Patriotism Should not be Partisan

How echo chambers and ignorance could destroy US democracy

Photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels

Resentment and pettiness run deep, especially in echo chambers.

Over two years in, some folks still haven’t processed the last presidential election. The problem is anyone but the obvious culprit. It’s Clinton, or Sanders, or whoever else threw their hat into the ring in 2016.

Instead of preventing America from sinking deeper into illiberalism, those malcontents are on a vicious scapegoating rampage. Everyone is fair game, a convenient target for the ire of those who feel politically adrift, misrepresented.

Worse, it’s never about what’s best for all, it’s always personal.

Such is the inability to consider others that threats of casting a Republican vote if a woman or a gay man gets the Democratic nomination have started to crop up on social media ahead of the 2020 election, for example.

This is not America, the country on the brink of democratic collapse.

This is a nationwide, America-sized schoolyard where adults are willing to throw their peers under the bus out of spite.

Because they dislike women holding positions of power and because the very thought of a gay man being afforded a smidgen of equality as is the case in other civilized countries is anathema to them.

Not so in the European Union. Xavier Bettel became the Prime Minister of Luxembourg in 2013 and was reelected in 2018, and there are many other LGBTQ folks holding political office both at national and European level.

The EU is living proof that equality as a standard in politics is achievable.

As an aside, the outgoing ambassador of France to the US, the formidable Gérard Araud — whose uncompromising stance on Trumpism landed him in hot water with Paris more than once — is also gay. If I mention him, it’s because I’m a French immigrant to the US and his humanity and intelligence have been my guiding light since the 2016 election and his twitter feed a lifeline.

Meanwhile, the more myopic of echo chamber dwellers are now comparing Biden to Trump, reducing the former VP’s entire political career to the eight years he spent in the White House alongside Obama. Worse, they now describe Biden as a Democratic version of Trump.

How on earth did we get so insulated by ignorance that we’re sunk to such over-simplification? Granted, nuance isn’t a feature of political life in the US, and neither is the ability to have a conversation with those who hold different views from us. Dialogue takes effort and empathy, and that’s clearly too much work for many.

And of course many still haven’t forgiven Bernie Sanders for capturing the public imagination and proposing something radical here yet common to most of the Western world, i.e. socialism.

The very same people are now foaming at the mouth, apoplectic with rage at Sanders daring to run again. Because they’re feeling powerless, left behind by a country barreling toward disaster. Because they’re fed up and desperately want to be heard.

Don’t we all?

If you have a vote, you have a voice.

However, should you decide that voting is too much of a hassle next time around then be prepared to live with the fallout.

You can’t expect others to do your civic duty for you and then complain about the results when they’re not to your liking. Wash your hands of it all if you must, that’s your right, your choice, and your privilege but please take responsibility for your inaction.

Politics isn’t something that happens to other people, we’re in this together.

As for telling anyone willing to listen that you’re going to vote Republican to teach the Democrats a lesson, is that supposed to be a declaration of how smart you are? Especially when you gloat about being the first impacted because your identity intersects with one or several minorities or at-risk groups. This kind of attitude abounds online, too.

If you feel like sacrificing yourself, fair enough, it’s your prerogative.

But why are you so keen to take the rest of us down with you?

Iprobably haven’t been in America long enough to grasp the local mindset.

The desperate demand for constant attention and validation and the willingness to sabotage an election on a whim makes me sick to my stomach.

What I see is evidence of rogue individualism, a widespread absence of critical faculties, and an absence of knowledge of international politics among those puerile internet yellers who mistakenly assume America is their private property.

Trump has emboldened such attitudes, leading by example by carpet-bombing the internet with assorted blatherings, proof that mediocrity is as confident as it is arrogant.

I’ve seen this where I come from, too. The more bigoted the voter, the more righteous and self-satisfied across the political spectrum. This isn’t even a partisan issue. In the US, some Democrats are just as bad if not worse because they believe they have some kind of moral high ground over Republicans. Lest we forget, not all Republicans support Trump.

But there’s a big difference between France and the US: In the face of danger, we stop complaining for a nanosecond, we set our enormous egos aside, and we close ranks. And then we go right back to grumbling, true to the world-famous cliché.

In 2017, America’s oldest ally had a presidential election, an unprecedented one that culminated in the ascendency of outlier Emmanuel Macron.

A former government minister under socialist president François Hollande, Macron was uncommonly young as well as free from traditional party attachments. In a shrewd move designed to bridge the left-right divide, he created his own centrist movement from scratch, En Marche, coincidentally bearing his initials.

A PR savvy politician, Macron knows the power of brand identity. (The movement has since then been renamed La République en Marche, aka LREM.)

After National Front candidate Marine Le Pen made it through to the second round of voting, we came together, if often grudgingly so. (Although this party has also acquired a different name since, it remains the ideological home of white nationalists.)

Despite our differences, the vast majority of French people realized we had one common goal: to keep the extreme-right away from power. So we voted for Macron on the condition that a vote wouldn’t represent an automatic endorsement of his politics.

The reasoning was that he’d be a lot easier to push back against than Marine Le Pen, that is to say the lesser of two evils.

We had one job, to protect our country, and we did exactly that.

This is how people from across the political spectrum put a country’s interests before their own. It’s not that everyone fell under Macron’s charm — far from it — it’s that moral and civic duty left us no choice but to vote him in.

Much like what happened in France two years ago, America’s political predicament is an emergency. Our institutions are being dismantled piecemeal and SCOTUS can no longer be relied upon to remain impartial since the appointment of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Even though Democrats have regained control of the house, America isn’t safe.

After the horrors visited upon America by Trumpism, you don’t have to be a registered Democrat to understand there’s an urgent need for action. Otherwise, we stand to become an isolationist nation that pushes the rest of the world away.

And turns on its own citizens when they don’t meet this new ethno-nationalist, christo-fascist definition of “American.” And yet, the whole world has been at home in the United States since the country’s foundation.

In this climate, alienation is a natural — and widespread — reaction. For my part, America feels like an organ transplant that didn’t take. But I’m a citizen now so Trumpism is my problem as much as yours.

The only silver lining I’ve so far been able to glimpse may be wishful thinking. I can’t help but wonder if we could be witnessing the end of the increasingly obsolete two-party system. In this case, American democracy could be experiencing growing pains.

Could Trumpism be a growth spurt that forces America to shape up? Only time will tell.

And democracy isn’t an abstract concept: democracy is you, democracy is me, democracy is us, together.

Because patriotism isn’t partisan.

Patriotism means transcending individual convictions in the name of the common good, not acting like a stroppy brat with a ballot paper or giving in to simplistic comparisons between candidates who are in no way comparable.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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