How do you respond to "don't love it, leave it"?
January 15, 2006 7:32 PM   Subscribe

[Rhetoricalhelpfilter]:What is a rational response to "if you don't love it, leave it"?

On a few different occasions I've gotten into friendly (and no-so-friendly) debates about US foreign policy which have ground to a halt when my opponent used the golden oldie, "...if you don't love it, leave it" (or a variation thereof).

That argument, to me, is almost Goodwin-esque in its inanity. What's a respectful, logical way to respond?
posted by joseph_elmhurst to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always thought that loving your country is not akin to embracing everything your government does. Loving your country means working for change and standing up for your rights and freedoms and those of others. Just as citizens have the right to vote, they have the responsibility to lobby for change and, in the absence of appropriate representatives, the responsibility to run for government. Loving your country means wanting it to be the best it can be, not abandoning it in moments of need.

Disclaimer: I'm Canadian, so I don't think like an American.
posted by acoutu at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2006

On occasion I've responded with someone along the lines of "so, you're suggesting that the best way for me to respect America -- which was founded on the Bill of Rights, with freedom of speech at the first order of business -- is not to exercise my rights. Hmm. How interesting." Then I usually blink innocently and wait for them to change the subject.

Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. It's worth making a mental note, of course, that anyone who resorts to such a stupid line of rhetoric isn't really worth arguing with seriously.
posted by scody at 7:46 PM on January 15, 2006

Walk away.
posted by pompomtom at 7:49 PM on January 15, 2006

I just tell them honestly that I'm trying to save up the money to leave, but it's hard. Canada wants their immigrants to be able to support themselves without working for six months if they don't already have a job lined up.
posted by sophie at 7:59 PM on January 15, 2006

"I love the fact that I have the freedom to criticize what I don't love about it. I think I'll stay."
posted by Gator at 8:06 PM on January 15, 2006

Why didn't he leave, when the person he didn't like was in office?
posted by dhartung at 8:19 PM on January 15, 2006

Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, has an excellent response to this:

"They (conservatives) don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a four-year old loves her mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a four-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world. That's why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well. We also want it to do good."
posted by jellicle at 8:19 PM on January 15, 2006

Well, that question is really more about the core of the debate. Namely, should America be fixed at all, or should you fix yourself instead? Maybe by accepting things as they are, or maybe by emigrating somewhere less intolerable.

As George Bernard Shaw once said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

You could also say that everywhere else in the world sucks too, so what's the point? Fixing America will improve the world, and make your life better.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 PM on January 15, 2006

Honestly though, I don't really like the argument that wanting to change America means you love it more, or love it in a different way, or love it at all. I don't like the idea that you must love America even to have a position on it at all. I say fuck America. Why should you need to love something in order to have an opinion on it?

America has good things and bad things, but I don't feel the need to reflexively emote on demand, and I don't think it should be a requirement on demand.
posted by delmoi at 8:35 PM on January 15, 2006

er, requirement of debate.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 PM on January 15, 2006

Obviously, the argument applies just as much in reverse.

Assuming the person saying this is right wing ... there's nothing at all they don't like about America? Nothing that needs fixing?

They don't want to, say, overturn Roe v. Wade? Mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design in high schools? Stamp out gay marriage?

According to their logic, they shouldn't bother, they should just leave the country and move to a country where abortion, evolution and gay marriage are illegal.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:44 PM on January 15, 2006

I got that once with some offshore guys I was working with. I responded
"Leave it? No... Change it!" for some reason, it worked. They all got quiet. Probably pondering why I was such a dumbass. But quietly!
posted by atchafalaya at 8:52 PM on January 15, 2006

they should just leave the country and move to a country where abortion, evolution and gay marriage are illegal.

And remind them that some people call this place "North Korea."
posted by frogan at 9:42 PM on January 15, 2006

Smack the guy in the face - ultima regio regum and all that rot.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:28 PM on January 15, 2006

It seems a fair response is "If you love America so much, why don't you marry it?", in terms of maintaining the level discourse.
posted by aubilenon at 11:00 PM on January 15, 2006

Say "Are you suggesting that I don't love my country?"

Or, better yet, force them to say what they actually mean by that. Because anyone who uses this expression is not actually thinking about what they're saying. Ask them "Are you saying that I hate the US and I want to blow it up? Or that I'm unhappy here? Or are you saying that only people who don't love their country critisize the government?"

Since the statement is pure bullshit - I mean, really, it's almost totally without meaning - requiring them to explain it will cause them no end of problems.
posted by Clay201 at 12:11 AM on January 16, 2006

Just sing this at them. (.zip with Honda ad in it)
posted by Navek Rednam at 3:00 AM on January 16, 2006

Thank you Firas and delmoi!
posted by roboto at 4:04 AM on January 16, 2006

Well this requires some planning, but my response has always been "Well, I left. And then I came back and decided to try to make it better here." Living outside of the US for a year in Eastern Europe definitely gave me some perspective on the US, and allowed me to see in even sharper relief the difference between loving my country and even loving some of my country's political process, and despising some of my country and/or locality's elected officials. I mean, maybe if you hate the Constitution or the Bill of Rights you definitely have your work cut out for you, but everything else is open to debate and/or change, albeit often very very slowly, sometimes too slowly.
posted by jessamyn at 4:36 AM on January 16, 2006

The love it vs. leave it remark is based on a fallacy -- that if you disagree with a certain policy, you must not love your country. You should address this fallacy rather than allow it to put you on the defensive.

I'm sure you can find some policy that your discussion partner disagrees with to turn it around on him/her :-)

The truth is, if you didn't love it then you probably wouldn't bother having the discussion in the first place.
posted by winston at 5:03 AM on January 16, 2006

As Mark Twain puts it, "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it."
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:17 AM on January 16, 2006

I like the Al Franken response quoted above. It's certainly true that unthinking patriotism of the "my country right or wrong" type is an obscenely immature behaviour.

Personally, I'd probably go for something shorter like, "Defeatism is so unamerican, don't you think?"
posted by Decani at 6:57 AM on January 16, 2006

A page with some brief but pertinent quotes.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:06 AM on January 16, 2006

pompomtom nailed it. When a debate provokes comments like that, you know the good will has gone, and that neither of you will change your minds or reach any civil conclusion.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:17 AM on January 16, 2006

Thank you very much, everybody. There's definitely a lot of food for thought here.

What prompted this was a discussion I had yesterday regarding a speech Martin Luther King, Jr. made in April of '67. Particularly this passage:

War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

I said that one could replace "communism" with "terrorism" in that passage. The person with whom I was engaging replied that MLK was wrong and went on a tangent about how the escalation of the Cold War "ended" communism. When I pointed out that had no bearing on my statement, I was told that I should move to North Korea or Cuba if I hated America so much. Needless to say, I was flummoxed.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2006

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