As we enter another election cycle for 2016, we will hear millions, if not billions of words coming out of the mouths of candidates and from thousands of politicians from every political subgroup. From Progressives, Socialists and Democrats to Republicans, Libertarians and Tea Partiers. Millions more will come from the mouths (or more realistically, the word processors) of self-claimed pundits, pseudo-journalists, unofficial representatives of whatever and the attack dogs for various front groups on both the left and the right.
Pathetically, most of these voices will misuse a phrase over and over and over. It is a phrase that most people who hear it, misunderstand it as well. What’s the phrase? OK, it is simply four words:
“This is my country.”
For most people, this is a fairly simple statement. But only for most people. Thankfully, Barack Obama shouldn’t be running for any other office in 2016, since his use of this phrase will likely be a bit different that the rest of us.
I know that most of you are asking yourself, “How can such a simple phrase have multiple meanings.” Let’s just use the same construction but change a single word:
“This is my family.”
“This is my car.”
When we say the first sentence, we are identifying with those people with whom we have deep bonds, common beliefs, and a willingness to do whatever is needed to help those people. It is an identification with others, recognizing the commonality that exists within a family even when there are particular members of our family with whom we don’t always agree or even like very much.
When most people say “This is my country”, they are identifying themselves with the largest “family” that most of us could ever imagine. Of course there are larger groups, but these are nearly impossible to declare themselves to be a part of such a group. Can you imagine any one you know declaring, with a sense of pride, “This is my planet”?
On the other hand, when someone says “This is my car”, there is no sense of “belonging” in any way. When the sentence reads “This is my car” it is clearly a declaration of ownership. If an individual’s car is a Rolls Royce, the announcement is more than a simple statement of ownership, it becomes a declaration of the assumption by the owner of their superiority to everyone else. In addition to superiority, it is also a declaration of control. The owner is conveying the idea that, in addition to their superiority, they have the absolute right to do with that car exactly what they desire to do, up to completely wrecking the Rolls Royce, or painting it blue and purple if they choose or reupholstering the interior in zebra skin or mink. They have total control, and they want everyone to be aware of their authority. Such a statement, coupled with such behavior is a very bold statement that the individual has absolutely no concern (or even acknowledgement) of the fact that they might be affecting others.
A person who insists on using that phrase to tell everyone that they are in complete control of everything around them is likely a person that needs some serious therapy.
Now, think back on the original sentence – “This is my country”. Ask yourself when you listen to politicians use that phrase, what are they telling you? I can think of at least one politician that uses the second meaning of the phrase, and that would be Barack Obama. He does not see himself as part of the American “family”. He sees himself as the unchallenged ruler of America, and look how his presidency has turned out. He ignores all the rules and customs that have existed in “his” nation for over two centuries because he believes himself to be absolutely superior to everyone else in that “family”. And when others try to end his presumptuous arrogance, he effectively responds with “How dare they!”
So before we vote in the upcoming primaries, and then in the general election next year, we should ask ourselves, when a candidate says “This is my country” or “America is my country” — which meaning do you think is running through his, or more likely, her mind?