Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Some folks were born to wave the flag

Howard Zinn wants us to abandon nationalism and transfer our allegiance to humanity.

Since I was old enough to think about such matters, I have always thought of myself as a citizen of the planet. But as of 2005, we are still organized into nation states -- politically, culturally, symbolically -- and it is through our nationalities that we participate in human affairs. Indeed, the essential peril of economic globalization is that as it is now developing, it elevates business corporations above nation states, and demolishes the power of states to regulate economic activities on behalf of the public good. Whether I call myself a citizen of the world or not, I still have to pay taxes to the United States, live under its laws, and suffer the benefit or harm of its policies and the services it provides.

So I am responsible to the society of which I am a part. It seems to me that responsibility demands a form of loyalty. But I find those "Proud to be an American" bumper stickers very puzzling. I am pretty sure that the vast majority of people who sport those stickers did not achieve U.S. citizenship. They just happened to be born here. And I doubt equally that most of them have done anything in particular to distinguish themselves as citizens, through public service or political activism on behalf of important ideals. "Proud to be an American" doesn't really mean anything different from "Red Sox Nation" or "Go Patriots!" It's just a sentiment of vicarious self-aggrandizement.

Real patriots work in all sorts of fields, but this is a blog so I'm going to give my first annual American Pride award to Yankee Doodle, Friendly Fire, and Matt, who earned it by staying up late at night for the past two years to tell us the truth over the Internet. I warn you -- Matt's post today is not 56K friendly, and you probably won't read the whole thing. But it makes its point as a whole, not a sum of parts. Thanks guys. You can be proud to be Americans.

Today in Iraq

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