The Campaign Spot

Do Conservatives Have a Patriotism Problem?

Also from today’s Jolt:

Is America Still Great?

Friday afternoon, Ace of Ace of Spades and I had an usually strong disagreement about the current condition of the United States of America. He admits he doesn’t feel as patriotic as he used to feel, and that in fact he’s “grown contemptuous” of America. He laments “the average American craves Obama’s brand of stupid, obvious lies. They’re lies for the lazy. And we have grown so, so lazy.”

As his Tweets declared . . . 

Look, this is a dumb country. We have a $18 trillion debt and all it took was for Obama to say “I don’t feel like dealing with that” and the dumb dummies of New Dumbland said “yeah i don’t feel like dealing with that either, let’s watch American Idol.”

The average American still believes that we could balance the budget if we just cut foreign aid. It doesn’t matter how many times you tell him that’s not true, or point him to the numbers.

Let me preface my counterargument by saying that Ace is an analytical and comedic genius. And his description of “the dumb dummies of New Dumbland” undoubtedly applies to a certain segment of our fellow citizens.

I don’t deny that the “dumb dummies of New Dumbland” exist, only that they’re not as representative of the country as a whole as Ace fears. There’s a lot of America out there that never gets any coverage, isn’t on social media, and is still great in so many ways.

The one-two punch of mass media and social media give us a particularly skewed perspective of our fellow citizens. Many of us have laughed and gasped at Jay Leno’s old “Jaywalking” segments, where Los Angelenos struggled to identify the current vice president, and didn’t even know that they should know it. Polling regularly offers terrifying indicators of public ignorance, such as 44 percent of Americans being unable to define the Bill of Rights.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media offer a daily spotlight on idiots who know astonishingly little, including how little they know. Social media and mass media practically run on tales of stupid criminal behavior.

The Twitter account “Florida Man” offers every oddball crime story with the headline featuring a perpetrator with that infamous identifier. Americans think that the violent-crime rate has gone up in the past two decades, when in fact the violent-crime rate has been cut in half since the early 1990s.

A wise man, describing the seas that political bloggers swim in, once told me, “There’s the Internet, which attracts a certain demographic of crazy people. And then there’s the world of politics, which attracts another demographic of crazy people. And those of us who write about politics on the Internet are right in the middle of that Venn Diagram of crazy people.”

That man who told me that? Ace of Spades.

What you see spotlighted in social and mass media are not representative of the character of the country as a whole. For starters, we are an unbelievably generous people:

  • 95.4 percent of households give to charity.
  • The average annual household contribution is $2,974.
  • Americans gave $335.17 billion in 2013. This reflects a 4.4 percent increase from 2011.
  • In 2013, the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $241.32 billion, or 72 percent of total giving; followed by foundations ($50.28 billion/15 percent), bequests ($26.81 billion/8 percent), and corporations ($16.76 billion/5 percent).

Our volunteerism rate is down, but that’s still quite a few among us:

About 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013. The volunteer rate in 2013 was the lowest it has been since the supplement was first administered in 2002.

On Twitter Friday, I mentioned all the places you can find lots of examples of not-so-dumb America: Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, PTA meetings, the National Rifle Association annual meeting, churches, synagogues, temples, Little League fields, high-school musical performances. Heck, head out to the local farmer’s market, and you’ll find small entrepreneurs who love their product and are warm and welcoming and not the least bit upset when my sons stick their grubby germ-laden hands into the sample basket. I’m sure you can think of other examples. I suspect those places make for a revitalizing antidote to the ugly portrait of America you find in media and from the loudest mouths on social media.

I completely understand why conservatives might look at a country that reelects President Obama and feel shaken. But if you really believe that things are too far gone, that we’re approaching Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, that Americans are ignorant, shallow, materialistic, lazy and dishonorable . . . well, for starters, you don’t sound all that different from those arrogant, snobbish liberal elites you’ve been denouncing. Secondly, you’re starting to argue that this place isn’t worth saving.

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