Daniel Lazare does a great job dissecting Todd Gitlins new book, The Intellectuals and The Flag, in the newest Nation. Anyone who has read this blog knows the impetus for starting it was an article by Norm Geras in Dissent, working over the unpatriotic response of the "American Left" to 9/11. Michael Waltzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, blogger neo-neocon, others ad nauseum all have tried to explain their feelings about the attack on their "homeland" , have tried to excite themselves into some nationalist pride, justify the war, or understand their fear. The so called intellectuals theorize on how to gain political advantage for "progressives" by adopting a little more "mainstream" rhetoric (moronic platitudes). Drivel, pathetic drivel.
I just returned from a country where people on the street, people in shops and in schools and on buses and in restaurants use language like this to describe what is happening to their nation, why they are proud of their nation, why they are patriotic: profound social transformation. Re-distribution of wealth. Self-determination. Participatory democracy. Development models created by the People. Bolivarian revolution. Socialism for the twenty first century. Taking power from the small ruling class, from the oligarchs, and giving it back to the people.
What if the American political discourse sounded a little more like this and a little less like the pathetic self-castigation of the left or bombastic exceptionalism of the right? Forget intellectuals, (thankyou Chomsky, Roy,Klein, Mailer, Vonnegut,Vidal and others) Im talking about conversations with your friends and neighbors, in your restaurant, on your bus, in your school. Use words like justice, like ruling class, like power, and see how liberating it is, how patriotic you can suddenly feel, how you can suddenly feel hope again for an ideal (America) that got lost but can find it's way back if we can once again be proud of who we are.