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Axar.az presents the article "B) Speaker of the House” by John Samuel Tieman.
I'm reading Steven Smith's new book, “Reclaiming Patriotism In An Age Of Extremes”. To Smith, a professor of philosophy at Yale, patriotism is a form of love. This form of love is not vague. It's a specific loyalty. I love my wife, Phoebe. I love my home, St. Louis. I love my friends. This Saturday, Phoebe and I are going to a French restaurant with Margaret and Chuck. You may love humanity, but you can't share a bottle of Merlot with 7.9 billion people.
I'm also a retired teacher. I've been looking through standardized tests. When it comes to the 8th-grade civics test, students in my state, Missouri, score 50 – 60%. Here's an example of one question from 2018 the National Assessment of Educational Progress. “In addition to voting and being a candidate, what are two ways that citizens can be involved in presidential campaigns and elections?” That's one of the more abstract questions. These scores don't get better with age. A recent study of adults, conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that 22% of those surveyed couldn’t name a single governmental branch, 25% of respondents were able to name one branch, and 14% remembered only two.
If patriotism is a form of love, and if love is a specific loyalty, then to what are these folks patriotic? A majority of Republicans insist that Trump won the 2020 election. A recent YouGov poll found that 34% of Americans believe it is “probably true” or “definitely true” that Pres. Obama was born in Kenya. Among Republicans, that number is 56%. Then there's QAnon. What is patriotism to someone whose beliefs are not attached to anything?
A veteran informs me that, since I am also a veteran, patriotism demands that I should “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me”. That's from the Oath Of Enlistment. He says that my oath, which I took in 1969, is still binding. That's crazy legally. But I can prove it's impossibly practically. Go ahead – have a 21-year-old lieutenant give this 71-year-old Ph. D. an order, then watch me pledge an oath that begins, “I swear to Sweet Jesus, you little &^%#@*$~+...!” Nonetheless, I worry about this veteran. He substitutes knowledge with QAnon conspiracies. He believes that Donald Trump is still president. (That's is why “obey the orders of the President” is important to him.) He believes he is bound to a man, who isn't president, by an oath that isn't binding. He also believes that all Muslims are terrorists, and all Mexicans are rapists. When your political knowledge has the consistency of fog, to what are you patriotic?
Here's an actual answer to a sample question on a civics test. "During the Civil War (1861-1865), what was the main concern of the United States?" To which my fellow American answered, "Socialism". Which, after I laugh, doesn't make me anything except sad. I've complained for decades about people with only a “Time” magazine understanding of the world. I also complained about folks who never get further than an 8th grade understanding of civics. Now, I'd be deeply pleased if 75% of Americans were able to explain judicial review.
I see a neighbour flying the American flag. I wonder if his patriotism is any more substantial than cloth of red, white, and blue. That guy has about a 50/50 chance of being able to answer the following question, taken from a state test. “Which person is a member of the legislative branch? A) President, B) Speaker of The House, C) Secretary Of Education, D) Ambassador To The United Nations.”
2021.05.24 / 14:13
John Samuel Tieman