Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's American for "Travail, Famille, Patrie"?

How about "Faith, Family, Freedom"?

For the record, I still think "covenant marriage" is a load of nonsense, for the very same reasons I listed in the Maroon way back when.


David Schraub said...

That's been the Family Research Council's tag-line for years. The FRC being one of the more repellent groups to operate in mainstream politics, it's disappointing (but not surprising) Huckabee would lift from them.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Huh, plagiarized and ridiculous. It would have been more amusing if he'd lifted "Work, Family, Homeland," but so be it.

Withywindle said...

But, of course, work, family, country, faith, and freedom are all good things.

Anonymous said...

Kinder, Küche, Kirche - was the German for Children, Kitchen, and Church.

Huckabee's rancid populism mixed with his rustic religion would be a poor way to head into th 21st century.

So much for Old Europe, eh? When Huckabee was governor, he did not just reject Darwin - but he heaped ridcicule on believers of evolution.

But he is a nice guy

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


"Patrie" is really "homeland" or "fatherland" more than it is "country," and can imply an exclusive definition of the nation. So that's what's wrong with "patrie." "Famille" is indeed "family," but who's to say the government needs to involve itself in family life, enough to make that activity part of its slogan? Faith, as far as I'm concerned, can be good or bad, but unless we're speaking about faith in the American people, it has no place in American politics. I'd pare it down to "work and freedom," which is, admittedly, not so catchy and vaguely communist-sounding.

Anonymous said...

How about Truth, Justice, and the American way - Superman's old slogan can sound either liberal or rightish - depending on ones pov. But it's a non dogmatic slogan that still manages to avoid the often inspid quality of inclusive propaganda. It's bold - but not triumphalist.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I'm going to go with "Freedom, Cheese, and Dachshunds." Until a candidate uses that slogan, I'll vote, but unenthusiastically.

Withywindle said...

"Country" is as ambiguous as "Patrie"--a countryman used to be a Kentishman, say. Homeland and fatherland are not idiomatic to America. I rather think the government's policy is inseparable from family formation. And of course my politics are not yours. More to the point, I think, is that there are a limited number of admirable values out there, all of them subject to multiple connotations, and the number of slogans is therefore rather limited. Your equivalence of one American slogan with a Vichy one is, to my mind, tendentious. Should I say that John Edwards, a liberal Democrat, is tainted by the Liberal Democratic party of Russia? Or of Japan? Etc.

Now, the interesting thing about slogans is not so much what they prioritize (usually banal) as what they fail to mention--hence, implicitly, disposable. The Vichy trilogy does not include freedom--and the implicit message is that family and faith are worth more than liberty. The Huckabee/FRC trilogy does include freedom--and I think you should take seriously its place in the avowed trilogy of priorities.

The place of travaille--work, labor--in the Vichy slogan is fascinating. My own research begins to touch on the place of work--virtu transformed, I think--in European intellectual history. Arbeit macht frei is a Hegelian thought, it turns out, and not originally sinister. I learn new things every day.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

The point of my last comment was that I would probably find any three vague words strung together into a slogan off-putting. As you say, what's left out is important, and important things are bound to be left off. But why take up one of the three slots with "Faith"? That word is far from banal and meaningless. Also, "Travail, Famille, Patrie" was a right-wing slogan prior to Vichy, and Vichy itself was not necessarily fascist, so I did not compare the Republican party to the Nazis, if that was a concern. But finally, I really do think "patrie" has a different connotation than "country," and that the equivalent to "country" is "pays." Certain slogans are more exclusive than others. "Faith," like "Patrie," implies that, according to the government (or would-be government) one can be less than fully of a country as a citizen of that country, without breaking any laws.

Withywindle said...

1. I do have a positive attitude toward faith, indeed for its civic functions--but here read a long and predictable series of disagreeements, where I have nothing particularly original to contribute. I suppose I would favor its inclusion in a slogan (if, indeed, one must have slogans) precisely because it is neither banal nor meaningless.

2. I'm perfectly willing to take Vichy as non-Nazi; the comparison to an authoritarian movement with a weak commitment to democracy remains uncomplimentary.

3. Patrie distinction noted.

4. I do think there is a very great difference between a singular governmental slogan and the slogan of one advocacy group, a slogan in a country littered with slogans. (Surely you can think of slogans on the left at least as 'exclusive'?) A governmental slogan might have the effect of lessening a sense of universal citizenship--but its simply creating a brand in the American political marketplace. Put another way: the desire to create a sect is very different from the desire to create a universal church. (Insert thesis of how the dissenting Protestant religious background of the US makes for a very different political constellation from the Catholic religious background of France.) Both can exclude, but the exclusion of the former is far less ambitious than the exclusion of the latter--and, indeed, in many ways congenial to liberty, not antithetical.

Anonymous said...

" ... I do have a positive attitude toward faith, indeed for its civic functions."

Utilitarian mysticism is a form of intellectual snobbery - with no meaningful place in a secular Republic.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

What are faith's "civic functions"? What faith?

Withywindle said...

1) "Utilitarian mysticism is a form of intellectual snobbery." I would rephrase this as a critique of the Tory squire position--that religion is OK for the lower classes, but not needed for the elites. I do not hold that that position. Faith is also essential for the elites. As for "utilitarian"--while I think faith an essential buttress of the civic order, that isn't the point of faith; no, the point of faith is love of God, not love of the republic.

2) "With no meaningful place in a secular Republic." Why should you think a secular republic requires secular citizens?

3) "What are faith's "civic functions"? What faith?" To be a proper citizen in a republic requires character--virtue. It is not impossible to acquire that character absent faith, but faith is a better nursery of such character than its absence. As to what faith?--obviously, the argument was developed in Christian Europe. But even in its classical formulation, in early modern England--by the 1640s and 1650s, anyway--there was already the idea that multiple sects could provide the proper character for citizens. This opens the argument to allow for all faiths to provide such character. Practically, of course, the longer a faith has wrestled with Greco-Roman thought, and interpenetrated its religious vocabulary with Greco-Roman civic vocabulary, the easier it is for faith and civic character to support one another. I would take Christianity to have the most intensive such interpenetration (nb., The City of God, followed fairly closely by Judaism, and with Islam some distance behind.

Anonymous said...

"Why should you think a secular republic requires secular citizens?"

I never said it requires secular citizens - It's a bit presumptuous of you to make such a leap of argument from a to b.

Secular republic is supposed to be neutral. Peoples religous beliefs are a seperate issue.