Sunday, September 11, 2005

People who know me will not be in the least surprised that the test at Political Compass ranks me as very strongly left-libertarian. I personally like that site quite a lot; the quiz defines the left-right continuum in terms of economic systems, and the libertarian-authoritarian continuum in terms of attitudes towards the social relationships among individual, community, and government. (This may also explain why I've been known to enjoy reading both Gore Vidal and, albeit in much smaller doses, P.J. O'Rourke.)

So, of course, this other quiz result (abridged but still long -- see end of post) was interesting. (Yes, I know it's just an Internet quiz written by someone with his or her own strong opinions.) Boldface in mid-explanation is mine, though, because I especially liked that statement.

And, yes, my pride level has been low of late. I remember trying to discuss this sort of thing last summer with two friends, one of whom was American and the other Australian, and both of whom share most of my political beliefs. My fellow American friend feels and expresses tremendous pride in being American. (Remember, this is a fellow leftist, who was incidentally much more active than I was in political opposition to the current regime at election time.) I couldn't quite come up with the words to express why that didn't describe my own feelings very well, but more clarity came later. What I felt and meant was: I feel fortunate, but not always proud, to be American.

The simplest reason for this is that my nationality, like everyone else's, is an accident. I had no more control over it than I did over my sex, my date of birth, or my adult height. My grandparents did exercise indirect control over the situation by virtue of having arrived in the United States on four separate ships and then converging on the same Connecticut town, but I can't appropriate their adventuresomeness as my own achievement.

The more complex reasons for the discrepancy have to do with being frequently appalled by the actions of the U.S. government (insert obligatory Michael Brown reference here). Obviously, I'm frequently even more appalled by the actions of many other governments, but then again no one has ever tried to shame me into expressing pride in someone else's government. At any rate, I think what I really meant to say to my two friends was this: I feel extremely fortunate to be an American, because I've benefited tremendously from our overall high standard of living. But, I think that for that reason I'd feel equally fortunate to have been born Swedish or Australian or Japanese -- while none of us who have been reading the accounts coming out of New Orleans from the safety of our higher and drier cities would feel especially fortunate to have been Americans living in the poorer parts of that city when the water started pouring in.

"Fortunate" and "proud" are two different concepts that can overlap considerably but are not identical. If we let ourselves become too complacently proud, we run the risk of becoming much, much less fortunate in a hurry. As for me: Like many people on both the left and right, I'd say I believed the lessons of grade-school civics all too well. Still do. And I'm mad as hell at the brainless frat-boy cronyism that paralyzed the response capabilities of the richest society in the world and left its poorest citizens in danger. In the meantime, there are positive things we can do.

You scored 68% US Philosophy, 12% American Pride, 93% Involvement, and 100% Citizen Status!
This test measured you according to four criteria: Philosophy, Pride, Involvement and Citizen Status.

Philosophy reflects whether you agree with the philosophical foundations of the United States, such as: liberty, equality, democracy (though limited, not absolute), capitalism, checks and balances, constitutionalism, etc.

Pride reflects your assessment of the factual reality and history of the United States as a nation. It is your opinion as to whether the United States has been a "good" country and whether it has acted rightly or not.

Involvement reflects your level of political activism--whether you act to stay informed of what is going on in the world, and what you do on the basis of that information.

Citizen Status simply reflects whether you claimed to be a citizen of the U.S. when asked by this test.

It is the opinion of this test that, of these four factors, the only one that matters when it comes to being considered a Patriotic American is one's score in the first category--Philosophy. Therefore, if you scored between 0-33% in that category, you have been rated 'Unpatriotic'; 34-66%, 'Somewhat Patriotic'; 67-100% 'Patriotic'.

Certainly, the other categories provide interesting information for your (and others') consideration. However, they are not crucial for Patriotism, and they do not necessarily reflect a love, or its lack, for one's country. Regarding American Pride, some people will be surprised that it does not affect the outcome of the test; some people will be upset by this. However, if a person supports every military action the United States has ever engaged in, but does not really support his neighbors' right to live their lives in the ways that they see fit, then they do not truly love the United States. Further, and despite much of the rhetoric some political pundits engage in, a truly Patriotic American can be highly critical of many of the actions undertaken by the U.S. throughout history. Certainly, much of what the United States has done has been done poorly or for the wrong reasons. And while the author of this test believes that the United States has been mainly a force for good in the world (and the most-free, best nation ever to exist), he respects the opinions of those who would disagree with him and fully supports their right to dissent. For that is what America is all about.


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