Maybe Your Dissent Shouldn't Be Patriotic


The pithy comeback "dissent is patriotic" is getting a lot of play right now. Its underlying logic is sound enough, those who love their countries should want the country to be a better place. Even the most complacent could name a few things they'd like to see changed. Dissent surely may be patriotic.

But should it be?

Let us not lock ourselves into the framework wherein we must continually prove that we are patriots and our dissent patriotic. I want the place where I live, the place which taxes me, the place in which I am the most capable of effecting small changes to be better than it is. But I don't want that because I love America or want America to be great or to be kind or to be anything else. I want that because I want reduced suffering and greater freedom for those within its borders and the world.

Let us accept that dissent may fundamentally reject the idea that you should love a nation and its better laws. America was born through violence and built through violence. The net effect of its laws and acts within the world have protected white business interests, white male power, and general white supremacy. Much of what we're first taught to love is predicated on concealing these truths and focusing on the benefits only extended to a few.

Japanese internment, Chinese Exclusion Act (made permanent in 1902), Jim Crow in the South and redlining in the North, and the ongoing genocide practiced against native peoples — all these occured through significant portions of the 20th century. They're not relics we've long outgrown. They were extensions of the violence which declared enslaved people to be 3/5 human and restricted the vote to white men with property. It is not wrong to look at a nation which has done all this and more and realize you cannot love such a nation.

Let your dissent be love turned toward people instead. Let us love our neighbors, not our country. Let us love our enemies, not our country. Let us love those sojourning among us who may not stay. Let us love those in the parts of the world which our nation destabilizes, bombs, and exploits. We cannot make this country good. We may minimize and reduce some of its harms.

So let us dissent without contorting ourselves into a patriotic mindset. And let our dissent be powered by that love, which is of far more value than love of nation could ever be.