Written As I Am About To Flee The Country

Noah raises a fair question, but I think it is one that I have already more or less answered when I wrote:

In some sense, these things are theirs, ours, and as I have said before nation-states can create much larger countries on the ruins of local and regional identities that then appear to citizens who have never known anything else to be all part of the same country.

Certainly, I would have been on Cleveland’s side in opposing the annexation of Hawaii, just as I would have been on the side of the opponents of annexing the Philippines, but that doesn’t mean that the patriots we’re talking about could blithely overlook attacks on U.S. citizens on territory that belonged to the United States, and which had belonged to the United States for almost half a century.

To the extent that people with patriotic sentiments are raised to think of a large, sprawling nation-state as their country, they are also going to attach significance to attacks on distant parts of that nation-state almost as if they were attacks on their immediate vicinity.

Japanese attacks on Corregidor wouldn’t normally stir American patriotic sentiments, but attacking Americans in Corregidor (including, I might add, many New Mexicans, many of whom perished on the Bataan Death March and in prison camps after the surrender) obviously does. The local connection comes through the people deployed to these places, people who hail from all over the country. (This is how the military both breaks down regional distinctiveness and redirects local patriotism towards national ends, and whether this is desirable is a question for another day.) That is why it was appropriate for America First patriots to rally in support of the war effort, even though they opposed every policy move that contributed to the outbreak of war, and indeed there seems to me to have been no real alternative for them but to rally in support of the war effort. Part of defensive patriotism is the desire to protect one’s countrymen, and to respond when those countrymen are attacked. Obviously, it would have been more desirable not to have had expansionist and imperialist moments that drew America into conflicts overseas, but one need not endorse expansion or empire or any “project” to recognise that attacks on U.S. citizens cannot go unaswered.