How Do We Define Patriotism?

Published on Dissident Voice, by David Macaray, Oct. 26, 2012.

Which is more “patriotic”—to loyally refrain from criticizing your government’s foreign policies, no matter how brutal or peremptory they may be (including those that result in quasi-legal, immoral military adventurism that kills thousands of innocent civilians), or to loyally pony up when your government asks you to make a relatively minor economic sacrifice? 

Two specific examples. Who were the more “patriotic” citizens—those anti-war protesters, both young and old, who marched in the streets during the tumultuous Vietnam era of the 1960s and 1970s, or those mega-wealthy citizens of 2012 who have renounced their U.S. citizenship and re-located to foreign countries in order to avoid paying higher taxes? Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I like to think it’s the former.

On June 25, the New York Post reported that twice as many ultra-rich Americans as in the previous year are expected to renounce their U.S. citizenship in order to avoid higher taxes. Granted, the New York Post doesn’t have the institutional whiskers of, say, the New York Times, but the Post does provide the requisite statistics and attribution to make its story credible.

The Post reported that, in 2012, approximately 8,000 Americans are projected to renounce their U.S. citizenship in order to seek refuge in more tax-friendly countries (Costa Rica, Singapore, Cayman Islands, Antigua, et al). They compare this figure to the 3,805 Americans who did so in 2011 … //

… When I mentioned this story to a Republican friend of mine, and went on a prolonged, semi-hysterical rant about the greed and selfishness of these unpatriotic bastards, he instantly seized upon what he believed to be a brilliant counter-argument. He smugly asked if my scorn was reserved only for “very successful Americans” (his words) or if I were also willing to label “unpatriotic” those Mexicans who fled their home country to seek economic gain in the U.S.

Weak argument. People escaping grinding poverty by crossing national borders is one thing, but people who, literally, have more money than they know what to do with—who already have their yachts and cars and art and luxury homes, but who would rather relinquish their national identity than share a small fraction more of their wealth with their own government—is a whole other deal. Good riddance to them.
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David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor, was a former union rep. He can be reached here. Read other articles by David).

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