American Culture

What happened to 'our country'?

No, not the country — we all know that we’ve been stumbling from one crisis to another. Instead, what happened to the “our” in “our country”? In other words (don’t worry: your patriotism is not about to be appealed to) are we as American as we once were?

For example, read this U.S. Census public service announcement as seen in the New York City subways.

When you answer 10 simple questions you can help our community for the next 10 years.

What’s wrong with this picture? Personally, I wondered why a federal PSA spoke to “our community” instead of “our country.” True, an essential function of the census is to apportion electors to the Electoral College and seats in the House of Representatives. But I suspect something else is going on here.

Try replacing “our community” with “our country.” Sounds a little corny, doesn’t it? After all, when was the last time you heard anybody appeal to you to do anything for “your country”? No way that John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech would fly today.

But, it’s at least as altruistic to appeal to community as to country. More likely, those who composed the PSA understand that today most Americans are less motivated to contribute to and come to the aid of the United States than their communities.

Part of the blame for “our country’s” corniness must be laid at the feet of conservatives who appropriated the American flag, as well as patriotism in general, for themselves. More to the point, they’ve encouraged Americans to pledge their allegiance to a fantasy of America. Not to the country as it really is, replete with blue states, a government that’s anything but small, a black (foreign-born, they’re sure) president, and, most frightening of all to them, the surging Latino population.

With their antennae eternally oscillating, communications and public relations firms, one of which presumably composed the PSA above, are always the first to know. Americans identify with their country less and less. These days you have to give them credit for even identifying with their community, as defined as town or city.

The groups with whom we identify grow smaller and more insular: church, family, and even just sports teams.

Categories: American Culture

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9 replies »

  1. Great observation, Russ. And as much as I love the idea of the country, right now the country is riddled by movements and ideologies and dynamics that, frankly, I not only can’t identify with, but I’d actively like to see remaindered.

    What’s worse, the term “community” doesn’t even mean what it once did. I feel that I’m part of a vibrant community, but it’s only barely defined by place (or more accurately, places). There are places I sort of belong in Denver and Boulder, but most of my tribe lives online, doesn’t it?

    Welcome to the technobalkanization of America….

  2. Russ, while you blame the conservatives, be sure to look in your own backyard. The self-righteous intolerance of the liberals is also pulling this country apart. The liberal appeal to the collective, the NIMBY attitude, the “let me spend everyone elses money,” the unmitigated arrogance, the pompous self serving attitudes, the inherent racism of the left brings back reminders of the first Freier Ausschuss für einen deutschen Arbeiterfrieden. The progeny of that party left a country in ruins and I suspect that the liberals will do the same to this country.

    • Okay, you’ve said it several times now, and I’m calling. Regarding the “inherent racism of the left,” I now need examples. Not only that, since it’s “inherent” and applies rather broadly to the “left,” I need more than a few examples. I need proof of this systemic racism.

      Otherwise, we’re going to have to ask you to find some different Limbaugh talking points to parrot.

    • And talking points from Jonah Goldberg’s book don’t count, either. I recommend that you read some actual history of the Nazi’s before you refer to all liberals as Nazis again. History written by actual historians and acknowledged experts on the subject such as this book, rather than false histories written by ideologues like Goldberg.

      If you do, you’ll find that the Nazis had chosen the word “socialist” specifically to steal the thunder from the communists they hated. It was propaganda designed to draw in new members from the working classes who hated or feared the educated and elitist communists that had a great deal of influence and power in the upper classes at the time.

      You make a living because you’re smart enough and observant enough to notice when the experts are getting it wrong in a way you can exploit. It’s disappointing that you are incapable or unwilling to see that your chosen expert Goldberg has got it wrong.

      • Has anybody noticed that Jeff hasn’t provided us with any support for his assertion that liberals are racists? I mean, that’s precisely as predicted and all, and 100% true to form. Still, unfortunate….

        • I guess it’s now official. Jeff CAN’T provide us with any evidence to support the wild, irresponsible assertion that liberal = racist. He can’t because it isn’t true, and more fundamentally, it can’t be true because of what liberalism IS.

          Thanks for playing, dittoheads.

  3. Jeff: I am a liberal.

    Why does that automatically mean that I as an individual am a) a racist, b) hellbent on being intolerant (of what, by the way), c) an arrogant, self-righteous bastard, c) intent on spending as much of OPM as I can, and e) afraid of what’s built near my back yard?

    You generalize with such a broad brush that the words are meaningless. That’s not an argument. It’s merely delivering talking points.

    Make arguments, not screeds. You’re better than this.

    • Denny: What evidence would you offer in support of the assertion that he’s better than this? From where I sit, Jeff has a history of offering up unfiltered talking points that are frequently baseless, and when called on it he pretends nobody said anything to him.

      You say he’s better than this. I think the record would argue that this is precisely what he is. However, he has a chance here to really prove me wrong. Let’s see if he steps up to the plate.

  4. In my brief foray into formal Catholicism, I was encouraged to think well of others. It appears that advice is being sorely tested.

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