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Love America? Not unconditionally — and with an option for divorce

Public discussion in this country sometimes seems to degenerate into a competition to see who can declare the greatest unconditional love for America. Immigrants love America, kids love America, and politicians really love America — sometimes several times, at a discounted rate. But in a land that often says, “America, love it or leave it,” I’ll admit that I’m at least willing to consider heading for the exit.

“Love” America? That’s a tall order, isn’t it? It’s a big and diverse place, so if I “love” the whole thing, does that really have to include rush-hour traffic and midwestern food? Or, more seriously, does it have to include the DEA, the NSA, the IRS and the various factions of control freaks that all-so-often dominate the country’s politics?

I love lots of distinct things about America; among them, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, bourbon, jazz and a long tradition of distrust of government and a preference (imperfectly implemented though it may be) for leaving people alone to guide their own lives and make their own choices. That last point is especially important. My family has a history of shopping for places to live where they won’t be hassled.

My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was “Marano” which supports oral history suggesting that her ancestors converted under duress from Judaism to Christianity and then fled to Italy to escape the Inquisition. I guess they didn’t love Spain enough.

My maternal grandmother told me that her father came to the United States, in part, to escape the military draft in Austria-Hungary. No love there, either.

In America, my family found more breathing room compared to the countries in which they were born. They had reason to be thankful, since they were more free than they had been in the old country. So, after all these centuries, has the migration at last come to an end?

That’s hard to believe. After all, this column focuses on violations of personal freedom by government agents, and I rarely have to wander across the border in order to find issues to cover. The inclination toward personal freedom that so attracted immigrants to American shores is continuously under attack from politicians from both major political parties. Those officials often proclaim their love for the country, but they seem to want to love it out of all recognition, into a place where travelers are stopped and scrutinized and homes are invaded by armed men over a choice of intoxicants or a taste for games of chance. They love telling us what we can eat, where we can smoke and when we can drink. They whisper their affections while they pick our pockets, constrain our business ventures in red tape (to the tune of $8,164 per household (PDF) in 2000, just to comply with federal regulations) and generally threaten us with laws and regulations we may not even know about.

This is not to say that the United States is especially bad when compared to other countries, which generally suffer under abusive governments of their own. And some things have definitely improved over the decades, such as equality before the law for women and racial minorities, and respect for sexual diversity. But the United States is, perhaps, no longer such a standout performer when it comes to respecting and defending individual liberty. That is, it’s no longer so uniquely enticing if you’re shopping for a place to live based on the local willingness to let you live your own life. To tell the truth, maybe America still looks as … well … OK-ish as it does not by an absolute standard, but only by comparison with the equally flawed competition.

No wonder there’s such an emphasis on unconditional love for America! Frankly, though, unconditional love is appropriate only for babies and puppies. If we stop and think rationally, we may someday decide that the place we now call home is no longer as loveable as it once was, and go shopping for a new address that puts more effort into earning our affection.

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  • I hear Panama’s got some good deals going, especially for retirees. It might be a good fit for you, ’cause you already know how to deal with hot weather. It’d be more of an adjustment coming from New York.

  • Panama is a possibility — Guatemala, too (it has one of the more pro-liberty universities in the world). Tambien, yo estudio el espanol.

  • damaged justice

    May 19, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Even if I wanted to leave, the statists won’t let me leave without “ID”. But I don’t have that and can’t get it even if I wanted to. If they want me gone, they’ll have to throw me out or kill me. Until that happens, I ain’t going nowhere.

  • The love must be mutual. Does America love me? Someone, one example please.

  • Panama? Are you serious? Isn’t that the foreign country where someone was arrested in a manner not prescribed by the Constitution for violating domestic US laws?

    There is no piece of habitable land on this entire planet that has not in some way been soured by the symptoms of White Man’s Disorder. No matter where you go, you will be hounded, accused, admonished, kidnapped, re-educated, robbed, beaten or just plain killed.

  • Spot on, TJP. I’m also hard-pressed to think of any corner of the globe where liberty is respected unconditionally. Yes, it is true that many countries are characterized by societies much more tolerant of “lifestyle freedom” than the UFSA and do not burden their citizens with petty, pseudo-moralistic, nanny-state behavior regulation. However, none have the deeply-rooted liberty-centered political tradition this country has, however imperfectly practiced in this nation’s younger years and no matter how battered, neglected, or persecuted it is now. Example: While Germany (and indeed much of the rest of Northwestern Europe) is much more permissive and less censorious about certain “lifestyle” behaviors than America (i.e., public alcohol consumption, pornography, gay marriage, etc.), it is STILL one of the most oppressive nations on earth in terms of the subordination of the individual to the will of the State. Look no further than the German family that was granted political asylum here in the U.S. recently in order to home school their children without interference from the State, an act for which in Germany –supposedly a “free”, “democratic” nation– they were threatened with arrest and seizure of their children!

    For all of our current national decay, we here in Amerika have not reached THAT level of oppression. I highly doubt that such a move by any level of government here, even this day and age of the Neoconservatism-Obammunism tug-of-war, would meet with anything other than ferocious resistance that would cause immediate backpedaling. There is simply too deeply rooted a tradition of individualism here in this country that, for all the noise made by collectivists of either the white redneck or “oppressed minority” variety, is still a force to be reckoned with. Can we honestly say that about most of the rest of the world, even if it appears that they are now better practitioners of (certain kinds of) freedom than we are?

  • When it comes to “unconditional love,” don’t forget about kittens.

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