Challenging Kerry's Patriotism
Note that I am challenging his patriotism, not questioning it. I'm not saying in a mealy-mouthed sort of way that John Kerry's not a "real" American. I am saying that John Kerry loves his personal political future more than he loves his country, and I am challenging him to change that.
I've never quite understood the taboo against "questioning" someone's patriotism, especially someone so instrumental in leading protests. Let's break it down. "Patriotism" is roughly "love of country." Like other loves, though, such a love can vary in breadth and intensity, and other loves or commitments may sometimes take precedence. Perhaps questioning patriotism is akin to saying that some parents love their children more than others do. That kind of statement evokes outrage while being absolutely true. (To claim that it is false puts a mother who sacrifices her life for her daughter on the same plane as one who kills, abuses, or abandons her children.)
So patriotism is a love and has a particular range of intensity. Most of us have a strong love of country that nevertheless is not as intense as our love for other things, such as our families or our own lives or own standard of living. In some cases this is blameworthy, but not always. Two men may have the chance to join the army in a time of war but choose not to because other things call more to them. This isn't blameworthy on its face. But suppose the first man simply chose not to volunteer while the second was drafted and took steps to avoid service. Then the first is still faultless, but now the second deserves condemnation. So patriotism allows other loves to take precedence unless the need is great; at that time, though, failure to put love of country above other loves becomes dishonorable.
It is rare that someone does not love his country at all. Usually, the love has a particular intensity and placement on a spectrum. Two points arise from this. First, those who naturally place their love of country above other loves deserve our thanks and praise. Such love of country causes them to sacrifice themselves, even risking death, for the sake of other citizens; this is a high ethical bar, and they meet it. Second, while there may be nothing blameworthy in itself with having a certain degree of patriotic intensity, circumstances matter, and when the call comes to someone to place love of country above other loves and he fails to answer the call, then he is culpable.
Back to John Kerry. I believe John Kerry loves his country, but he loves his personal political fortune more. I think he is willing to temporarily see his country humbled or humiliated and for her to lose blood, treasure, or allies if it means he can become President of the United States. I think that is behind his charges of "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time", his swipe at Iraqi interim prime minister Allawi, and his claim that the war's been too expensive.
As a strategic political tactic, it's backfiring, depressing the sensible in his base and turning away genuinely deciding voters like Ann Althouse. Others have more ably pointed out the down-to-earth consequences it would have for a President Kerry in building alliances and creating coalitions.
But ultimately the strategic concerns don't matter. What matters is that the position of Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces demands the highest level of love of country such that it sweeps away all personal loves. What the position demands is a man who will reward and sacrifice for our friends, stand steadfast against our rivals, and relentlessly pursue our enemies. I think right now that it is not as important to Kerry that a man with those qualities be president as it is that the name on the door is John Kerry.
I do not think John Kerry can rise above his political love of himself to put his country's interests first; his performance on the campaign trail seems little removed from the slanders of his callow youth. But I am willing to be surprised. John Kerry must be willing even to become the shadow of George W. Bush if it means that our enemies know that a change in leadership does not mean a change in purpose or resolve. I challenge John Kerry to become someone to whom the fate of the country is more important than how many votes he receives in November.