This was a popular bumper sticker during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was aimed at discontented left-wing radicals who claimed not just America was wrong to be fighting in Vietnam, but that it was evil for that reason and for many others.
The slogan bothered me because I didn’t love America at the time, yet had no intention of leaving. But the slogan possessed an undeniable logic. If you really hate where you are, why not go someplace else? As Arthur Chrenkoff, who left Poland for Australia, puts it:
If you really so passionately dislike just about everything about your country, you have to ask yourself a question – why suffer? why keep putting yourself through this endless unhealthy rage and frustration? There are many different types of societies around the world, some of which are without doubt a lot closer to your vision of what an ideal community should be like. Wouldn’t you be happier living somewhere else?
It just doesn’t make sense to me that you would want to live in a place you don’t like when you have options to live in places you would.
Back in the day, the stock response by radicals to “America, love it or leave it” was that we will stay here, thank you very much, and right what’s wrong with America, whether by revolution or subversion. It is our duty to slay or tame the monster.
How sincere was this response? To a considerable extent it just an excuse for not giving up the benefits of living in the USA, I think. To be fair, though, many of these folks stayed, gained control of key American institutions, and have, indeed, changed America quite a lot (mostly for the worse).
They got the best of both worlds — prospering in a great country while pursuing their radicalism to at least some effect. Is this a great country, or what?
However, my generation of radicals didn’t transform America enough to satisfy the new generation for whom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks. Thus, over the weekend President Trump tweeted an updated version of “America, love it or leave it.” He told America’s four fiercest congressional critics to go back where they came from.
There are obvious differences between the two statements. “Love it or leave it” implied that critics should find a country they like better than America. By contrast, Trump was saying, in effect, that Ocosio-Cortez and her squad should go to countries where the “governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and try to improve conditions there.
The basic sentiment is the same, though, and it’s one many Americans probably share, just as they did in the late 1960s. They don’t believe Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar should be forced to leave the country — and Trump didn’t say they should be — but they probably don’t mind the suggestion that they do so. These two women don’t poll much better than cancer.
Some will probably mind that the suggestion came from the U.S. President, and I wish it hadn’t. (I don’t recall President Nixon ever saying “America, love it or leave it.”) But I agree more with Steve than with John about the likely political fallout from Trump’s tweet.
I expect Democrats and their media allies to overplay the “outrage” card, while nearly every American who might vote for Trump either applauds his sentiments, concludes that Trump was just being Trump, or is offended only marginally and not enough to affect his or her vote.
I also believe there may be something to Steve’s contention that Trump “has now forced [Nancy] Pelosi and every other Democrat to come to [the] defense [of the four congressional rads], elevating their profile further and cementing them as the authoritative face of the Democratic Party.