Dear American Patriot,
I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself. Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist. It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country. In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.
In any case, here’s how my particular form of nationalism manifests itself. I feel a responsibility for the acts of this country that I don’t feel for those of other states or groups. When, for instance, a wedding party blows up thanks to a Taliban roadside bomb, or the Islamic State cuts some poor captive’s head off, or Bashar al-Assad’s air force drops barrel bombs on civilians, or the Russians jail a political activist, or some other group or state commits some similar set of crimes, I’m not surprised. Human barbarity, as well as the arbitrary cruelty of state power, are unending facts of history. They should be opposed, but am I shocked? No.
Still—and I accept the irrationality of this—when my country wipes out wedding parties in other lands or organizes torture regimes and offshore prison systems where anything goes, or tries to jail yet another whistleblower, when it acts cruelly, arbitrarily, or barbarically, I feel shock and wonder why more Americans don’t have the same reaction.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t blame myself for the commission of such acts, but as an American, I do feel a special responsibility to do something about them, or at least to speak out against them—as it should be the responsibility of others in their localities to deal with their particular sets of barbarians.
So think of my last twelve years running TomDispatch.com as my own modest war on terror—American terror. We don’t, of course, like to think of ourselves as barbaric, and terror is, almost by definition, a set of un-American acts that others are eager to commit against us. “They” want to take us out in our malls and backyards. We would never commit such acts, not knowingly, not with malice aforethought. It matters little here that, from wedding parties to funerals, women to children, we have, in fact, continued to take “them” out in their backyards quite regularly.