Sunday, April 6, 2008

Flag-Huggers: Devolved Conservatives

Public discourse in general in the U.S. is getting dumbed-down. What worries me even more, as I've said before, is how the same thing is happening to conservatives. There is a sub-race of conservatives emerging that isn't helping things, and they're becoming distinct enough to deserve a name. Yes, the last decade has seen the rise of the flag-huggers.

What's wrong with liking the flag? There's nothing wrong with it at all; leave the pointless symbolism of flag-bashing and -burning to confused leftists. There is, however, something wrong with keeping only the superficial trappings of patriotic symbolism and forgetting about the institutions and hard work and policy decisions and number-crunching of our forefathers that led us to where we are today. Studying science and classical history and knowing the voting records of legislators and worrying about cold hard economics and material effects of policies were, and I hope will continue to be, the province of clear-thinking conservatives. Which is why it worries me that today it's Democrats who are more likely to know their classical history - while Republicans increasingly dismiss it as elitist crap - and these are the ideals that the Founders based the country on.

There are parallel groups in other phases of American life. Bible Thumpers are people who are loudly and superficially Christian but are often incredibly hypocritical, concerned only for the lip service and the trappings of Christianity; they're more interested in using selective literal readings of scripture as an excuse to take rights away from others than to use it to improve themselves and make the world a better place for everyone. In a nutshell, they just don't "get it", but that doesn't stop them from shouting the loudest. By having their poor but in-your-face example associated with Christianity in general, they damage faith's credibility and generally make life worse, not better, for Christians in America.

Flag-huggers are to patriotism as Bible-thumpers are to religion. They put a lot of American flags on their house and car, and they get very indignant whenever a really-not-that-important social issue comes up (like gay marriage or medical marijuana or prayer in schools) but when it comes time to talk about the importance of free markets or (closer to home) local crime trends and what they can do to help locally, or just asking what will be the real material effect of a policy, they glaze over. (So what if marijuana is legalized? What will happen? One definite effect is that you'll pay less in taxes to prosecute harmless marijuana users and house them in jail.) And (most importantly) flag-huggers vote for politicians whose voting records they don't bother to check, politicians who quite often vote directly opposite to the flag-huggers' convictions. Flag-huggers are more worried about politicians having a big family, and seeming like nice, average guys. But when your company hires a CEO why do you care? You WANT someone who's an aggressive workaholic no-nonsense attack dog. You don't want someone NICE! Why should it be any different when you're voting for a lawmaker or political executive??

It's superficial enthusiasm like this that keeps politicians in business and detracts from the credibility of the deeply patriotic. Our patriotism should be a little deeper and thought-out than our loyalty to a football team. And we all know a few flag-huggers, right?

Bottom-line, flag huggers don't help conservatism, and they don't help America. Stay tuned, and maybe I'll start a flag-hugger award series.

1 comment:

Mark Ludwick said...

True patriotism is best expressed in bumper-sticker format. The Founding Fathers knew that.