If, for some horrific and highly implausible reason, you found yourself on the front line of a combat zone, ready to charge into battle, and you glanced over and saw me standing next to you, I doubt you would feel comforted.
That’s because I believe in nonviolence, so I wouldn’t be there shrieking war cries and boasting how I was going to drink my enemies’ blood. I would more likely be trying to figure out how to avoid shooting myself or anybody else, and this is not the quality you want in a soldier.
But fortunately for America, there are plenty of tough guys eager to take my place on the battlefield. You see, a recent survey asked Americans how they would react in the unlikely event that our nation is invaded, a hypothetical no doubt inspired by Vladimir Putin and his quest to rid the world of Ukrainians.
Of course, the results of this unscientific poll have delighted conservatives, who bellow every chance they get that they are far more patriotic than liberals. Republicans are also quick to exclaim that they are braver, stronger, and more fearless than all those progressive snowflakes. So this poll seems to verify that conservatives are mighty warriors who are ready to die for the red, white, and blue. In contrast, liberals just cry for their mommies when things get rough.
Well, there are a few issues with this perspective. First, there is the problem that hypothetical questions provoke socially acceptable answers. For example, an overwhelming majority of Americans say that they admire Martin Luther King. But many of those same people also say that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. The contradiction is due to it being more socially acceptable to bash BLM than it is MLK.
So when it comes to defending ‘Merica, what could be more self-affirming to conservatives than insisting that they would bleed for their country?
This leads to the second issue with the survey’s results. You see, Republicans are big talkers. They are forever going on about draining the swamp and shrinking the deficit and outlawing gay marriage and a bajillion other goals that they have no intention of achieving. They are also consummate braggers, and claiming to be a super-fighting bad-ass is easier than, for example, overcoming a crippling case of bone spurs.
Conservatives often want credit for what they say they would do in a made-up scenario, through which they can imagine their unsurpassable heroism. In truth, however, they are the ones who literally flee to other countries rather than face adverse consequences.
Finally, there is the fact that conservatives—and there is no polite way to state this—are really into violence. They worship gun-toting vigilantes, clamor to bomb other countries (even fictitious ones), and constantly agitate for civil war. They horde firearms and storm government buildings and punch peaceful protesters.
So is it difficult to imagine that they might be enthusiastic about shooting foreign invaders? Hell, they’re sometimes eager to kill anyone even perceived to be a foreigner.
In essence, these are people who are just praying for a sequel to Red Dawn, but this time in real life.
OK, all that might explain why so many Republicans say they would take up arms to defend the country—although maybe not against Russia, because of that whole in-love-with-Putin aspect. But why do most Democrats say they would leave America if it came under attack?
Well, there is the aforementioned nonviolent aspect, in that many progressives are just being honest when they say they would not be very helpful in armed conflict. But there is a deeper reason for the liberal antipathy to fighting for America.
For decades, progressives have been told that they are not real Americans. We have heard that our values are harmful to the country, that we don’t understand patriotism, and that we want terrorists to win. It’s not a big surprise, then, that many liberals would be hesitant to die for a nation that apparently hates us.
In addition, many of us are thinking of leaving the United States anyway. With the massive right-wing turn that this country has taken in recent years, many progressives are simply looking for a reason to head for Canada or Scandinavia. We also realize that school shootings don’t happen in Australia, that we won’t have to work ourselves to death in France, and that if we break an arm in Germany, it doesn’t mean bankruptcy.
So asking us if we would battle to the death for a land that many of us are seriously considering abandoning? Well, that’s a jarring question. The truth is that many of us don’t believe America is salvageable, much less worth our lives.
But there is one more aspect that this poll misses. You see, progressives have already been fighting for America—for generations, in fact, and especially since the rise of overt neo-fascism in the last decade or so. We don’t do it with guns, and maybe that incurs the disdain of conservatives, but ideas and debate and persuasion are sort of our thing.
So when it comes to defending our country, well, yeah, lots of us are already doing that. Progressives have battled and will continue to battle for this nation.
And that is no hypothetical.
Featured image: U.S. Army Europe/CC PDM 1.0