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Joel Stein: Liberals don't love America the way conservatives do

The only shocking thing about this column is that a liberal was actually willing to say this out loud:

I don't love America. That's what conservatives are always telling liberals like me. Their love, they insist, is truer, deeper and more complete. Then liberals, like all people who are accused of not loving something, stammer, get defensive and try to have sex with America even though America will then accuse us of wanting it for its body and not its soul. When America gets like that, there's no winning.

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

... Conservatives feel personally blessed to have been born in the only country worth living in. I, on the other hand, just feel lucky to have grown up in a wealthy democracy. If it had been Australia, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Israel or one of those Scandinavian countries with more relaxed attitudes toward sex, that would have been fine with me too.

When a Democrat loses the presidential race, real lefties talk a lot about moving to Canada. When Republicans lose, they don't do that. Though, to be fair, they don't have a lot of nearby conservative options. Not even Hannity is a committed enough conservative to yell, "If Obama wins, I'm moving to Singapore."

This doesn't mean I'm not fascinated by American history, impressed by our Constitution or don't appreciate our optimism and entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, I love everything Hannity listed on his TV special other than Madonna. But there are plenty of things I don't like about America: our foreign policy, our religious fundamentalism, our provincialism, our intellectual laziness, our acceptance of sweat suits in public.

When I ran the idea that liberals don't love America as much as conservatives by talk-show host Glenn Beck, who will move from CNN Headline News to Fox News next month, he totally agreed with me, which is precisely why I called him. "It's absolutely true, deep love. As a parent loves a child," he said. "But I think liberals laugh that off, the way the rest of the country laughs off the love Texans have for their state. Texans don't think, 'Oklahoma, you suck.' Well, yes they do -- but they don't think other states suck. They just have a love for the republic of Texas. I don't have disdain for other countries. Well, except for France."

I asked Beck why Democrats rarely share his overwhelming sense of American exceptionalism and Francophobia. "I think it's because in the late 1800s up until the 1930s, the progressive movement started to think the European ideals are pretty good, that it's one big world," he said. "Well, it's not. If you look at all the countries like people, there are differences between people. And I happen to like this person the best." When I look at the countries like people, I love Sweden the best.

I accused Beck of loving America just out of birthplace convenience, which is kind of like loving the girl who happens to sit in front of you in homeroom. "If I were born in Great Britain and read about Britain and America, I'd love the values and principles and the men who founded this country," he said. "I love that we crossed these mountains and didn't know what was on the other side. I love that the Pilgrims didn't want to come here, but they came here because they felt prompted to by God. There's always been a spirit of adventure and awe in this land. And I don't think any other country has that." Beck, it seemed, loves America the same way little boys love camping.

... I wish I felt such certainty. Sure, it makes life less interesting and nuanced, and absolute conviction can lead to dangerous extremism, but I suspect it makes people happier. I'll never experience the joy of Hannity-level patriotism. I'm the type who always wonders if some other idea or place or system is better and I'm missing out. And, as I figured out shortly after meeting my wife, that is no way to love.

What really struck me most isn't the admission that liberals don't really love the United States the way we conservatives do -- that we already knew, after all -- but the willingness to say so openly in the Los Angeles Times. (Of course, this is the columnist who wrote that he doesn't support the troops.) Liberals stammer, screech, and sputter with outrage if you ever, ever question their patriotism. But time and time again they give us reasons to, from blaming the United States for 9-11, to not supporting our troops, to sympathizing with our enemies, and idolizing men who exemplify everything that is anti-American, like Castro, Stalin, and liberals favorite hero, Che Guevara.

And yeah, I understand the point of the column. It's a criticism. We're "blinded" by love to the point where we don't even see America's flaws. But that's not quite true. I see them, as do many conservatives. But unlike liberals, that's not all I see. I look at America and love her for everything she is, both the good and the bad. I look at my country, and despite the mistakes we have made and inevitably will continue to make, still know that this is the freest, best country on the face of the Earth, know that anyone from anywhere in the world can come here and build a good life for themselves if they're only willing to work hard and play by the rules, that America will always stand for freedom and justice and democracy.

Liberals look at America, and have a hard time feeling the love and patriotism that conservatives feel because they can't get get past the flaws. They can't love America unless she is perfect. Conservatives, however, don't require perfection to know that America is, indeed, a special, blessed place. It doesn't mean that the rest of the world is a terrible, terrible place. It doesn't mean that no one can possibly have a great life anywhere else. However, despite what many Little League coaches and PC teachers may believe, not every runner can finish the race in first, and while the rest of the world may be great, it's just not the USA.

Hat Tip: Hot Air Headlines


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Comments (19)

",,,blaming the United Stat... (Below threshold)
daniel rotter:

",,,blaming the United States for 9-11..."

Jerry Falwell was a liberal? News to me.

Nice work! I was considerin... (Below threshold)

Nice work! I was considering fisking that idiot Stein here but you've already done the heavy lifting! Thanks.

rotter - "Jerry Falwell... (Below threshold)

rotter - "Jerry Falwell was a liberal? News to me."

And that little turd of wisdom means exactly what?

That more conservatives than liberals hold the belief 9-11 is America's fault?

If so I'd like to see the stats.

You don't mind if I continue my normal respiration rate while waiting do you?

Part of the same column:<br... (Below threshold)

Part of the same column:
"Despite Beck's rationalization, I still think conservatives love America for the same tribalistic reasons people love whatever groups they belong to. These are the people who are sure Christianity is the only right religion, that America is the best country, that the Republicans have the only good candidates, that gays have cooties."

In other words it may be a more pure, unconditional love, but it's a childish, uninformed, immature love that conservatives have for America. The conservative mind is incapable of the kind of deep, mature love of country that more liberal minds are capable of.

"That more conservatives th... (Below threshold)
daniel rotter:

"That more conservatives than liberals hold the belief 9-11 is America's fault?"

No, it's supposed to mean that if liberals blamed the U.S. for the 9-11 attacks, then they weren't the only ones to do so.

Liberals wont be happy till... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

Liberals wont be happy till america has been reduced to a miserble third world nation becuase liberals are a bunch of stupid antiamerican blabbering nit-wits

Spurring PlowerLib... (Below threshold)

Spurring Plower

Liberals are happy when folks like you sound as miserable and as moronic as you do in your comment.

You gotta love the primitiv... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

You gotta love the primitive, tribal rationalizations of the Leftwing progressives. They "like" the USA but don't love it. They don't love4 anything but their inflated egos. They are less charitable, less giving, less supportive but they do know how to tear things up. They remind one of an especially replusive mother in law well into her dotage.

Show me a Leftist and I'll show you a Frenchman.

america needs improvement. ... (Below threshold)

america needs improvement. its not exactly an earth-shattering revelation

if you dont believe it, it doesnt mean you 'love america more'

if you do believe it but wont say it, youre pretty much useless to the country you supposedly love

I have often stated that th... (Below threshold)

I have often stated that the left are self loathing people. They are unable to love this country. They think they should be miserable. A sick lot. ww

So 8. believes that people ... (Below threshold)
daniel rotter:

So 8. believes that people on the left have "inflated egos" and 10. believes that they "think they should be miserable." Maybe you two should correspond with each other so that your silly generalizations and smears of those on the left don't contradict each other so much.

good point daniel.. i laugh... (Below threshold)

good point daniel.. i laughed out load at the guy who carps about "primitive tribal rationalizations"..... and then goes on with the most primitively tribal rationalizations i have ever heard! sometimes this board is a genuine comedic treat

but then again we need more real republicans to keep tabs with the democrats. REAL republicans, not these big-government neocon dead-enders who'll trade every liberty we have for a false sense of national security

REAL republicans.....

"america needs improvement.... (Below threshold)

"america needs improvement. its not exactly an earth-shattering revelation

if you dont believe it, it doesnt mean you 'love america more'

if you do believe it but wont say it, youre pretty much useless to the country you supposedly love"

"It's a criticism. We're "blinded" by love to the point where we don't even see America's flaws. But that's not quite true. I see them, as do many conservatives. But unlike liberals, that's not all I see. I look at America and love her for everything she is, both the good and the bad."

Once again, the high-minded asses don't even have the basic reading comprehension needed to make a valid rebuttal. Epic fail.

I've always thought that ma... (Below threshold)

I've always thought that many liberals see their country like this:

"... children of Merlin, chasing a gleam. Children, too, of Eve, forever building Edens--and kicking them apart in berserk fury because somehow it isn't the same.
"The closer men came to perfecting themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn."

~A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

I do love this country and ... (Below threshold)

I do love this country and I do see her flaws and I accept them. I do what I can to change the world around me. I have worked with people who think that "the government ought to" yet they won't do anything to help those around them. I was treated like a heretic when I made a comment about people choosing to fail and the government should let them. Not as a punishment, but as a learning experience. The liberals thought I was cold and uncaring, yet they seem to be angry and miserable. The mistakes I made as a young man helped make me the man I am today. This country allowed me as many second chances as I needed. I didn't see that in the other countries I visited. They mostly hated America, yet in the Middle East and Europe, I ran into plenty of people who wanted to move to America.

"We're "blinded" by love to... (Below threshold)

"We're "blinded" by love to the point where we don't even see America's flaws...But unlike liberals, that's not all I see...Liberals look at America, and have a hard time feeling the love and patriotism that conservatives feel because they can't get get past the flaws. They can't love America unless she is perfect."

This is precisely correct. While America is held to the standard of "perfection," other countries are held out as shining beacons of Paradise without any mention of the warts and flaws that they have.

Rotter, #8 and #10 are not ... (Below threshold)

Rotter, #8 and #10 are not at odds. It's called narcissism.
Nobody really hates themselves quite as much as narcissists, all the while proclaiming their superiority.

"...not at odds."Y... (Below threshold)
daniel rotter:

"...not at odds."

Yes, they are. One cannot logically be called both a self-hater and a narcissist. A narcissist, by definition, cannot possibly hate him/herself.

I find Thomas Jackson, that... (Below threshold)

I find Thomas Jackson, that would be 8 for the superior minded, dead on. I've seen studies to verify his, as Mr. Rotter says, silly generalizations.

Mr Stein puts on display the usual grass is greener mentality. And of course, don't you dare question his patriotism. It's not his fault he can't love anything that isn't perfect in his eyes.

Life must suck for him.






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