May 2nd, 2003

barometric waffle linguists (pic by me)

Your outrage of the day

In case you missed it, today -- May 1 -- was Loyalty Day.

You think I'm kidding, don't you? Click the link.

What's the most galling is that this isn't America Day, or Patriot Day, or Freedom Day, or even Iraqi Liberation Day. It's Loyalty Day. Loyal, adj.: 1. Unswerving in allegiance. 2. Faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government. In other words, undissenting. Following.

Freedom Day sounds like a great idea to me. America Day, in practice, would be indistinguishable from what we currently celebrate on July 4 already. Patriot Day would have been shameless, but tolerable; we can be patriotic by trying to uphold the principles that make this country great. But Loyalty Day?

Roll that on the tongue. "I am loyal to the United States government." (Who else does one pledge loyalty to when declaring their loyalty to the U.S.?) How does it sound? How do you like it? Does the government always, unswervingly, speak for you? (Does it today under Bush? Did it four years ago under Clinton?)

Remember when they used to call government employees "public servants"? Remember when government "for the people" meant something? I happen to like living in America, but this is on outrage: A holiday celebrating that we, the people, are loyal to the state. This is not American. This is the sort of holiday name you'd expect to see in China, Cuba, or North Korea.

But if you don't like it, suffer in silence. Remember, today's Loyalty Day. You've got a duty to let the government make your decisions for you. They're leaders. You're loyal.

UPDATE: I am informed this is not new. Well, that doesn't change my opinion; "loyalty" is an atrocious semantic choice in 2003, and it was an atrocious semantic choice in 1993. (It does make me feel slightly better, though, that Bush didn't simply invent it. Although subsequent research suggests that it was passed in 1958, so it's likely a memento of the Cold War, which is just as bad.) The difference between "patriotism" and "loyalty" is the difference between "My country, right or wrong" and "My country, right." (The full quote, incidentally, is by Sen. Carl Schurz, in 1899: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." [Emphasis mine.] Which is precisely why it's such a patriotic statement of American principles.)

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