Josh Marshall on that creepy word, "homeland"
I dunno. While I wasn't watching, somebody seems to have swapped in the orginal Josh Marshall and gotten rid of the kidnapped one. This is interesting:
A week ago I saw this piece in The Nation which picked up on a Chris Matthews rant about how defense and security of the "homeland" has become a commonplace phrase in the year's since 9/11. I was heartened by this because this has been a pet issue of mine going back to the months just after 9/11. As I wrote more than a dozen years ago, the phrase "does have a deep blood and soil tinge to it which is distinctly Germanic, more than a touch un-American, and a little creepy."
At this point using the phrase almost seems natural and with the Department of Homeland Security it's part of the official national vocabulary. It's so pervasive it's hard not to use it, if for no other reason than that people might otherwise not know quite what you're referring to.
But here's what Matthews says ...
"I am very uncomfortable with the phrase ‘homeland.' It strikes me as totalitarian. It's a term used by the neocons, they love it. It suggests something strange to me. Like who else are we defending except America? Why don't you just say ‘America'? Why doesn't [Obama] say we defended against attacks against this country? As if we're facing some existential Armageddon threat from these people. Do you buy the phrase ‘homeland'? I never heard it growing up, never heard it in my adulthood. It's a new word. Why are we using it? Is there some other place we're defending? What are we talking about when we say ‘homeland'? What's it about?
With all the things that's happened since the 9/11 attacks, it might seem quaint or precious to focus on a mere word. But words have consequences and they shape thought. To me, beyond the simply un-American sound of the phrase, there are two problems with it.
One is that it does have a strong blood and soil element to it - a sense that our connection to this piece of land is about ethnicity or ancestry, something that doesn't square with our highest national ideals and doesn't even add up in a purely factual sense.
The second Matthews alludes to or poses as a rhetorical question without quite answering. And this is part of why it resonated so much just after 9/11. When Matthews says "Who else are we defending?", I think the answer is this: implicit in the 'homeland' terminology is an imperial vision of America's role in the world. There's defense - which is something safely beyond our borders but operating in areas of our control and dominance and then there's us proper - the homeland.
In other words, the "homeland" is where blowback never reaches. Of course, that's not true. And Obama's air strikes and drones and special ops dudes and mercs won't make it any more true. Obama's wars are setting us up for blowback for years to come.