My dictionary says patriotism is love for, or devotion to, one’s country. It doesn’t say anything about loving one’s government, which some of us think is not the same thing.

Even the people who are vociferous about the actions of the United States government are careful to affirm their patriotism, as though that were the basic criterion for decency and goodness. One must agree that this way of doing things, the levels of government and all, is the best way, and one must say so, so we’ll know. No matter what else you might be thinking, you must always be in favor of this set-up, this arrangement of power and resources. You mustn’t even want to change things in some fundamental way. Don’t even think that. That’s sedition and absofuckinglutely against the law. That’s why the U.S. government opposed communism, which in theory would spread out the wealth. Right.

I don’t like the United States. I’m not devoted to it. I love several of its citizens, probably you, but that’s about it. And if you’re one of the sticker brigade, I’m not supporting your troops. Support ’em yourself. I’m sure enough of the taxes I pay go to help kill some poor schnook on the other side of the discussion. That’ll have to do.

I like it here. It’s all I know, and it’s fine, but the way I feel about the United States of America is a long way from patriotism. Patriotism requires a certain simplemindedness that I can’t manage without daily television. I was patriotic as a child, reading comics about the Second World War. I was also profoundly ignorant.

Patriotism and nationalism are intellectual diseases; viruses like racism and religious evangelism and their cheerleaders are no more admirable than Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, or the Pope.

National conflicts are turf wars, and nationalistic constructs require force to perpetuate themselves, or else we would redevelop into tribes or something, the way we used to be, thus destroying the mass market and life as we know it, and the sooner, the better some might say. Nobody you know, probably.

As a political entity, the United States is hardly admirable. My son’s sixth-grade teacher objected to his refusal to say the Pledge of Alliance. I explained that when I think of the United States I think of greed, genocide, chattel slavery, rapacious exploitation and some more stuff I’ve forgotten.

The United States is rich and powerful, and I’m pleased as punch to be here. Money doesn’t make you smart, though, no matter where you go to school. I enjoy the benefits of living where and when I do, but predestination and whatnot aside, my being born in Chicago at the end of 1945 was pure chance as far as I’m concerned. It could just as easily have been an Amazonian jungle in 1103, in which case I’d’ve done the best I knew how, whatever that amounted to.

Somebody said that patriotism is a preference for real estate over principles. Not me. I wish I had, though.