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Op-Ed

An exceedingly strange year

December 23, 2021

Is stirring up hate against our fellow countrymen, and calling it patriotism, really the best we can do today? And why is it so successful?

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

In this exceedingly strange year, even that good old word “patriotism” has assumed grotesque forms, some of them seeming to require us to hate parts of our country, rather than love all of it.

This is apparent in many ways. For the sake of argument, let’s use the word “superpatriot” to designate those who insist that being a patriot requires us to hate: someone, something, anything at all — even vaguely defined places.

Many superpatriots pretend to instruct us to hate Washington, D.C., though they spend millions of other people’s dollars to get a job there. They also instruct us to hate New York City and San Francisco, of course, particularly the college professors there, who are, supposedly, so much different than the people in between.

Now, I never saw the point in hating people, much less geographical regions. O, I’ve hated a few people in my life; don’t get me wrong; I’ve even used my hate to impel me to do things that I thought were right, but after a spell I realized that hatred — of anything — doesn’t do anyone any good. Besides, it causes cancer.

Much of our superpatriots’ energy today is devoted toward trying to persuade the people who live in the 2,430 highway miles between New York and California that the people, professors and politicians on the coasts despise the people in between, and virtually everything about them. This is ridiculous, of course, but it seems to be effective, if stirring up hate at false enemies can be effective, in any sense of the word but the grubbiest and most selfish.

But here’s something I’ve noticed: I haven’t seen or heard of anyone on our two ocean coasts try to stir up hatred of people in Nebraska, for example, or Kansas or Iowa. That’s a good thing, but, apparently, ineffective politics today.

As I said, I fail to see the point in stirring up hatred of anything, let alone geographic regions. But I would like to know why stirring up hatred seems to be so popular in our country today — particularly during Christmas week, when love, peace and forgiveness are supposed to prevail. Unless I’ve misread the Bible.

And here is something I would like to know: Do people in Kansas, Idaho, Wyoming and so many other states between the coasts actually believe that people in New York and California despise them? Look down on them? Mock them privately or in public? I don’t believe they do.

I don’t believe that any dad or mom on a farm in Leavenworth, or Dubuque, or any of our 34 Springfields sits down to a wholesome family dinner saying, “Damn, I wish those stuffed-shirts at NYU and Pacific Palisades would stop makin’ fun of us. Pass the grits, Dear.”

What I see, from my ivory tower at ground level, is a bunch of superpatriots stirring up hatred for what they believe is their own good — and may very well be — in the short term.

Leaving aside for a moment taxes, infrastructure, public schools, public health, foreign affairs, the military budget, the weather, can’t we agree upon one thing: that stirring up hatred is vile, sickening and dangerous.

And how is it that the people doing this today, in our country, seeking their own advancement, can claim in good faith to call themselves Christians?

Merry Christmas.

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