Can You Love Your Country but Hate Your Government?
The following is from guest-author Vincent Samaha. You can follow his blog at a Christian Voluntarist
“I love my country but hate my government”. It’s a popular phrase, primarily among conservatives, though anyone can be seen expressing the same sentiment depending on who is in office. It creates a distinction between politicians, who are generally considered liars and thieves, and “the people”. However, like many political catch-phrases, it sounds terrific at a glance but hints at an inconsistent point of view upon closer inspection.
The key words in this particular phase are “country” and “government”. These words are thrown around quite a bit, and their meanings are assumed to be known, but let’s define them. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a country as: (1)an area of land that is controlled by its own government, (2)the people who live in a country, (3)an area or region that has a particular quality or feature or is known for a particular activity. Government is defined as: (1)the group of people who control and make decisions for a country, state, etc., (2)a particular system used for controlling a country, state, etc., (3)the process or manner of controlling a country, state, etc. To condense those definitions for the purpose of this discussion, a country is an area of land that is controlled by its own government and the people within that area, and a government is the group of people who control and make decisions for a country and the system they use to make those decisions.
As a former conservative myself, I know that conservatives consider politicians and the system of government to be separate political entities. They frequently clamor about politicians not abiding by the Constitution, the founding document of the United States. This point of confusion is a major error in reasoning that pervades every right-wing talking point. Every law on the books, until declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, is considered to be constitutional. As it stands, Obamacare, gun control, NSA spying, and all the federal alphabet agencies created over time are supported by the US Constitution. In fact, the Constitution validates them. The truth of the matter is the polar opposite of what conservatives believe. Politicians cannot be separated from the system of government because their capacity to trample liberty is provided by the system under which they govern. The foundation of this country, the US Constitution, has enabled the violations of liberty that it was supposedly created to prevent.
Love of country is a bit more difficult to decipher than the nature of government. When people around the world wave their flags and sing anthems, they aren’t thinking of congress, parliament, senate subcommittees, and such. They are thinking of the place that they call home and the people within their home, their extended family of sorts. But those things are neither what a country is, nor are they required to have a country at all. The defining feature of a country is that it has a government. The boundaries and people of countries constantly change, however, those flags and anthems continuously represent their respective governing organizations. A government and its country aren’t tied to a specific piece of land or to a certain group of people. The only practical difference between an American and a Canadian one foot over the US border is the organization that taxes and governs them. In the past, people in those exact same spots and ancestors of those same individuals were taxed and governed by different organizations. However, governments persist, usually through many lifetimes. Most of us are taught from birth that an individual is a citizen. Those words are synonymous and interchangeable. Every person belongs to a country. It is taught as a fact of life passed down through generations. So even though the people waving flags and singing anthems may not be thinking of a government and its politicians, their sense of home and their countrymen, their extended family, is shaped by government.
Can you love your country but hate your government? After looking past the catch-phrase that I myself have used in order to remedy the mental discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance, I can only conclude that it is not possible in any sense. The evils of politicians can neither be separated from the system of government under which they commit those evils, since they derive their power from said government, nor can a government be separated from its country, causing the land to become some other country or no country at all. Without consideration for government, consciously or subconsciously, there would no reason to use the term “country” at all. Rather than stating that you love your country, which draws a distinction between your countrymen and everyone else, you’d say, “I love people”, without regard for imaginary lines on a map that will surely continue to change throughout time. This realization is especially important to me as a Christian. Should I love a person more because they were born under a different political jurisdiction? Because they are forced to pay taxes to a different group of dishonest people? Of course not! Nowhere in His teachings did Jesus instruct His disciples to show favor based on nationality. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” If Jesus’ love knows no bounds, why should my own? “I love my country but hate my government”. It’s a phrase that no rational person or a Christian has any use for.
If you liked this article, consider tipping the author at this bitcoin address: