November 15, 2004

Double A for the patriot

One more rumination on patriotism. This one was set off by this column I read after the US election. In it, one Mike Thompson spells out a modest proposal he has. He wants to expel from the United States those systematically troublesome states that constitute a cancer that continues to threaten our body politic and are trending rapidly toward anti-American, if not outright subversive, behavior.

The twelve states, he means, that voted for Kerry.

Now if we're talking about subversive behaviour, it seems to me hard to find a better example of it than proposing to dismember your country, to expel half its population. But let's leave that discussion for another day. What I find amusing -- except that this guy is so serious -- is his easy assumption of patriotism and anti-nationalism. You don't agree with me -- in this case, because you didn't vote for the guy I voted for -- so you're anti-American. So I want to push you out of my country.

What is it about patriotism that stimulates such easy equations? Such empty vapidities as "my country right or wrong" or "love your country or leave it"? After all, Mike Thompson's thoughts tell me, in no vague terms, that he certainly does not love his country as it is today. Quite the contrary: he wants to rip whole sections of it out! By his own logic therefore, should he not be on the next boat leaving, preferably one with oars that he has to row himself?

Yet this is the singular characteristic of all dudes who want it easily assumed that they are patriots -- they believe they can pronounce who else is a traitor. And that's invariably the guys they disagree with. I remember always what one Lalji Tandon, BJP leader, said after India's 1998 nuclear explosions: Everybody who opposed or criticized the nuclear tests conducted by India was in fact a traitor.

Our homegrown Mike Thompson, the honourable Lalji.

And of course, some of you will remember the same honourable Lalji's more recent claim to fame: his birthday party last April in which his supporters flung saris into a crowd of 5000 destitute women crammed into a small park. Yes, this is what this patriot thought of these 5000 humans -- they are poor, so I'll celebrate my birthday by throwing saris at them.

The result: a stampede that left 21 of my fellow Indians dead.

But how dare I criticize the man? He's patriotic enough to tell me I'm a traitor!

More reasons patriotism makes me sick. The patriotism sported by the Thompsons and Laljis, at any rate.

Finally, there's one more amusing -- this time, really amusing -- link on Mike Thompson's page. It's titled "Patriotic Products." Naturally, I clicked. That took me here.

Here is a sample of the fine products you can buy off this page, though please stop wondering how many of them are made in China:

* 1984 Reagan/Bush campaign poster
* Bush-Cheney '04 cap
* Republican "Party Animal" Christmas ornament
* George W Bush Christmas ornament
* 2005 Republican Freedom calendar
* Ronald Reagan, Ann Coulter, Don Rumsfeld, George W Bush talking action figures. Four -- count 'em, four -- different George W Bush talking action figures.

and (drum roll please) this final patriotic product:

* talking action figures replacement batteries.

Note that patriotism, as represented on this page, is firmly Republican. Note too that patriotism, as also represented on this page, evidently needs replacement batteries.


Anonymous said...

... the last refuge of scoundrels is quite apt and not just in the cases you mention.


Sunil said...

Hi might just enjoy reading this article on "nationalism" that I saw on Cricinfo. Yes, its about cricket.....and a lot more.....


Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks Sunil, for that pointer. That Wankhede pitch was a disgrace and exciting as the Test turned out to be, that's no kind of contest to win and be proud of our players' efforts. Saying so, though, as Amit Verma points out, is seen as being traitorous!

Pointer in return: read Mike Marqusee's excellent World Cup '96 book, "War Minus the Shooting".

Two more self-promotional pointers: two pieces I did touching on similar cricket issues. One. Two.

Sunil said...

Thanks for those two links....i thoroughly enjoyed them (i'd read the one in TOI earlier).
Just to add a comment......I do occationally go to this cinema hall in Seattle and watch some cricket matches that India play. During one of the India-Pak matches, shoaib Akthar came up with a superb exhibition of fast bowling, that had the Indian batsmen hopping. I felt very bad that the Indian batsmen didn't do too well, but I was in awe of that superb spell of bowling....something Holding or Lillie would have applauded. However the crowd had other ideas.......even in a cinema hall, the boo's were overpowering, and a steady chant of "chucker, chucker" started every time Shoaib ran in. Left me very disappointed, since this only gets worse with each cricket match. Now i stick to following matches on my own, on cricinfo....:-) Sunil

ak said...

I have great respect for guys like Akram, Gillespie, Mcgrath, Warne. But not Shoaib and Murali. These guys are chuckers. So are Bhajji and Brett Lee, perhaps, though their chucking is not as obvious.
Shouting "chucker" is not the solution and when Akhtar is bowling well, there is a certain admiration for him.
But the fact remains that such guys should be suspended and their action remedied. Otherwise, the bowlers who have a proper action will feel cheated and so will the batsmen.
Instead of this, the ICC is changing the rules for the "chuckers". Is that correct?
I know you're trying to point out that Indians are unsporting and I agree that in quite a few cases, it is true. But there are two sides to it in this case.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Honest PP, thanks for that reference! Funny all right, but with a steel edge of seriousness. Not a bad riposte to Mike Thompson at all.

Sunil/Anirudh: to me, the issue is not the "chucker" label (certainly I think Shoaib throws, as does Bhajji, Rajesh Chauhan, etc). The point is, there seems to be an increasing inability in Indian cricket crowds to appreciate performances by non-Indians. If Sunil had reported that it was Akram making those Indian batsmen hop about (as he actually has), do you think the Seattle audience would have been any less abusive of him, more appreciative?

One of the best images in my mind from cricket is Allan Donald bowling Sachin T (seen it happen twice, I think). For one thing, there is something about a furiously fast bowler getting through a batsman's defences and destroying the wicket that's just glorious. For another, and more important, this was not just an ordinary fast bowler getting through a tailender's defence. This was a magnificent bowler totally befuddling a superb batsman, and that's why it was such a glorious sight.

Am I somehow anti-Indian because I found that so thrilling? Well, then I'm anti-Indian.

ak said...

Who's saying you're anti-Indian? I enjoy a good match. Infact I prefer an exciting match in which India loses to a boring one in which India wins. However, I must admit that I derive more joy from seeing Sachin thrash Mcgrath than from Mcgrath getting Sachin out. However, that is because Mcgrath has got him out so many times, for which there is a conscious admiration and an unconscious respect for him.

Dilip D'Souza said...

> Who's saying you're anti-Indian?

Not you, Ani my friend!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Tanuj old man,

> why should a reasonable person (who admires all
> talented cricketers) have to defend a preference
> for watching sachin thrash mcgrath's bowling?

But that's just the point! He should not have to defend that preference in the least! I have not a single problem with that. In much the same way, nobody should have to defend watching Donald cleaning up Sachin and finding that exhilarating.

It's the other side of this coin that some people seem to find a problem. As Amit Verma wrote in the post that started this (see Sunil's first post), after criticising the Wankhede pitch, he was swamped with email that questioned his patriotism. Hello?

> curious to know if you think there is any form of
> patriotism that is 'good',

Of course there is. Here's one example (think you've heard about it before) that I wrote about.

> whether there is such a thing as being unpatriotic

Of course there is again. Not paying your taxes, bribing/taking bribes, vandalizing hospitals, rioting, escaping justice, condoning rioters on some pretext or another ... there's a long list.

Dilip D'Souza said...


is patriotism, i.e. the love for one's country, really the same as philanthropy, honesty, the love for all mankind (as your examples suggest)?But what else is it? If I say I love my country, what can that possibly mean but that I feel some bond with the people around me in that country? If they all somehow vanished, and I was left alone in the country, what would it mean to say I love that country?

A person who cheats on his taxes, say, but then gets up and pronounces that he loves his country is no patriot to me. But a person who lives by the laws, is concerned about his fellow human beings -- now that's a patriot regardless of whether he cares to pronounce his love. Those two guys in Bilgaon lived their patriotism, without needing to say it, or perhaps even feel it. That's why they are so inspiring.

And yes, you take this logically further and the only patriotism that makes any sense to me is if you live like a good human being, care about your fellow man. Call it touchy-feely if you like, but really, nothing else makes sense to me. Those guys who built that dam could have been white-skinned Ecuadorians with Uzbek passports, for all I care -- that they did what they did, for me, gives meaning to the word "patriotism."

ak said...

I've put up latest post. I'd like you to check this one out.
The address, if you've forgotten:

sudeep said...

Its not as if its only the right wingers who come up with hair brained ideas. IIRC, wasn't it Jyoti Basu who said Bengal would secede from India if the BJP came to power in the center ? And wasnt it arundhati roy who declared herself to be a "mobile independent republic" after PokII ? Intolerance and extremism is not just a right wing preserve as you would have us believe.

Dilip D'Souza said...

> Its not as if its only the right wingers who come
> up with hair brained ideas. ... Intolerance and
> extremism is not just a right wing preserve as you
> would have us believe.

When "right wingers" is not even mentioned in my post, it is baffling how you come up with the idea that I "would have you believe" this stuff. I mentioned "Republican" because that "Patriotic Products" page is filled with Republican-oriented (if you like) knick-knacks. No "Dukakis-Bentsen" campaign posters, for example.

> IIRC, wasn't it Jyoti Basu who said Bengal would
> secede from India if the BJP came to power in the
> center ? And wasnt it arundhati roy who declared
> herself to be a "mobile independent republic"
> after PokII ?

You are welcome to see these as intolerance and extremism if you like. But to my mind, there is something of a difference between saying "I secede" (which is what Roy was saying), and "I'm going to throw you guys out of the country because you voted differently and so you are traitors" (which is what Mike Thompson was saying).

Shanti Mangala said...

Dilip, I find Mike Thompson's arguments ridiculous - just as I do those of Honest Patch Perkins and the "fine site" he posted the link to. I think it is only intellectually lazy people who shy away from discourse and would like to completely remove from their plane of existence those who don't agree with them.

Suhail said...

Hi Dilip,
Am very new to blogosphere(ab tak khaata bhi nahin khola ;). And got yr link thru the tsunamihelp blog. Wanted to let you know that I've never seen such an interesting & meaningful discussion on patriotism. Anyways all your posts rock as well(went thru yr archives in a marathon session).

Will just add a quote here which summarises this discussion succinctly.

"Patriotism is a feeling that my country is greater than yours, just because I was born in it."

(Can't recall where I read it. Though I have a gut feeling that this should be from G.B.Shaw.)

btw Dilip, or any of the experienced bloggers/writers out there. Can you suggest how to start off my first article. I am not an experienced or prolific writer per se. I have some half-finished ones ready, but I always get the feeling that its not good enough(to be posted), and then there is a shift in my interest...another topic, another article, half-baked...u get the drift ? Do many people face similar problem? How do I tackle it ? Is this what, the by now famous, "they" call as writer's block ? I havent even started, how can I be blocked ? Isnt it unfair? Just FYI, I dont intend my blog to be a day-to-day diary kind of a thing, maybe once a week or fortnight types. And my interest mainly lies in articles of social nature, human behavior, and what some would call quirky/small/insignificant things in life. Though sometimes I do tend to drift towards humour.

Thanks ye all. Dilip, my wishes with you and thoughts with all victims as you proceed for relief work in Chennai.