A healthy distrust

Nick Baker

Last week I wrote a column in response to one written by another columnist. The column was called “Country first” by Anastasia Spytsya (Feb. 25), and my response was called “How I learned to stop worrying and love America” (March 1).

I expected a response, and I got one. It attacked my intellect and my irresponsibility as a lazy, disinterested American liberal journalist who committed his distrust in the powers that be to paper for no reason other than to get a laugh.

Sure, I like to throw a joke or two in a column, and I’m never opposed to the occasional rambling. Frankly, if it were not for this column, newspaper writing would bore me to death.

I responded to a column I found to be incredibly oversimplified, nationalistic and encouraging of a mentality I believe only furthers the issues we face as a nation.

My column was called anti-patriotic. Unfortunately, this is the most primitive division between conservatives and liberals, and to perpetuate this division is wrong.

I am not unpatriotic or anti-patriotic. I am opposed to blind, unwavering nationalism. It is dangerous and there is nothing unpatriotic about saying that.

Plus, I was not a big fan of the downright xenophobic statement about Canada made by my fellow columnist, which still has not been addressed.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s when someone legitimizes his or her views by comparing them to the forefathers.

But while we are here I just have to ask: Am I not exercising my most fundamental right, one held in the highest regard by those who wrote dissenting pieces like “Common Sense” or the “treasonous” Declaration of Independence, by addressing my grievances through writing? Surely Thomas Paine would think so.

(Oh, for the record, “pieces of writing” is not derogation. I write pieces, you write pieces, Hemingway wrote pieces).

I have always had my rights handed to me, as it was put, but among those rights is the right to question my government. I use that right to its fullest extent, and it has led me toward contempt for our government.

Philosophically, our country was founded on contempt and distrust. It functions as it does because politicians do not trust one another and we do not blindly trust politicians.

Look at a situation like the war in Iraq. Opposition to the war does not exist solely because pacifism exists. Opposition exists because there is a historical context.

People remember images of the My Lai Massacre when they see images from Abu Ghraib. They aren’t exactly the same, but it’s easy to see how one is a derivation of the other. Plus, make a quick switch from “spread of communism” to “spread of terrorism” and you basically have it down.

I listed some of the greatest crimes committed by our government since the nation’s inception in the hopes of getting people to say, “Damn, that’s a long list. What happened with Freeway Ricky Ross and the CIA? Maybe I should read about it.”

Instead, I was told to examine issues in other countries, specifically the former Soviet Union, in hopes that I would relent a little on my contempt toward some of the American atrocities I listed in my previous column.

There was mention of the Ukrainian genocide, which was used in an effort to challenge my worldly knowledge. Interestingly enough, this babied liberal was raised by the son of conservative Ukrainian immigrants. My grandmother, Luba, was born in the Ukraine in 1924. I never met my grandfather. She keeps the wedding photo and marriage license in a box at my uncle’s house in Cincinnati. It may have something to do with the SS guards on either side of the “wedding party” or the eagle and swastika stamp at the top of the document.

She survived the Ukrainian genocide, though not all her family was so fortunate. Her first-born infant son was killed during the war. She survived labor camps administrated by both Stalin and Hitler’s regimes, and immigrated to the United States in the late 1940s.

Just saying. I’m a little more familiar than you may think.

In all seriousness, because what seems to be the reoccurring criticism of my columns is that they lack seriousness, I wrote the original piece to do anything but pass the time.

Some of the most poignant political and social commentary in modern history has been humorous. While I will not commit my column to the “most poignant” list, there is nothing wrong with making a point through humor.

But I am dead serious.

I have the right to think and speak for myself, regardless of what someone may define as “patriotism.” So I’m going to flog a popular horse from the conservative stable and leave you with this:

Don’t tread on me.

Nick Baker is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].