Professor Froward's Slough of Despond

Proud purveyor of flawed generalizations and vacuous tautologies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Fishwife Left

So how about those "progressives" who decree that we must call them patriots?

I don't doubt that any allegedly patriotic lefty worth a damn could, if asked, instantly invent a shiny new definition of "patriotism" off the top of his head which fits him like a glove and excludes you. Ask him tomorrow and he'll invent another. But we'll skip that, since it's meaningless.

I prefer a conventional definition, the kind that describes what most people mean by a word when they say it. The OED thinks a patriot is "one whose ruling passion is the love of his country". Oddly enough, I think that one may apply to most "progressives" after all, in an eerily pathological way: Consider the abusive spouse. Not physically abusive, necessarily, but the kind who rakes his partner over the coals for anything that goes wrong, and most of what doesn't. The "I'd better do this myself because you always screw everything up" type. The "look what you've gone and made me do" type. The type who's never been pleased and never will be, but who always insists that he could very easily be pleased, if only his beloved would just try a little harder.

I think your average fishwife (or fish-husband, if applicable) gets a cozy, comfortable sense of moral and intellectual superiority out of all this. And they sincerely believe that they're just trying to help their partner improve. They're just trying to help. Isn't constructive criticism a good thing? Isn't there room for that in a relationship? And if constructive criticism is good, isn't more of it better?

Some people call that "love", and they honestly mean it.

The analogy breaks down at the edges. A nation is not a romantic relationship. In a relationship, the usual advice is to ditch the creep and get on with your life, maybe with a restraining order. But a democracy can't deport people for being neurotic losers. We also didn't choose them: There was no first date, years ago, when they behaved themselves. They just sprout up in our midst, whether we like it or not.

If you're utterly blind to somebody's faults, you're probably a doormat, and that's not healthy either. But if you never, ever give the benefit of the doubt to people you care about, you've got a problem. It may be "rational" to give your spouse precisely the same slack and consideration that you give a perfect stranger or a mugger you meet in an alley, but it ain't the way healthy human beings operate. Giving your spouse less consideration is nuts.