and libertarians are prone to similarly negative views about the public–particularly when it votes for politicians loathed by the Right–however, it seems to me that when such sentiments are expressed, they tend to proceed more from disappointment than the fulminations against the public one regularly sees expressed by liberals (the supposed movement “for the people”).

The reason for this rhetorical disparity is that conservatives and libertarians seem to have a much better grounding in the idea that they have a political ideology. Liberals lack this sense, believing their ideology to be literally incommensurable to other ideologies. To oppose liberalism is thus not only intellectually incorrect, it is also an affront to common decency.

And that, dear reader is why, if you oppose the Ground Zero mosque you are indeed un-American. To those who think otherwise, congratulations on your supreme enlightenment.

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