Youth and Country

Corey Robin has a post about changes in politics, public opinion, and generations. Someone brought up a good point in the comment section:

I’d be careful not to overestimate the importance of individual self-report surveys as a way to gauge ideological drift. People are liable to say all sorts of stupid, poorly thought-out, and frankly incorrect things about their own beliefs depending on how a question is phrased and what positions they have the ideological language to articulate, which is especially pertinent when the questions are a simple yea/nay to ideological labels like “liberal”, “conservative”, or “socialist”. US discourse in particular has a long history of hollowing out such labels and filling them with meanings that would be all but unrecognizable in any serious intellectual context, e.g. how many people even among readers of your blog wouldn’t necessarily be aware that “liberalism” and “socialism” are traditionally considered mutually exclusive?

If there’s any of these “ideological label yea/nay” questions I’d consider potentially important, it’s the extent to which people are willing to explicitly reject patriotism and identify as citizens of the world — most other “leftist” commitments can be subverted fairly easily by appealing to nationalist solidarity against some group of foreigners or another, especially the ones who are allegedly “stealing our jobs”. But I’d want to see some more data before concluding that internationalism among young Americans is more robust and widespread today than back in the era of “Imagine there’s no countries…” and so on.

I’m feeling too lazy to analyze it at the moment, but it does make me curious. In lieu of my own thoughts on the matter, here is some polling data and analysis:

http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/20150616_thrallgoepner_millennialswp.pdf

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/views_on_countriesregions_bt/608.php

https://theintercept.com/2016/02/24/top-gop-pollster-young-americans-are-terrifyingly-liberal/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2011/09/08/10363/the-911-generation/

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/1212/Why-Millennials-want-war-against-ISIS-but-don-t-want-to-serve

http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/the-generation-gap-on-foreign-policy-and-national-security-issues/

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/07/03/a-generational-gap-in-american-patriotism/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/sdt-next-america-03-07-2014-3-08/

http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/section-9-patriotism-personal-traits-lifestyles-and-demographics/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-03-07/pew-research-study-shows-millennials-are-optimistic-about-future

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/upshot/younger-americans-are-less-patriotic-at-least-in-some-ways.html

http://www.salon.com/2015/07/06/patriotism_is_for_winners_why_millennials_and_gen_x_are_rejecting_the_national_pride_of_their_parents/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/07/03/on-july-4-how-do-young-americans-define-patriotism/

http://wearechange.org/for-millennials-patriotism-doesnt-mean-compliance/

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/millennials-less-patriotic-or-just-differently-patriotic/

https://today.yougov.com/news/2015/02/24/obama-patriotism/

When Nation Was Deified And God Was Nationalized

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy. That was in 1892. Then, in 1941, Congress officially made it into the pledge. There was no ‘God’ in the wording for 64 years of its existence and for the first 13 years of its official use.

The Man Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance
By Jeffrey Owen Jones
Smithsonian Magazine

“I first struggled with “under God” in my fourth-grade class in Westport, Connecticut. It was the spring of 1954, and Congress had voted, after some controversy, to insert the phrase into the Pledge of Allegiance, partly as a cold war rejoinder to “godless” communism. We kept stumbling on the words—it’s not easy to unlearn something as ingrained and metrical as the Pledge of Allegiance—while we rehearsed for Flag Day, June 14, when the revision would take effect.”

That wasn’t that long ago. It was about 20 years before I was born. My father was 12 years old and my mother was 7 years old when God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

I asked my father about it. He says he remembers when he had to learn the new wording. It was in Boy Scouts when he was in 6th grade.

The Scout leader told them that it was “One nation under God” with no comma and so he explained they weren’t to pause between “One nation” and “under God”. I suppose the implication was that nation and God were to be treated as a single entity. But my father notes that everyone pauses between the two, and so apparently most Americans came to disagree with that scout leader.

As for the issue of adding God, many diverse Americans have disagreed about ending the clear separation of church and state, as the founding fathers intended (for those who genuinely care about original intent):

“Atheists are not the only ones to take issue with that line of thought. Advocates of religious tolerance point out that the reference to a single deity might not sit well with followers of some established religions. After all, Buddhists don’t conceive of God as a single discrete entity, Zoroastrians believe in two deities and Hindus believe in many. Both the Ninth Circuit ruling and a number of Supreme Court decisions acknowledge this. But Jacobsohn predicts that a majority of the justices will hold that government may support religion in general as long as public policy does not pursue an obviously sectarian, specific religious purpose.

“Bellamy, who went on to become an advertising executive, wrote extensively about the pledge in later years. I haven’t found any evidence in the historical record—including Bellamy’s papers at the University of Rochester—to indicate whether he ever considered adding a divine reference to the pledge. So we can’t know where he would stand in today’s dispute. But it’s ironic that the debate centers on a reference to God that an ordained minister left out. And we can be sure that Bellamy, if he was like most writers, would have balked at anyone tinkering with his prose.”

What the media too often ignores is the major divides in our society aren’t between conservatives and fundamentalists on one side and secularists and atheists on the other side. No, the deepest cut in public opinion happens within religion itself. Most Americans on all issues are Christians. It was originally Evangelicals who pushed strongly for a strong separation of church and state, for they understood in their own experience the dangers of that lack of such a separation. It’s a shame that Christians on the political right have such a short historical memory.