A Citizen’s Responsibility to Their Country

Civic Parenthood
I don’t know how you were raised, but my parents loved me; they showed that love by teaching me right from wrong. They set boundaries and enforced consequences. If my mother caught my sister and I playing in the street, she’d yell; not because she didn’t love us, but because she wanted to protect us.

And when domestic critics take the United States Government to the woodshed, it’s with that same principle in mind.

Make no mistake, citizenship in a democracy is, at heart, an exercise in civic parenthood. Every generation gets a chance, through votes and activism, to shape our nation so that it will do us proud. No President in history has ever truly been the father of our nation – the President is just the nanny we hire every four years to help us do our job. And if you let the nanny shake the baby to death in the crib, you are criminally negligent.

My Country, Right or Wrong
Well, when you look at what this administration has done to our nation in five short years, how can a good citizen do anything less than raise the alarm? What kind of love of country would it be to sit by and idly watch America’s caretakers set the Bill of Rights on fire, pull the wings off International Law, and trash the environment?

That’s why it’s so infuriating to hear these blustering simpletons on television waving their flags and shouting jingoistic slogans like “My Country Right or Wrong.”

You know exactly what kind of parents these people are. They are the kind of know-nothing, self-obsessed adults who sit down at parent-teacher conferences (if they bother to show up at all) and explain that they don’t really care whether their child does his science homework, or beats up other kids for their lunch money. My child, right or wrong!

Well, I sure wasn’t raised that way. If my sister and I were right, my parents would back us up 100%. But if we were wrong, they let us take our lumps, because they knew that was the only way we’d ever learn.

Perhaps that’s why it’s hard not to take some satisfaction in the knowledge that the gnat-sized country of Antigua is besting the United States at the World Trade Organization, because our country willfully violated global trade rules. You can’t root for your country to lose face anymore than you can root for your kid to lose his basketball game; but if your kid commits a foul, you want the referee to step in so that he doesn’t make a habit of it. Otherwise, he’ll grow up to be Ken Lay.

Blame America First?
And what of the constant whining from conservative pundits that critics of US foreign policy always Blame America First?

What a bunch of fatuous gasbags.

I would love to have seen how that excuse went over with my parents on the day my sister and I tried to throw our cousin over the balcony. Oh, yes, our cousin started it and undoubtedly deserved some dreadful fate. But when my mother came running up the stairs yelling, if I had asked why she always blamed us first, she’d have beat my ass. And with good reason.

Not My Kids
Now, I’m not saying that the United States doesn’t have enemies. Nor am I saying that our struggle with them is no more serious than a child’s squabble. I’m saying that the conduct of our enemies cannot, and should not ever, excuse abandoning our own principles, and becoming a less worthy nation than we are. Torture is simply not acceptable – imagine telling your young child that it is. Just try it and see if you can ever look in the mirror again.

As a citizen, I condemn my nation’s enemies.

Iran, Hezzbolah, Syria, North Korea.

They’re the gang members on the block. Money gets taken out of my wallet every week to pay for guns, bombs, and soldiers to fight the extremists who are trying to destroy our way of life. That’s great. And I’m certainly not about to let my country be destroyed from the inside, in the meantime.

The fact is, I’m an American citizen. I’m not Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian, or North Korean. They aren’t my kids. Only the Iraqis can vote, participate, and take responsibility for the conduct of their nation. I take responsibility for my own.

Moral Accountablity
I find fault with my own government when it’s in the wrong, because that’s the government I’m accountable for.

To do otherwise is a moral abdication, and little different than the behavior of those part-time parents who cheer at their kids’ little league practice, but never teach them how to stay true to basic values.

Watch the neo-fascist commentators crying in their tea cups about mean, liberal, grieving mothers like Cindy Sheehan. Tell me those talking heads don’t sound just like enabling parents who watch their kids fall into a cycle of drugs, sex, and violence without doing anything about it because they want to be buddies.

Wanting to stop your country from becoming a cheating, bullying, empire that lashes out at the wrong people, picks fights, breaks its word, and hangs out with the wrong friends isn’t America Hating.

It’s patriotism.

Bottom line? The day I stop loving this country is the day I stop trying to fix whatever is wrong with her. And America can hate me for it if she wants to; it’s for her own good.

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