This is why I say Universalism narrows, despite its claim to do the opposite: the whole vast organic tangle of attachments, memories, prescriptions, and intuitions, which are conjured by the word “country,” and which inspire such songs of love as our patriotic ones, and which become the seedbed of our national patriotic rituals, is contracted into a set of stock phrases of political discourse. No political discourse, no matter how sensitive, no matter how inspired, no matter how comprehensive, can possibly capture even a fragment of the living tradition that is within a man when he reflects on his country. Reality is too vast for words. Ideologies have their uses, of course, but they must always be abbreviations of reality.
For example, it is said that Capitalism is a part of the American creed, and as such should be part of the object of our patriotic affections. But I do not love Capitalism, and never will. I see its uses, and sometimes I suspect that it is merely a term we use to denote “the way things are,” but in any case I shall never love it. And indeed, there are times when this passion of Indignation has risen in me with great fury against it — usually when Capitalism has made a dark alliance with darker forces to oppress my home, as when, for example, a local homeowner must jump through a hundred bureaucratic hoops to remove a dead tree that threatens his house, while the large developer can remove a whole copse of trees with impunity. Small property is fettered; capitalist collectivism is emancipated. The vulnerability of the American South to these dark alliances is acute; and I confess that there are moments when I feel that nothing is so great a threat to my home as these. There are parts of the South which have been so tortured by Capitalism, so visited with unthinking ugliness, that one can feel only hatred — a hatred for the devil and his works. This is the passion inspired at times by Capitalism.
But of course, Capitalism is primarily a matter for adjudication by reason; the place for passion is small. Ugliness is certainly not the greatest evil, and anyway Socialism has far outdone Capitalism in producing ugliness. But if someone tells me that Capitalism must be included in my patriotic love, I will simply answer: “you do not know what patriotism is.”
I strongly agree with almost all of this, and I am reminded of Philippe Beneton’s remark in Equality by Default to the effect that “no one would die for the free market.” This seems to me perfectly true (or at least so generally true that the strange exceptions would only confirm it), and it reminds us that we may or may not value the free market but we do not love it (neither, it seems to me as it does to Paul, should we hate it except to the degree that it harms what we love). We may or may not enjoy and appreciate the market for what it does, but we love our country for what it is, which is above all our own place, a beloved place with which we are closely bound by time and memory.