Enough of this creepy “Homeland” stuff: America is an idea

(Cross-posted at dailykos.com.)

In 2008, let’s take back our language, too.

As far as I can tell, the first time the USA was widely referred to as the “Homeland” was when the Bush Administration created the Department of Homeland Security. I thought it sounded creepy then, and, what with events since, it sounds even creepier now. Among the many other things that need to be fixed after Bush finally goes, we need to fix that name.

The greatness of America is precisely that it is not a Homeland. America is an idea, an idea that draws people from other places around the world. They come, and always have, because that idea is better and more powerful than any nativist myth about any physical piece of territory.

Yes, the land of the USA is spectacularly beautiful and bountiful. And yes, of course, it’s our home, and we should defend it if and when it’s attacked. But as much as we love it, our land is not what defines us, and the fact that it happens to be our home does not begin to suggest America’s true value.

What defines us is democracy, and what is best about us is democracy.

That’s the reason that terms like “fatherland” or “motherland” or indeed “homeland” have always sounded foreign to American ears. They sounded foreign not just because they were used in other countries. They sounded foreign because they are foreign to the idea of America. Because America is, first of all, an idea, not a “homeland”.

By creating legislation like the “PATRIOT Act”, turning our enemies into cartoon “evildoers” and by claiming to defend “Homeland Security”, the Bush administration has tried to shift the way we talk, and therefore think, about America. And that is a great threat to the security that matters most.

Our true homeland is freedom.

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