When Patriotism Becomes Isolationism

We hear a lot these days about Patriotism. Those who support the war in Iraq and the War on Terror and all its endeavors are Patriots. Those who question the policies of the Administration and are in favor of bringing home the troops are Un-Patriotic. Those who profess eternal vigilance and protest the overreach of our current Administration are Patriotic, while those who feel that the Patriot Act and similar legislation protect us from another terrorist attack are Un-Patriotic. All of these can be right or wrong, depending on your definitions and your point of view. Personally, I think that if you love your country, for whatever reason, you are a Patriot. You will take whatever action you feel is right to support and guide it.

But there is another label that has been cropping up here and there in political arguments for years. One that no one wants to have thrown at them. The kiss of death for any reasonable discussion you may have going:


Wordnet defines Isolationism as follows:

isolationism n : a policy of nonparticipation in international economic and political relations

I have been labeled an Isolationist for stating that I believe we should not have invaded Iraq, for saying we would be crazy to attack Iran, and that violence is never, ever a solution. I beg to differ. I am a strong advocate of United States involvement in the United Nations, in diplomatic negotiations in Iran, and in standing with other nations all over the world to address issues such as human rights, disarmament, world hunger, and ecology. I don’t think I am an Isolationist. I just don’t approve of killing people, that’s all.

Some of the people with whom I have debated, however, seem to have another take altogether. They hate the United Nations, abhor the idea of a world economy, believe diplomacy is a shoot-first, talk-later endeavor. They talk about diplomatic agreements with other nations as “sacrificing our autonomy”. I have heard, from seemingly intelligent people, that Islam is a threat to our way of life, that the French are snotty fools who would stab you in the back as soon as look at you, that Mexicans are stealing our jobs and ought to be shipped back home. I see an entire sect of Americans so completely absorbed in instant gratification and pre-packaged solutions to our problems that they cannot be bothered to understand the history of any other nation in the world. A clan of Patriots to whom talking with other nations to solve our differences is “weakness”. People to whom a dead Iraqi child, killed by our troops, is no longer a child, but a tool of the enemy. Thousands of civilian dead are not people who lived and worked and worshiped and raised families and dreamed, but a regrettable necessity not even worth an apology, much less a prayer.

Patriotism has for some become a shield behind which they can hide in order to not view the rest of the world as real people with valuable, though different, beliefs. The policy of attacking first and sifting through the rubble for evidence later is a convenient way of isolating ourselves from the rest of the global community. Just as the angry child will lash out at its siblings and then refuse to talk to his parents because they are “being treated unfairly”, our sometimes violent, often rude approach to international policy has left us sulking in the corner, always on the lookout for the next enemy.

I contend that this approach to foreign policy is far more “Isolationist” than arguing for diplomacy and peace. It is high time we, here in the United States, stopped thinking of our future as separate from the futures of the other nations of the world. As resources dwindle, populations increase, and communications improve, there is no such thing as a nation that can stand on its own. It’s time we come out of the corner and start trying to make friends.