Rod Dreher, a Louisianan who writes for The American Conservative, objects to fellow white Southerners who deny the reality of the South’s history of slavery, lynching and white supremacy.
He objects even more to self-righteous white Northerners who condemn everything about the South as if the North had nothing to answer for.
Taking the good and the bad together, he is part of the South and the South is part of him.
I completely understand what he is saying because that is the same as my attitude toward the United States as a whole.
Whenever the Star-Spangled Banner is played, I stand at attention and put my hand over my heart, even when I am the only person who does so.
At the same time I can understand why, for many people, the Stars and Stripes is as much a symbol of oppression as the Confederate Stars and Bars.
I think of people in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Latin American countries that have been ruled by U.S.-backed dictatorships. I think of how U.S. intervention has spread death and destruction spread through the Greater Middle East during the past 15 years.
I remember the U.S. Constitution was ratified based on a compromise with slavery, and the USA acquired its present territory through ethnic cleansing of the native people and a war of aggression against Mexico.
That’s not the whole story, of course. American history is also the story of black and white Americans who fought slavery and Jim Crow. It is the story of the first important modern nation to be founded on democratic ideals, which we have sometimes lived up to and never completely forgotten.
It is the story of a nation to which the whole world looked as a land of opportunity, and which was the first important modern nation to achieve mass prosperity for ordinary people.
The French writer Ernst Renan said a nation is a group of people who have agreed to remember certain things and to forget certain things. I don’t accept this. I believe it is possible to be patriotic without historical amnesia.
I identify with the comment of another French writer, Albert Camus, at the time when the French army was fighting Algerian rebels by means of torture and atrocity. He said he wanted to be able to love his country and also love justice.
That should be less of a dilemma for Americans. The United States is a nation whose patriotism is based not on loyalty to an ethnic group, but on the willingness to uphold, protect and defend a Constitution.
We Americans can love our country without having to love our government.
But my love of country is not based these arguments or any other arguments, any more than my love of family is based on arguments. I love America because I am part of it and it is part of me.
Loving the South by Ross Douthat for The American Conservative.