The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel?

Those are the words Samuel Johnson uttered on April 7, 1775, according to James Boswell:

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apothegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.ย 

But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest.ย 

On the National Mall tonight, thousands of flags represent those of us who won’t be able to attend the new president’s inauguration because of the pandemic. Fifty-six pillars of light represent the fifty states and six territories.


No Wonder The Foreign Bastards Hate Us

Some foreigners may hate us for “our freedoms”, as Bush the Younger once said. But many surely hate us, justifiably, for our willingness to kill recklessly and with minimal regret.

It hardly made the news here, but a few days ago our government attacked a “wedding convoy” in Yemen, murdering 14 people and maiming 22. At least three more have since died. Meanwhile, our government (including the Democrat in the White House) hasn’t commented.

At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf asks how we would react if something similar happened here:

Can you imagine the wall-to-wall press coverage, the outrage, and the empathy for the victims that would follow if an American wedding were attacked in this fashion? Or how you’d feel about a foreign power that attacked your wedding in this fashion? …ย ย and all for the sake of five peopleย suspectedย of ties to al-Qaeda.

We might as well be broadcasting a message worldwide on Voice of America: “We don’t give a shit about you foreign bastards”.

The whole article, which is brief, is worth reading, especially if you’re still proud to be an American.ย 

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee

Sweet land of liberty?

The older I get, the less patriotic I feel. It was easier to love America when I knew less about it.

Take, for instance, those brave Texans, joined by Davy Crockett of all people, standing up to the evil General Santa Anna at the Alamo. I didn’t know until recently that Mexico had invited the Americans to settle in Texas, with the understanding that the American immigrants would become Catholics, learn Spanish, obey Mexican law and presumably become Mexicans. For the most part, the American settlers ignored Mexican law, including the law against slavery. In little more than a decade, the Americans were fighting to take Texas from Mexico and, of course, make slavery legal. (Walt Disney and John Wayne didn’t tell that part of the story.)

Despite their defeat at the Alamo, the Texans prevailed and, after some controversy, joined the United States as a slave state. President James K. Polk immediately tried to expand Texas by purchasing land from Mexico. When Mexico refused to sell, Polk sent American troops into Mexico, igniting the Mexican-American War. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought in the war, later referred toย it as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation”. The Mexicans call it “the United States’ Invasion of Mexico”.

It’s clear that we haven’t lived up to our ideals as a nation. Obviously, nations never live up to their idealsย completely, but our ideals are relatively high and our behavior is relatively low in too many cases.

So it isn’t surprising that there are lots of people with doubts about America these days. The person who wrote the article at the link below brings up Vietnam and Cambodia, Bush and Cheney, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Manning and Snowden, the NSA and our frequent outbreaks of paranoia.

He might have mentioned a whole bunch of other things. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. We are the largest arms exporter in the world. Our leading politicians are for sale. People sometimes wait for hours to vote in poor neighborhoods, but not in rich ones. We’re the only developed country that doesn’t require paid vacations or maternity leave. And one of my favorites: our drug companies send drugs banned in America to other countries:

Dr. Maria Guadalupe Rodriguez tries vainly to convince parents that the costly American drugs they buy to fight their babies’ diarrhea are useless and often deadly.

Some of the drugs can paralyze a child’s intestines. Others can destroy a child’s ability to fight other infections. All fail to treat the worst enemy of a child with diarrhea: the dehydrationย that kills about 4 million children under 5 in underdeveloped countries every year, the World Health Organization says. All these infants need, WHO says, is an inexpensive mixture of sugar, salt and water.

Of thee I sing.


One citizen’s angry appraisal of America:ย

How drug companies profit by selling dangerous drugs overseas: