Rah My Country

Today is the revered USA “Approval to Print a Declaration of Independence Day“:

The Declaration of Independence was not signed [July 4] by the 56 persons whose signatures would eventually adorn it.  Perhaps no one signed it that day. ….  What Congress actually did that day was agree to print and publish the Declaration authorized two days earlier. …  What was voted on July 2 was, however, really decided on July 1.  But on June 28, Congress considered Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration, so was the die then cast?  Or was it cast on June 10, when Congress voted that “a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration”?  The Declaration was first actually declared — read aloud to a crowd (at the State House, now Independence Hall) — on July 8.

I prefer this classic Onion:

As a true patriot, I would gladly die in battle defending my homeland. I love my country more than my own life. But I would also be more than willing to give my last breath in the name of, say, Mexico, Panama, Japan, or the Czech Republic. The most honorable thing a man can do is lay down his life for his country. Or another country. The important thing is that it’s a country.

Here in Northern Virginia there are lots of “Support Our Troops” signs and bumper stickers.  I now have this bumper sticker on my car:

Support_everyones_troops

This is my other sticker:

Question_authority

I like the way both play on three levels of meanings.  My stickers may seem on the surface to say the opposite of what some other popular stickers say, but they can be better read as saying something subtler.

The usual “Support Our Troops” seems to say to support our side in a war, while “Support Everyone’s Troops” seems to say to support all sides in every war, which is silly.  But the best way to support all troops everywhere would be to stop the wars ASAP.   

The usual “Question Authority” seems to say “fight the power” while “Question Authority, But Raise Your Hand First” seems to say “accept their power.”  But you really shouldn’t fight or accept powers until you can get past your dominance & submission reactions to calmly evaluate those powers, politely asking questions as needed to complete your evaluation.

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  • Neil Tames

    te indeed.

  • http://blog.greenideas.com botogol

    Your ‘authority’ sticker reminds me of the Moderate Party demonstrations of the 1990s.
    A representative sub-group of members would march on the side of the road chanting
    – WHAT do we want?
    – GRADUAL CHANGE!
    – WHEN do we want it?
    – IN DUE COURSE!

    Sigh, those were the days..

  • Captain Awesome

    I don’t really get controversial bumper stickers (although these seem perhaps more thought-provoking than controversial). The only people who will notice them are the people who: 1) Don’t agree with them and 2) Are pissed off by something that you do while driving. Thus I think controversial bumper stickers actually work against the cause of whatever the stickers advocate. Also, per recent research:

    http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/06/who-are-the-agg.html

    having these stickers suggests that you are a more aggressive driver than most.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    Captain, you beat the rest of us to the joke, and you had the bad form to be witless about it.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Captain, I did post on the sticker-aggression correlation, and I accept that my willingness to show stickers suggests I am a more aggressive driver.

  • http://www.dloye.com/myblog/wordpress/ dloye

    Your country is not worth celebrating? Mine is. I’m appalled at a lack of wonder in your attitude. You are in a unique place in history, gifted with the blessing of birth in a country born of principles: “created equal”, “inalienable rights”, “consent of the governed” and the best you can do to mark the day is quote the Onion? Ok. Carry on. Damned silly I say.

  • Ian C.

    What would happen if we stopped the wars? Peace, or would the religious fundamentalists just gather their strength and attack us again in a few years?

  • http://jamesdmiller.blogspot.com/ James Miller

    The troops of many countries (but not mine!) benefit from war because it allows them to collect booty.

    The fourth level of meaning of the bumper stickers is what they signal about Robin.

  • Shmuel

    I prefer living in the US to many countries. I’m grateful that I have the right to live here. And I don’t need a bumpersticker, or a lapel pin to prove it.

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @James Miller

    “The fourth level of meaning of the bumper stickers is what they signal about Robin.”

    Yes, Robin put bumper stickers on his classic convertible – a collectible car!

  • burger flipper

    Since we’re delving into Robin Hanson’s personal signals, I’d be interested in a little context. What is the make/year/color of the car these stickers call home?

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @burger flipper

    I believe it is a gorgeous red classic Miata convertible. A fun sexy boy-toy car. I hope Robin doesn’t mind me saying this. If so, forgive me.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    I told about my car here.

  • Nominull

    When it comes to expressing my opinions, I prefer posting in blog comment sections over displaying bumper stickers. The latter is much more likely to get my car keyed…

  • Overcoming Laziness

    “But the best way to support all troops everywhere would be to stop the wars ASAP. ”

    And rely on the good will of tyrants.

    Some things are worth fighting and dying for.

  • A. Madden

    Tyrants do not have a magical mind control power, they do it with soldiers, just like we do.

    Anyway the “mine is special” attitude is quite common, I am not at all surprised to see it turn up in the comments.

    A general comment on bumper stickers: I really like the format. The could be twice as long and still fit on the car, but they seem to have a self imposed limit, something like under a foot. I doubt a bumper sticker has ever convinced anyone but at least they don’t drone on and on and on, like me.

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @Overcoming Laziness

    I think you would enjoy spending the day re-reading Xenophon’s Hiero:

    “I know (replied the poet) that you were once a private person, and
    are now a monarch. It is but likely, therefore, that having tested
    both conditions, you should know better than myself, wherein the
    life of the despotic ruler differs from the life of any ordinary
    person, looking to the sum of joys and sorrows to which flesh is heir.”

    http://digital.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=1175

    On this note, I’m outta here. . .

  • burger flipper

    @ Robin Hanson

    Why let traffic ticket rates dictate a “safer” color, but not let fatality/accident rates dictate a safer car?

    I suspect a smaller car (especially a ragtop) has a bigger impact on safety than the shade of red has on ticketing. And of course the impact is in lifespan and not moolah.

    But I may have a bad feel for cryonics. Am I overestimating the importance of getting the brain to a hospital quickly and intact?– both of which seem less likely in auto accidents than other causes of death.

    If future people-restorers will be able to fill in a lot of gaps and work with most anything, then risky behavior makes a lot of sense.

    So does cryonics have a positive, negative, or negligible effect on how you weigh dangers?

  • http://michaelkenny.blogspot.com mike kenny

    That’s funny. I guess you’re an aggressive driver. You’re aggressively staking out a particular territory, but what is the territory? Aggressively anti-tribal territory, which is weird, because you would think that aggressiveness would defending the ‘territory’ a ‘tribe’ like Republican or American or liberal.

    I picture people tail-gating to read the bumper sticker, which might increase your chances of getting rear ended and then the tailgaters are confounded by the bumper sticker’s brain-teasing quality, so they don’t devote as much of their mental resources to paying attention to their driving, further increasing rear-ending danger. So they could be riding on your butt and you’re signaling that you’re aggressive, while simultaneously potentially increasing some kind of collision. It’s almost a combat-seeking, which is ironic given the seeming anti-war element of your bumper sticker! Quite interesting! 🙂

  • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

    My bumper stickers:

    Question Authority…and the Authorities Will Question You

    Cthulhu 2008: Why Vote for a Lesser Evil?

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    “A general comment on bumper stickers: I really like the format. The could be twice as long and still fit on the car, but they seem to have a self imposed limit, something like under a foot.”

    Genius level observation. You just inspired me to the first bumper sticker I’d actually get. A full, bumper length, bumper width bumper sticker: “My bumper sticker is bigger than yours.”

  • Zapp Brannigan

    What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just
    born with a heart full of neutrality? All I know is that my gut says
    “maybe.”

  • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    My license plate frame says “Agent of the Singularity”.

  • http://yudkowsky.net/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    Also, I wonder what happens if you put up a bumper sticker that says “Support Our Civilians”.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Eliezer and Hopefully, those both sound like fun mischievous sticker ideas.

  • Alan Gunn

    This post seems to me to display a strong bias against war, a bias no more justifiable than any other. Nobody thinks wars are per se good things. But some of them have been better than the alternative would have been.

  • http://www.iphonefreak.com frelkins

    @Zapp Brannigan

    “Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?”

    Forgive me for returning, gentlemen. But I saw Zapp & immediately remembered, on this day when we are meant to contemplate liberty:

    “[Wisdom consists] in emancipation from personal prejudice. . .I think the essence of wisdom is emancipation, as far as possible, from the tyranny of the here and now. . .No one can view the world with complete impartiality; and if anyone could, he would hardly be able to remain alive.

    But it is possible to make a continual approach towards impartiality, on the one hand, by knowing things somewhat remote in time or space, and on the other hand, by giving to such things their due weight in our feelings. It is this approach towards impartiality that constitutes growth in wisdom.

    Can wisdom in this sense be taught? And, if it can, should the teaching of it be one of the aims of education? I should answer both these questions in the affirmative. . .It is commonly urged that a point of view such as I have been advocating is incompatible with vigour in action. I do not think history bears out this view.

    Queen Elizabeth I in England and Henry IV in France lived in a world where almost everybody was fanatical, either on the Protestant or on the Catholic side. Both remained free from the errors of their time and both, by remaining free, were beneficent and certainly not ineffective. Abraham Lincoln conducted a great war without ever departing from what I have called wisdom.”

    — Bertrand Russell, Knowledge & Wisdom

  • TGGP

    Robin questioned an alleged bias toward war here.

  • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

    I have trouble understanding what was great about Lincoln’s war.

    I understand the survivalist point of the colonies banding together in the 18th century, but it seems to me that the US Civil War may have been the Iraq War II of its time: a huge waste of resources. No one was going to conquor the North by the mid-19th century if they let the South secede, British fantasies notwithstanding.

  • ad

    A cynic might argue that if the South stayed independent, it would have escaped from the tarriff barriers errected to benefit manufacturers in the North.

    And there is the slavery issue, of course.

    But the best way to support all troops everywhere would be to stop the wars ASAP.

    Robin, this is not necessarily true: many an army has paid its soldiers in loot. Think of Adrimal Croft in Persuasion, who feels sympathy for unfortunate postwar midshipmen, with no promotion or prize money to look forward to.

  • Shmuel

    “Also, I wonder what happens if you put up a bumper sticker that says “Support Our Civilians”.”

    Probably people that are like you would think it witty, and people unlike you would find it crass. People that have actually fought in wars and experienced its misery firsthand would find it naive and trite.

  • billswift

    “Some things are worth fighting and dying for.”

    Especially when someone else does the fighting and dying.

  • http://hirvinen.dy.fi/ Patrik Hirvinen

    @frelkins: I might be reading too much into it, but on your third comment “On this note, I’m outta here. . .” and on your fourth “Forgive me for returning, gentlemen.” make it look like you’re still mistaken about the rules on commenting.

  • TGGP

    Welcome to Planet Paleo, HA. We’re glad to have you here.

  • http://www.daegmorgan.net Raven Daegmorgan

    @dloye: I agree, its a wondrous thing our country was founded on all those things. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I see the logic of your point or the reason for your confusion. Before we begin bursting with patriotic pride at the principles our country was founded on and showering our love upon it, I note the Soviet Union was founded on the glorious principles of worker’s rights and freedom from the tyranny of the Czar.

    Clearly, just because a nation or any other group was founded or claims to be founded on certain principles doesn’t mean the nation itself adheres (or has adhered) to those principles. Those things you name are all just words that remain empty without consistent actions showcasing their meaning. I think I would prefer celebrating all those ideas in practice instead of celebrating either lip-service to them or their part of a tribal self-identity.

  • Johnathan

    Where can you buy a “Support Everyone’s Troops” bumper sticker in green like the one posted in the article?