19 October 2015

Uncommon Commentary #480: Verbal Abuse

Perhaps no word has been more thoroughly abused than “patriot”, which has been applied to everyone from nationalist hotheads (e.g., Gabriele d'Annunzio—a man who, incidentally, also boasted of having eaten a roasted baby—, whom Italian irredentists hailed for leading an expedition to seize Fiume while the future of that disputed city was still being negotiated by peaceful men) to xenophobes (such as the “Boxers” of the Boxer Rebellion in China, who slaughtered not only whatever foreigners they encountered but also any countrymen whom they considered to have been corrupted by foreign influences, especially converts to Christianity; most of the martyrs in Chinese history were killed at this time) to genocidal maniacs (for instance, Nathaniel Bacon, leader of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 and the “Torchbearer of the Revolution”, who wanted to extirpate Virginia’s indigenous population and to launch unprovoked attacks upon Indians even outside the colony) to glorified cattle-thieves (like Braveheart protagonist William Wallace) to thugs and unprincipled propagandists—both terms apply to Sam Adams, who evidently was despised as such, at least privately, by his fellow insurrectionists—to terrorists (the ZAPU organization in what was then called Rhodesia, and countless other examples).  In Orwellian fashion, we Yanks even employ the designation for British colonists who made war upon their fellow Britons and who, further, solicited the military intervention of Britain’s enemies France and Spain: the USA’s founders and those who sided with them in our war of independence. (This may seem to be a radical or unpatriotic statement, but the fact that the revolt which led to the birth of the USA had nothing to do with patriotism is easy to demonstrate.  In what year was the United States of America founded?  1776.  And in what year did the US Revolutionary War commence?  1775.  How could the rebels who fired upon government troops at Concord and Lexington have been fighting for their country if that country had yet to exist?)  Patriotism has been called “the last refuge of a scoundrel”, but, often, it’s the only refuge.
(Thus, it is not the NFL franchise in the District of Columbia but the one in Boston that needs renaming.  My suggestion for the new name appears in the list of domanisms: “Deflatriots.”)