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America Too Patriotic, Says Norman Mailer
February 8, 2002 7:03 AM   Subscribe

America Too Patriotic, Says Norman Mailer
posted by StOne (51 comments total)

 
Norman mailer too fat, say dong_resin.
Although, I agree with him, here, the big faux-patriotism so prominently on display these days is creepy.
posted by dong_resin at 7:12 AM on February 8, 2002


Amen, brothuh. This flag-waving bullshit from hypocrites, do-nothings and bozos makes me retch.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:14 AM on February 8, 2002


i agree with mailer, although in these days, people is not so patriotic as in the fifties…
posted by trismegisto at 7:19 AM on February 8, 2002


Given that bashing pseud-patriotism is itself a very patriotic act, doesn't that prove that irony is not dead?
posted by yesster at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2002


I suppose it does.
He's still too fat, though.
posted by dong_resin at 7:30 AM on February 8, 2002


Ah, yes, Norman Mailer. The same guy who said, shortly after the attacks:

"The WTC was not just an architectural monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn't work there, for it said to all those people: 'If you can't work up here, boy, you're out of it.' That's why I'm sure that if those towers had been destroyed without loss of life, a lot of people would have cheered. Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be destroyed." He then went on to wonder: "What if those perpetrators were right and we were not? "

I get the impression that his real problem goes much deeper than the patriotism. I'd be a lot more inclined to consider his argument if he hadn't expressed quasi-support for the attacks in the first place (i.e., of course he's going to be against the show of patriotism when he doesn't appear to see the problem with the bombing itself). And before you flame me, I happen to agree that the rally-around-the-flag mentality is getting old.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:30 AM on February 8, 2002


Ah, yes, Morman Nailer. The same guy who said, " If you can't work up here, boy, you're out of it."
posted by bittennails at 7:34 AM on February 8, 2002


And the same guy who stabbed his second wife...
posted by acornface at 7:35 AM on February 8, 2002


Read the interview (reg. req'd) the quote is pulled from. It doesn't really dwell on the "too patriotic" comments.

Then again, it's not in a US publication, so that probably explains why.
posted by rocketman at 7:44 AM on February 8, 2002


well, we americans do have quite a bit of unconscious hubris....yet on the other hand it could be argued that is part of what makes us who we are...it took me going literally to the other side of the planet to get a really good look at how we seem to everyone else we share this big bleu marble with.....boy are we stuck on ourselves.....but in our defense, we really are totally clueless for the most part.
posted by bunnyfire at 7:49 AM on February 8, 2002


And tirelessly worked to get John Henry Abbott out of prison so he had the chance to murder someone a month later. Covering Mailer saying something stupid is like covering Mike Tyson; some subjects are so easy they should be banned from the wires.
posted by rcade at 7:53 AM on February 8, 2002


This flag-waving bullshit from hypocrites, do-nothings and bozos makes me retch.

Hypocrites, do-nothings and bozos make people retch all the time, Mo. I think the flag-waving (which is starting to die out quite a bit) was primarily symbolic. People wanted to do something, show solidarity, feel they were helping in some way, and so yanked the flag out of the garage and ran it up. It's the same sort of thing as happened to the Red Cross, in that they got so many blood donations in the few weeks following 9/11 that they ended up telling people not to come in and give blood and, later, ended up tossing a great deal of it. It (flag raising) is an easy thing to do to help express complex emotion. And there was no little amount of peer pressure to it as well, I think. But not everyone who has a flag up is a hypocrite - they just have, as most of us do, limited options as to what they can do to help. So they "help" symbolically.

As for Mailer, he says this sort of thing all the time. Snoozers!
posted by UncleFes at 7:55 AM on February 8, 2002


``America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself. Has there ever been a big powerful country that is as patriotic as America?''

Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, England, Imperial Spain, Rome? I think I would prefer it greatly if these anti-rah-rah statements had a little more substance and explanation. Seems to me that Mailer is just trolling for agreement, as if his view is patently obvious.

A quick reminder to all posters, Mailer didn't mention "pseudo" anything. he uses the term patriotism as if the psuedo kind is all there is.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:56 AM on February 8, 2002


Slightly related: I was watching a C-Span Washington Journal with Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan (available here, scroll down a bit), and caller after caller kept on harping on the question of whether or not the USA was the "greatest country" in the world. It started to get embarassing. I'm definitely glad to see the strengthened sense of community in the wake of the attacks, but much of the flagwaving is simply distasteful. I shouldn't be surprised, though: a lot of it is just marketing.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:03 AM on February 8, 2002


I think Charlie Daniels should kick his commie ass.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 8:07 AM on February 8, 2002


We are the greatest country in the world - with the greatest inferiority complex to go along with it :)

People should realize that being a citizen of the greatest country in the world is not an award, it's a responsibility.
posted by UncleFes at 8:08 AM on February 8, 2002


Ok...you folks have called Mailer too fat--he is not a well man and can no lopnger work out (he did a lot of boxing) as he once did. He says many things, often merely to provoke. Now try this: how many people saying nasties about Mailer swerved as a combat infantryman as he did in a war (WWII)? Not that that fact makes him "right" on all issues but yes I too am annoyed by political correctness that has swept the country and suggests that if you are not fully behind all that is being done by Bush and his people then you are some sort of traitor. Or worse, a Democrat.
posted by Postroad at 8:29 AM on February 8, 2002


"This Ain't No Rag It's A Flag". Thanks Charlie for putting it so eloquently. Now go back to you tar-paper shack, slam some beers and leave us alone.

How much patriotism is too much? That which starts to undermine the initial objective; to show support for the people affected by the tragedy, is too much. Next thing you know, car makers will be doing some type of tie-in with the tragedy and selling vehicles at 0% finan..... Oh wait. Too late.

As wacked as Mailer is, I agree with him. We need to stop patting ourselves on the back so much. Yeah. We are pretty cool but if 9/11 taught us anything, we ain't "The Shit".
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:34 AM on February 8, 2002


but in our defense, we really are totally clueless for the most part.

Some defense.
posted by rushmc at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2002


The WTC was not just an architectural monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn't work there, for it said to all those people: 'If you can't work up here, boy, you're out of it.'

speaking of inferiority complexes....
posted by lizs at 8:46 AM on February 8, 2002


I opened up this thread expecting to see a whole crowd of people ranting about what a traitor Mailer is, and how wrong he is and that he should be put to death in the most American way possible (whatever that is).

Instead, I find that almost everybody has agreed that Americans are too patriotic.

You sons of bitches!!!
I was prepared to rant and rave at your patriotic asses, happy to rub your arrogant long noses into the ground, ready to to say grow up and get off of yourselves. (you/your=americans, not you guys here) Damn MeFites with their mouths attached to brains that actually work.
posted by ashbury at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2002


Postroad, I was being childish on purpose.
Obviously, Mr. Mailer's body fat is the very least of his shortcomings.

*sigh*
Nothing hits the floor so hard as a joke you have to explain.

`Cept for fatty fat Mcfat fat Norman, of course.
posted by dong_resin at 9:07 AM on February 8, 2002


You forgot your sarcasm-indicating tilda, dong.
posted by UncleFes at 9:31 AM on February 8, 2002


Oh. My bad.
posted by dong_resin at 9:36 AM on February 8, 2002


For some reason this thread makes me think of Charlton Heston chanting the "fatty fatty two-by-four" song at Norman Mailer.

Thanks a lot guys, now my brain is dirty.
posted by aramaic at 9:40 AM on February 8, 2002


I go with this feelthy Euro commie intellectual about the right kind of patriotism:

" I don't think that we can all say that we are all Americans. I do think though that we are all New Yorkers. This seems of great importance to me. If we are all New Yorkers, it is not because we embrace American culture but because we embrace the culture of New York.... the mongrel culture, the Big Apple full of worms...The enemy of both Bush and Bin Laden is the multitude."

Norman's your national treasure.
posted by theplayethic at 9:53 AM on February 8, 2002


I don't think that we're "too patriotic" as much as the fact that the patriotism we see on display is too often a cynical ploy designed to sell something or give people a quick "feel-good fix." Now after 9/11, needing a quick feel-good fix is certainly forgivable, and a lot of the flag waving I saw was merely a show of solidarity.
Unfortunately, both pre- and post-9/11, a lot of folks have confused patriotism with blind allegiance. As someone who had a photo of a flag above his PC long before the attacks, I believe that a true patriot is someone willing to criticize his country in order to put it right.
I'll even go out on a limb and say that a lot of the "lefty-pacifist" types that I've been in disputes with are patriots as well. To take a stance like that at a time when it's this unpopular shows true belief, and I've got to respect that.

KevinSkomsvold - I'm not even going to comment on how bigoted you're comment was. I'll just note that even the most "enlightened," among us seem to need an "other" to fear and loathe.
Besides, Charlie's tune was merely alittle bit of catharsis for a wounded nation, which is perfectly fine, IMHO.He's also clearly stated that the song is NOT aimed at Middle Eastern Americans. And to give Charlie his due, he has taken up the cause of defending "pinko-commies" as well. Listen to "Uneasy Rider" if you don't know what I mean. Hell, Charlie should be applauded for being one of the few people to embrace both hippies and rednecks.
posted by jonmc at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2002


America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself.

So does Mailer, and he would be the first to admit it.

I once heard a professor of writing classes at Mills College speak proudly of all the famous visiting writers who regularly grace her students with the benefit of their feedback and experience. Then she paused and said: "Then there's Norman Mailer, who always tries to fuck every girl in the class."
posted by bingo at 10:17 AM on February 8, 2002


1) Norman Mailer is old and fat.
2) American flag-waving is a bit creepy.
3) Irony is not dead.
4) The WTC was an architectural monstrosity.
5) It's still really terrible what happened to the people who were in it.
6) We americans are pretty damn clueless.
7) Hypocrites, do-nothings and bozos do make people retch.
8) It is possible to compare America with Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, England, Imperial Spain and Rome.
9) Mailer didn't mention "pseudo" anything.
10) Charlie Daniels would kick some commie ass, but he's too old and fat.

My. Gee whiz. Ya loin sumphin ever day.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2002


The real issue here seems not to be a question of degree of patriotism, but of definition of patriotism. I suspect that the vast majority of us would agree that using an appeal to patriotism (like, for instance the Super Bowl commercial where the Bud Clydesdales kneel before the site of Ground Zero) is crass. That, to me, does not profane the concept of patriotism, simply because it is not patriotism. It is advertising. Similarly, people attacking mosques in America are not committing patriotic acts, they are committing hate crimes.

Patriotism is an attitude, a state of mind, a choice of will. It is not advertising; it is not criminal behavior. Mr. Mailer would do well to aim for a bit more precision in his terminology, and then, perhaps, he may have an argument worth his intellect.


posted by JohnSlade at 10:34 AM on February 8, 2002


You forgot 11) There's essentially no difference between Bush and Bin Laden.
posted by aaron at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2002


1) ZachsMind had nothing to contribute, so instead opted to pretend to be too smart for the thread by summarizing it all for us in an aloof manner.

I have learned nothing.
posted by dong_resin at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2002


Putting a 'God bless America' bumpersticker on your car doesn't make you a patriot anymore than putting a Backstreet Boys bumper sticker on your car makes you fan of them. Going to every concert, owning every album, writing 10 page letters to Brian every week (why won't he write back?!?) and building a shrine in your home to them makes you a fan.

Uh so my point is if you want to be patriotic take a more active role in the direction your country is going and do something revolutionary, like vote.
posted by euphorb at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2002


Why shouldn't everyone feel that their country is the greatest? I've never understood that sentiment. "Greatness" is such a subjective term, so it's not like there should be such a problem with it. I'm an American, I feel that it's the greatest country on earth. My mother is Jamaican, she feels that its the greatest country on earth. We could argue for days and days over the relative merits of our countries. I could talk about wealth, and size while she could talk about natural beauty and community.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter. I expect people in England to believe England is the greatest country on earth. Why is this automatically wrong? Do we always have to temper a feeling of national pride against some sort of guilt-ridden conscience? I don't think so.

I have yet to understand the irrational fear among some people of 50 stars and some stripes.
posted by owillis at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2002


How, exactly, can a person be too patriotic?

pa·tri·ot·ic (pâ'trç-ŏt'ĭk) adj.
Feeling, expressing, or inspired by love for one's country.

I can love my country too much? That's like saying I can love my children too much. I know my kids aren't perfect, but every time I get the chance I pull their photos out of my wallet and show them to people, and tell them how great my kids are. They might not agree, in fact they might think my kids are arrogant, overindulged brats, but they're mine, and no one's going to convince me that it's possible to show too much love for them.

So lay off my fellow flag-waving, USA-chanting, tears-in-the-eyes-at-the-National-Anthem patriots (even if some of them have realized it a little later than others). America may not be perfect, but it's ours, and we love it. Here, let me show you the picture of the Declaration of Independence that I keep in my wallet. You won't believe how cute it was when it was just two hundred...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2002


Teary-eyed flag-waving isn't enough. Look at the example that Mailer has set: He was in the Army during World War II, he acknowledges that he wasn't in combat and regrets it (i.e., he doesn't lie about what he did in the war), he ran for political office and campaigned for others, he further participated in the political system by working to get Abbott out of prison (which was a mistake), he engages in constructive criticism of this country, and has created at least two lasting works of art: The Naked and the Dead and The Executioner's Song. He's patriotic. People who affix a flag bumper sticker to their vehicle and mumble the national anthem at baseball games but who never vote or attend a PTA meeting or keep up with current events or create anything lasting -- they aren't necessarily patriotic. They're merely loyal to a brand whose symbol is a flag with 50 stars and 13 stripes.
posted by Holden at 12:03 PM on February 8, 2002


One can love one's country and have some humility to go with it. I dare say we would be even more lovable if we did.
posted by bunnyfire at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2002


"At the end of the day it doesn't matter. I expect people in England to believe England is the greatest country on earth. Why is this automatically wrong?"

I think the creepy thing about the gung-ho jingoistic-style patriotism is that so many people do not see this point. Actual comment to one of my Brazilian friends from a deeply patriotic (Northern)American, "You actually want to go back there?" Love of country, as the musical geniuses behind ABBA know, is one thing and runs deep. We tend to that overblown, paint-your-naked-belly-red-white-and-blue-and-weep-over-Norman-Rockwell kind of mindless patriotism, though. And it *is* creepy.

And I promise to never reference anything to do with ABBA again. Unless I'm forced to.
posted by umberto at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2002


i love my country! i just fear my government.
posted by jcterminal at 1:07 PM on February 8, 2002


jcterminal - I have that on a bumperdticker on my car. Wonder why I'm always getting pulled over?
posted by jonmc at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2002


How, exactly, can a person be too patriotic?
My country, right or wrong. That's how.

Nationalism under the guise of patriotism is frightening. When that love stifles critical thinking, when it silences opposition, I have no problem calling it excessive.
posted by jeffhoward at 1:45 PM on February 8, 2002


How, exactly, can a person be too patriotic?
My country, right or wrong. That's how
.

If you are a citizen of the United States of America it is your country right or wrong.

I am not into flag waving as a show of patriotism myself but many people are and that is fine. It is the way they need to express themselves.

However true patriotism, IMO, is knowing the difference in the right and wrongs about this country and working to make it a better place. Vote, volunteer, lead by example and a multiplicity of other things that can improve the ratio of right things to wrong things in this country.

Many people say they don't have time to do these things, okay, but even if you just don't throw that gum wrapper on the ground or even pick one up and find a trashcan you have contributed in your own small way.
posted by bjgeiger at 3:46 AM on February 9, 2002


Some people can sit in stands and yell things like "We're number one!" at sporting events. They are as physically disconnected from the athletes and the team as it is possible to be, yet they manage somehow to conjure a great and mythical "We" into which they eagerly inject themselves. In every meaningful way, they are completely irrelevant to their chosen heroes - they can (and do) die without any notice from their imaginary friends. Yet there they sit, happy and excited, in the great manufactured bosom of their great invisible "We".

"We beat them".

Irrational and astonishing, this kind of acutely delusional behaviour truly fascinates me. It is boggling - so foreign to me that I feel positively alien whenever I am exposed to it.

People feel such need to be part of a group, they collectively imagine groups where none exist, define for themselves a role within them, and join them. To assure the group's survival, they turn it into an entity - an entity which is bigger and more important (and more durable) than the sum contribution of its members. They invest it with nobility and honour, and feel proud to be a part of it. An annoyingly detached onlooker might deduce that supernatural groups do exist, have always existed, and were mightily gratified when humans finally appeared to nurture them.

There are sound societal reasons to invent and to promote patriotism. But there are equally sound metaphysical reasons to hope that the best country in the best world might eventually churn out a citizenry whose actions and emotions are the result of thoughtful, well-considered choice, uninfluenced by myth, unaffected by magicians.
posted by Opus Dark at 5:23 AM on February 9, 2002


I don't think a sports fan's vicarious involvement in a team is any more delusional than your carefully constructed air of detached superiority, Opus. I'd be surprised if there wasn't something in your life -- a favorite band, author, public figure, or the like -- whose successes were not met with a small measure of personal pride, however undeserved.
posted by rcade at 8:45 AM on February 9, 2002


i love my country! i just fear my government.

jcterminal - I have that on a bumperdticker on my car. Wonder why I'm always getting pulled over?


Putting a D.A.R.E. sticker and a Volunteer Fireman decal on your bumper gives you a free pass on the first DUI--among other things--something told to me by a former marijuana salesman who had both on his pick up in his glory days and never got pulled over once...

Is this a great country or what?
posted by y2karl at 9:23 AM on February 9, 2002


There is one huge difference between an American (or any other person) feeling love of America (ie, patriotism) and a non-American feeling pride in their country: America is the first (and as far as I know, ONLY) country to be based on Ideas. America is, in fact, an Idea, not simply a geographic cluster of people who happen to share a common culture and (usually) language. I understand that Brits rightly take pride in their nation and its' achievements, and likewise Italians, Chinese, Brazilians, etc., but America takes pride in the very *ideals* and principles that created this country.
posted by davidmsc at 9:32 AM on February 9, 2002


Why shouldn't everyone feel that their country is the greatest? I've never understood that sentiment. "Greatness" is such a subjective term, so it's not like there should be such a problem with it.

If it's so subjective--indeed, meaningless, as you go on to say--then people shouldn't feel that way because it is not true. And, uh, meaningless. And because the natural progression in human thought is from "my country is great" to "your country sucks," which leads to people putting holes in other people with little pieces of metal. Over nothing.
posted by rushmc at 10:32 AM on February 9, 2002


a lot of the "lefty-pacifist" types that I've been in disputes with are patriots as well.

Jefferson suggested that there ought to be intermittent revolutions in America. Being patriotic to the declaration of independence, to our constitution, to those Ideas, means pointing out what's wrong and speaking out and assembling to work toward a better country. Waving a flag isn't patriotic, it's lazy.

I believe in the ideals this country was founded on, but it was founded by humans, and they didn't see a lot of the errors they had inherited, so it was up to subsequent generations and immigrants to realize them and make the necessary changes. For the most part, I think we've moved forward, but we're making new mistakes now, and as citizens we have a responsibility to affect change.

The flags were a symbolic display of unity, and I saw nothing wrong with it. But if we fail to notice the actual changes the administration is slipping through while we're focused on the symbolic, we've failed our duty as americans.

Unrelated thought: When I was in England & central asia last fall I realized how far away north america is from everyone. Traveling in europe and asia, it seemed like there were neighbors everywhere, & the evening news covered events all through the region. I wonder if america isn't so patriotic as a way to deal with being kind of out of the loop. I mean, we're the most powerful country in the world, so we're included, but geographically, we're surprisingly separated, at least for a country that doesn't generally think of itself that way...
posted by mdn at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2002


I'm not even going to comment on how bigoted you're comment was. I'll just note that even the most "enlightened," among us seem to need an "other" to fear and loathe.

Thanks jonmc for not commenting on my bigotry.....

Who'da thunk I'd get called out as a bigot for rippin' on Charlie Daniels. Damn. Pinch me. I think this is a fever dream.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2002


rcade writes:
I don't think a sports fan's vicarious involvement in a team is any more delusional than your carefully constructed air of detached superiority, Opus.


Not much of a craftsman, am I, if my air of superiority can be so easily blown off.

Anyway, really, I don't presume superiority over fan-tasia. I am merely describing my total disconnection from the phenomenon. Perhaps I am deficient. After all, society-4-survival seems to be an evolutionary imperative, so one could easily argue that the hyper-detached model should be discontinued, in favor of snap-together building blocks.

I'd be surprised if there wasn't something in your life -- a favorite band, author, public figure, or the like -- whose successes were not met with a small measure of personal pride, however undeserved.

So be surprised - my only source for personal pride is personal accomplishment. It's not a choice, or something I cultivate - it's simply the way it is. Hiding at the edge of the forest, staring gimlet-eyed at the smiling people gathered by the warm communal fire, wondering at my own apartness. Superior? Nah. Just different. And forever unable to understand football fans and birthright patriots.
posted by Opus Dark at 4:33 PM on February 9, 2002


That's certainly a more palatable way to make the distinction, Opus. The sports fan who actually believes he's a part of the team is a rare bird -- a guy showed up at the Denver Broncos training camp a few years ago and tried to force his way into the compound, to get to "his" locker, with a baseball bat.

As for the rest of us, most probably inherited it from our dads or adopted an interest when they recognized the simple pleasure of drinking beer and screaming with thousands of your peers. I recommend it highly.
posted by rcade at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2002


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