By Timothy Rush | Staff Columnist
Patriotism is a word that has largely been associated with that of the military, a strong country and strength in leadership. Since its founding, America has largely existed on the idea that we are a nation born for greatness. Surrounding our republican heritage, ideas of American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny has been at the forefront of American thought. And while this is far from horrible, the results of these ideas taken to the extreme have been and continue to be exceedingly so.
There is nothing wrong inherently with patriotism, but patriotism taken to a blind fervor has little difference from the nationalistic waves of the early 1900s. In the name of expanding democracy, we capitulated overseas territories and enforced our will upon the world. In the name of security, we punished those we feared both at home and abroad. In the name of purity, we marginalized and persecuted many to hold to American values and ideas of superiority. And out of all of these, the power of leadership has been seen as sacrosanct to the point that no one dares question our leaders.
On April 23, White House Advisor Jared Kushner argued that the very investigation into Trump was more harmful to America than Russia’s attempts to meddle in our elections. “When you look at Russia did, buying some Facebook ads and trying to sow dissent, it’s a terrible thing… But I think the investigations and all the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads” Kushner said at the Times 100 Summit, referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into the Trump White House.
Ignoring the downplaying of the actual scale of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. elections, the actual message that we see here can be summarized very simply as questioning our leaders is more dangerous to America than actual foreign interference in our democratic processes. Somehow questioning the President and investigating him is now seen as so negative that actual social engineering done by a foreign adversary of the U.S. is seen as not as bad.
I’m not writing this to say that Trump is literally Hitler, but rather that the way we as a society are treating our power structures and our culture is becoming eerily similar to the rabid nationalism that arose during the rise of fascism in Europe. To the rise of many horrible dictators throughout time. It’s getting worryingly similar.
We as a society must remember what brought this nation out of the British Empire. It was the bravery of people willing to question absolute leaders, in the case of the Founding Fathers a leader who had divine right to rule over them. And while the Founding Fathers were far from perfect, they knew that unless certain things were done, the fledgling U.S. would go the same way as the very empire they separated from. We have today the First Amendment of the Constitution that is meant to protect our people’s rights to speak and publish about how the government is doing and to freely disseminate our grievances whether they be right or wrong.
What I’m getting at is very simply that our leaders are not beyond reproach. That our country is not beyond being tyrannical and authoritarian. The very essence of patriotism in America is following the legacy laid out by the American Revolutionaries, that being that no leader and no idea is beyond criticism and that everything should be questioned. Every leader and every decision that we as a country make should be questioned and not blindly followed.
Our president, whether or not you agree with him, should be investigated if there is any evidence to suggest that he might be working against the best interests of the United States. If there’s any evidence that he’s blatantly violating our laws and institutions, it should be our duty to support that investigation to find the truth, not shun it because it dares question the president.
So as more comes out about the Mueller Report and as we grapple as a country with its findings, let us remember what our real patriotic heritage is. We are a country founded on questioning and dissenting, and the president is not above the law or the will of the people.