Last week actor Ron Perlman got a lot of attention on social media for calling out Donald Trump on a number of issues. Although noble at first sight, a better look at Perlman’s tweets show a staggering limited view on the matter. Perlman referred to the United States as “the greatest nation on earth” – and those five words just completely ruined his entire message. The United States is not the greatest nation on earth. It’s also not the worst nation on earth. The United States are not defined by it’s nationhood. The United States is defined by its people, its rulers and its policies. At this moment the United States is divided, a bad place to live for a lot of people and led by a racist oligarch. Donald Trump is not an accident that happened to Perlman’s fortunes. Trump shouldn’t be called out on what he does, but on what he stands for. He’s not making ‘the greatest nation on earth’ look bad, he is a pseudo-fascist gangster that’s ruining people’s lives.
Is there difference between a patriot and a racist? A patriot is someone who loves their country and supports its authority and interests, according to Merriam Webster. The word country in this definition, is supposed to be understood as a nation, a governed state.
But a country, nation or governed state is something that’s hard to define. Does that include every citizen that lives in the country? Does it involve every possible type of government? Does it specify a particular bordered mass of land?
In other words, would a patriot unconditionally love every person living in their country? Would a patriot always support the government even if they don’t agree with its political affiliation? If a country were to expand its borders would their support extend to the new regions? Would their love cease for a region that would break away from the nation?
The answers to these questions is no, I believe. A patriot’s love for a country is not unconditional. It’s limited to a particular homogeneous group of people, set geographical borders and a distinguished type of government. Patriots are first and foremost defenders of a dominant culture. They love their nation, but only under the condition that the nation is led by a favourable government. The love their people but only if the people adhere to a certain set of customs and ideals that are historically associated with the nation.
If you take the meaning of the word patriot literally, a patriot would love their country even if it broke up in several independent nations. Because loving a country would mean you love the geographical region, no matter what imaginary lines it crosses. A patriot would unconditionally support their government no matter if it’s socialist, theocratic or libertarian. A literal patriot would love every person that’s part of the population even if they look, talk and act different than the others. Including peoples that are new to them because their nation got incorporated in a newly formed federal state, for example.
Actual patriots, however, are none of those things. What we call patriots, are conservative nationalists. They want to venomously defend their borders and not become part of other nation. At the very least they’d expand their nation into other’s, but only if it would absorb the new territory into their nation. They don’t accept people of other kinds in their country unless the fully accept, embrace and assimilate to the dominant culture of that nation and if you ask what they love about their country they would only mention historical values, cultural aspects and characteristics of that dominant culture they are part of.
Someone who calls themselves a patriot are mostly emotionally attached to a personal experience within their home country. They seek comfort in a flag, a language and personal cultural identity and often will make it sound as if these need defending. As if there’s a menace, an outside threat that will erase this. However, cultural change, increased ethnic diversity or political reform would not make the country or nation disappear, yet these sorts of changes or usually what patriots consider threats to their identity.
Socialism & Internationalism
In the socialist struggle, one can see that there is no notion of such thing as statehood, nationality or patriotism. And every instance where it does occur, it failed. Socialism is an international movement, uniting people based on class without the limitations of borders, ethnicity or culture. Look at the prominent figures in the socialist struggle of the 20th century. Marx and Engels, and later Lenin and Trotsky, Luxembourg and Zedkin. They all travelled through Europe, aided the struggle where they were needed. Same can be said about Che Guevara. Nobody remembers them for their nationality or defending their home country. They unconditionally believed in an ideology for the betterment of ALL the people.
What people like Ron Perlman need to realise, is that combatting the policies of Donald Trump, you have to acknowledge the failure of the state as a whole. Stop pretending your pride for a piece of land with a line drawn around it and a cloth with fifty stars is something that needs defending. Stand up for people that are victim of the tyrant and work to change the material conditions that put the gangster in office and the people in misery. Be proud of people of colour, be proud of transgender folks, be proud of people that are being exploited for little wage. Be proud of young mothers and single dads on benefits and kids inner city schools. Defend their rights and work together to make things better for them. In American, in Mexico, in Bangladesh and Iraq. Be proud of people and work together to defend our shared values.