Criticize Govt = Hate America?

Back in Tokyo after three weeks on the road promoting Fault Line, drained as usual after these things but happy. Not much of a break this time, either, with the Japanese version and the Rain Fall movie coming out this month, but these are quality problems and no complaints.

Got a whole lot to write about and not much time, so today, just one thought. I’ve been surprised by the amount of mail and reviews of Fault Line dismissing the book (and me) as anti-American, far left, etc. I don’t want to give away anything essential to the plot here, but I think it’s okay to say that in the book the US government is involved in a number of illegal activities, including assassinations. At which point, two questions present themselves.

First, is it not true that the USG is involved in illegal activities, including assassinations?

Second, why would pointing out that the government behaves illegally make one anti-American? At a minimum, such an argument would have to equate the government with America. Is this true? America = the government, no more, no less?

This is a worldview I find difficult to understand. When did the government come not just to represent America, but actually to *be* America, in the minds of people who think criticism of the government and hatred of America are the same thing? Adding to my befuddlement is my sense that the people advancing this line of argument typically call themselves conservative. Among their rank, of course, is Grover Norquist, a fellow who famously declared his desire to shrink the government to a size where he could “drown it in the bathtub.” I don’t understand — how could someone hate America so? Where’s the outrage?

Tell you what: I love my country, but frequently can’t stand the government. Trivial example: one night just last week, heading to a bookstore in Tyson’s Corner, VA, from one in Reston, I pulled into the toll booth to the Dulles toll road. There were two booths: one labeled Exact Change, the other, Full Service. Lacking change, I chose the latter. But — surprise! There was no attendant. I couldn’t back up, so I had to drive through, past the camera and the alarm bells. Five minutes later, I repeated the process at the exit ramp. I’m sure I’ll be getting a stiff set of tickets in the mail later this month. I’m equally sure the people who designed this system did so with full knowledge of how it would work, just to collect revenue. I think they’re all a bunch of government squeegee men. Does criticizing them mean I hate the entire polity, society, and culture of Northern Virginia?

It’s easy for me to criticize and sometimes even loathe the government while at the same time loving the country because it’s so obvious to me that the two are distinct. For others, apparently… not so much.

Other news: Fault Line is big in the blogosphere! The novel’s been covered in The Huffington Post, in Glenn Greenwald’s Unclaimed Territory on Salon, in Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, in Scott Horton’s No Comment on Harper’s, and in Obsidian Wings. It’s an honor to be mentioned in these blogs, all of which feature prominently in the novel, all of which I regularly read. Give ‘em a try — they’re well worth reading.