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wundayatta's avatar

When someone says, "I want my country back!" What is that code for?

Asked by wundayatta (58714points) January 12th, 2011
62 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

EtPro made this comment in another question about anti-government rhetoric. It made me wonder what the woman meant. Is she somehow no longer in her country? Did she get kicked out? Obviously not. So what does she mean? What promised land does “country” represent to people who say things like this?

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Summum's avatar

She wants the country to get back to what it used to be. When the government followed the Constitution and a person could work and earn a living for his family and have insurance. IMHO

thorninmud's avatar

“I want to hear my own values espoused by the leadership”

janbb's avatar

@thorninmud nailed it, I believe.

CaptainHarley's avatar

What @Summum said.

YoBob's avatar

It is not code for anything. It simply conveys the opinion that the way the country is currently being run has drifted away from the principals on which it was founded.

This is not, necessarily and anti-government statement. It is simply a difference of opinion with current governmental philosophy. Further, the ability to freely express such opinions is one of the core values upon which this nation was founded.

Nullo's avatar

The speaker is expressing discontent with the direction that the country has gone, and desires a return.
We’re not at the point where there’s a need for codes. Her statement is akin to a friend coming up to you and saying, “You’re not the wundayatta that I used to know!”

wundayatta's avatar

@Nullo So they have no specific ideas in mind, just this vague sense that things aren’t as they once were? I don’t believe you or @YoBob. I think they have some quite specific things in mind, but I’m just not sure what they are. Like maybe being against “giving money to people who aren’t working” or something like that.

CaptainHarley's avatar


They may well have “specific things” in mind, but it would be hell trying to figure out what those were!

bkcunningham's avatar

Who knows what she meant. I suppose you’d have to ask her what she meant. To me, personally, wanting to take the country back means taking back control of our individual lives and freedoms once again from a growing federal government. Governing by the meaning set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Not allowing people with empirical views on what is right and correct and proper to make decisions for us with a flurry of laws and legislation, but having faith in people to make their own decisions. If that fails, having faith in our Constitution and the ability to amend the parts that aren’t working as opposed to ignoring the document.

Taking back control on the local and state levels of government as opposed to control of issues on the federal level. Also, getting control on the federal level through the three legislative branches where a system of checks and balances are in place to restrict power. It means getting control of our national debt and stop outrageous spending. It means having a democratic republic where people’s vote’s aren’t overturned by judicial lobbying.

It means taking control by we, the people, instead of special interests, PACs and other lobbyists who influence our representatives. It means our representatives looking out for our interests and keeping the promises they made when they were elected into office.

thorninmud's avatar

I have certainly had the “I want my country back!” sentiment, too.

For me, it’s very specific: I feel like the country has been hijacked by money. I want my country back from the influence of money.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham abd @thorninmud Those answers were helpful to me. Thank you.

Do you think it’s possible to get your country back?

Judi's avatar

When I heard the woman say that during the election I laughed, mostly at her ignorance. Judging by her age, she went to school pre Regan, when government was not a demon, when we invested in education and infrastructure and considered government a necessity for civilized society, not something to be minimized and demonized.
Obviously she wanted something different at that moment, she wanted the Christian right and the Republicans in charge, but she didn’t realize how contrary that was to the America of the 50’s and 60’s.
It could also be fear of the racial diversity that our country has now and wanting to take it back from the “others.”

thorninmud's avatar

@wundayatta Possible, maybe, in the sense that there are some concrete steps that would make a huge difference in weakening the power of money, especially public financing of campaigns.

Likely? No. The leaders in power are the ones who have known how to work the present system better than their competitors. By changing the rules of the game, they would be giving up the advantage that their money-raising and influence-peddling talents give them. It’s hard to imagine what would lead them to do that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m nostalgic for something that was in the past and don’t get that things change.

Nullo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir There’s change, and then there’s misdirection. We ought to be able to turn around and drive back to where we diverged into the alternate 1955.

Summum's avatar

The country began to decline when the Federal Reserve was put in place. It would be nice to go back to that time frame and start to build America to the greatest country again.

YoBob's avatar

@Summum Speaking of the Federal Reserve, this is something that is worth a look.

josie's avatar

It is not a code for anything. It means the speaker does not believe that the current intellectual and political leadership represent her values, that once upon a time they did represent her values, and she longs for the pendulum to swing and return their values to be more like hers. There is still a First Amendment. No code required. Just takes time.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Nullo – your misdirection is my progress and vice versa – it’s all subjective.

JLeslie's avatar

I like @Judi answer. She summed up how I interpet the phrase well. They don’t really have an accurate account of history I think. There were times in history our taxes were much much higher, and under God was added after WWII into the pledge, and I could go on.

But, I will add this from my more pessimistic feelings I try to fight back. I don’t hear liberals using this specific phrase, however I do say, “I feel the country is on the wrong path,” which is similar, when Bush was in office. Country back, when I hear it from southerners stirs in my head people who remember a better time, when blacks were slaves, Christianity was in public school, and God was not being attacked.~ Now, I do not think everyone who uses that phrase thinks like this, but I think some fit the bill.

Others probably just parrot the phrase, because they hear it from people within the party they identify with, but all they mean is what @thorninmud said, they just want to have politicians in office that agree with their positions on policy.

Austinlad's avatar

Great answers above. Here’s the way I put it: She wants things to be the way she believes they should be.

JLeslie's avatar

I was going to add that maybe this feeling is coming out of more rural areas that are changing, becoming more progressive, and also there actually is more government now in their towns! What do you think? My town is only around 12,000 people. They for the last few years have been working on plans for the future, how they will permit and zone the land as developers buy it up. We do not have a local property tax, just county, but most town officials think as the population grows eventually we will need to be taxed. The people are horrified by the thought, dead set against it. Generally as populations grow, more structure is needed. This is true about where we live, where we work, even families that have 10 children probanly need more rules and structure than a family with 2.

More rural parts of the country I think have less awareness of what the federal govenment does, and in my particular part of the country much of the local government sucks. People who in their own perception live more off of the land; I think in their perception they just want to be left alone to live their life. But, some of the irony is they also feel very patriotic, almost nationalistic, but they fail to know what gave this country great power. We were leaders in the industrial revolution, unions fought to increase the wage of laborers and grew our middle class, we had education for everyone, and a strong military. If we want to maintain our power and leadership in the world, we need to spend money on researching in industries that will give us an economic advantage in the world market, not be in deep debt to other nations, and treat all people with respect and pay them a decent wage.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie I see what you are saying. But just what is it you think the federal government is suppose to do and how does it do that? You mentioned spending money on researching industries for an economic advantage and also, not “be in debt to other nations.” Whose money do you want to spend researching industries and how does that help any economic market?

963chris's avatar

i think it is the sign that the person may very well be a jackass merely mouthing off (yet another) platitude while trying to appear sagacious. ;)

CaptainHarley's avatar

[ Wonders if he’s just been Dissed! ]

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Our money, we are the country. Of course the well known example is energy. Getting off of oil would be huge, not being dependent on other countries. Medical research also, which we do fund through the government already of course. People don’t realize how important government funds and research move forward our knowledge of medicine and science. People think pharmaceutical companies and private funds do most of this work, but that is simply not true, both are important public and private industry. The governement can be more long term minded, focus on the greater good. Private, for profit, industry looks only at the almighty dollar. I was talking to someone a while back who thinks thr government does nothing good, we were talking about a friend of ours who does research for repairing major bone breaks. A product that would help the bone grow faster and dissolve in the body on its’ own like stitches that dissolve. The federal government gave his team grant money, and two other scienctific companies also have grants working on the project. The guy I was talking to said, “see the government doesn’t do research, private citizens do.” He twists it in his mind. No, the government is funding the research, and the National Institutes of Health do significant amounts of research with government money and employees. It was NCI at NIH that we isolated the AIDS virus. the federal government helped to the genome project. Helped rid the planet of small pox.

The future has a lot to do with scientific research in this world. As our medical science improves hopefully it will result in less disease and less money spent in the end, and medical expenses are huge.

The middle class is what has set us apart for most of the 20th century. A family making $100k buys two cars and a house, a man making $1m a year, buys maybe three cars, and two houses, but if he was making $800k, he could still do that, and 8 other people making 25k now, could take the balance of the $200k, make 50k eachand do some serious spending, family would have more opportunities, and the money would be circulating more. That of course is a very elementary example, but it is the basic idea, and we have proven it works.

Not_the_CIA's avatar

I will just say it.

It means “I can’t believe a nigger is president.”

The Bush years were painful for Liberals. But we didn’t say stuff like, “I want my country back!” We didn’t because it was stupid.

mammal's avatar

i want my country back too, i don’t want it run by multi nationals, i don’t want it tied to aggressive American foreign policy, purely for economic perks. Believe me.

DominicX's avatar

“I have a romanticized view of the past and I falsely believe going back to that time would be better, but in reality it would be just as problematic as today is”.

mammal's avatar

@DominicX sometimes if you take a wrong turn, it is prudent to retrace your steps. no shame in that.

syzygy2600's avatar

@Not_the_CIA “The Bush years were painful for Liberals. But we didn’t say stuff like, “I want my country back!” We didn’t because it was stupid.”

Actually, you did. Maybe not you personally, but I recall many American liberals expressing sentiments like this during the Bush years.

As a foreigner I’m continually amazed by the knee jerk reactions in American politics. Disagree with a conservative – you hate freedom. Disagree with a liberal – you’re a racist.

YoBob's avatar

@Not_the_CIA, So, to you anyone who does not share your liberal political philosophy is a racist who is stupid (your word, not mine) for expressing that opinion?

FWIW, My first choice of presidential candidate was Dr. Rice, a black woman who was much more qualified to occupy the big chair than a man who’s only experience on the federal level consisted of one term as a junior senator, the bulk of which was spent on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, she chose not to run.

As a side note, I believe one of the primary factors in the Democratic victory in that particular election cycle was very much a “Take our country back from those evil Republicans” mentality.

syzygy2600's avatar

@YoBob Well said. It’s really pathetic when anyone who doesn’t think Obama is the greatest human to ever exist is called a racist by liberals. It’s a pretty close minded opinion for people who pride themselves on being open minded.

mammal's avatar

in the early 1980’s Subhumans a British punk band, wrote a song entitled remember the day the country died….at a time when Margret Thatcher thought it politically expedient to embrace American Imperialism and the lure of easy money, accruing from just such a criminal partnership.

Well, my country died the day Tony Blair, a so called man of the left, revealed how utterly abject and humiliatingly dependent Britain truly was upon the special relationship by allying itself with the inexcusably horrifying US decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Words cannot even begin to touch upon the bitterness of that treachery, any attempt at such, would singe the tongue, before they even left the mouth.

Jeruba's avatar

“I want to live in a place where everybody thinks like me, because us is right and them is wrong. And the best way to accomplish that is to get rid of all them who don’t.”

963chris's avatar

with the advent of the age of simulation + simulacra there is no such thing as history anymore. to talk of such purity in origins is chasing one’s tail.

YARNLADY's avatar

I agree with @DominicX People who say that have a very romanticized memory of the way things were and want to return to that mythical place. It’s another way of saying the good old days. But memory has a way of being very selective.

cockswain's avatar

@Not_the_CIA LOL! That’s my gut impression too, but probably not well-reasoned. I don’t think you hear lots of gay, latino, or black people saying it. And you probably don’t hear as many women saying it as men. But I’m just guessing. There are intelligent reasons for saying it too.

laureth's avatar

It’s possible to dislike Obama’s policies and not be a racist. However, when the ranks of white supremacist organizations swelled after the election, it’s a fair bet that people like @Not_the_CIA are on to something.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth The statement “most white supremacists have a conservative political philosophy” is very different from “most people with a conservative political philosophy are white supremacists”.

While the first statement may very well be true, the second is a gross generalization used as a cheap shot designed to demonize any that do not share your political world view. Perhaps I am naive in expecting more from intelligent jellies.

cockswain's avatar

oooh, passive aggressiveness

laureth's avatar

@YoBob, what I’m suggesting is that “I want my country back” is often a result of feeling like your country’s no longer “the country you used to know,” and that perhaps it’s changing too fast for one’s taste. With the election of Barack Obama, I can easily imagine a bunch of people feeling that way. And statistically, there was a noticeable uptick in membership in White Supremacist organizations around the election that would suggest that people who were borderline before were pushed into joining these organizations by a black president. is it really such a longshot to suggest that people moved to join racist organizations because they are uncomfortable having Obama as president might “want their country back?” I said nothing of conservative views except that you can have them and not be a racist.

Here’s a passage from a book I’m reading right now, Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane by John Amato and David Neiwert:

In all, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in Montgomery, Alabama, counted more than 200 “hate-related” incidents in the first few weeks after the election of Barack Obama, a number that more than doubled after the inauguration. We called up the SPLC’s Mark Potok for his thoughts on what was happening. Here’s what he said:

“I think there’s something remarkable happening out there. I think we really are beginning to see a white backlash that may grow fairly large. The situation’s worrying.

“Not only do we have continuing nonwhite immigration, not only is the economy in the tank and very likely to get worse, but we have a black man in the White House. That is driving a kind of rage in a certain sector of the white population that is very, very worrying to me.

“We are seeing literally hundreds of incidents around the country – from cross-burnings to death threats to effigies hanging to confrontations in schoolyards, and it’s quite remarkable.

“I think that there are political leaders out there who are saying incredibly irresponsible things that could have the effect of undamming a real flood of hate. That includes media figures. On immigration, they have been some of the worst.

“There’s a lot going on, and it’s very likely to lead to scapegoating. And in the end, scapegoating leaves corpses in the street.”

Among the indicators of this spike in violent white racism was a sharp increase in business for white-supremacist web sites like the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront. It collected more than 2,000 new members the day after the election. One poster to the Stormfront site, a North Las Vegas resident going by the moniker Dalderian Germanicus, reflected the consensus sentiment in the comments: ’“I want that SOB laid out in a box to see how ‘messiahs’ come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed.”

That theme popped up a lot among the denizens of the extremist Right in the weeks after the election. One middle-aged Georgian, quoted by an Associated press reporter, voiced the typical view: “I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades, and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.”

For the American Right, 2008 was indeed the end of the world.

YoBob's avatar

@laureth Alas, as it has been since the dawn of humanity, there is no shortage of people who find groups other than their own (however they choose to define their group) distasteful. It remains, however, a rather large, and IMHO disingenuous, leap to go from “I want my country back!” to the suggested meaning posed by @Not_the_CIA.

“I want my country back” is not some sort of secret rallying cry among racist bigots (although I acknowledge that it could be used as such). It simply means, as suggested in previous posts, that one believes the country has moved away from some previous ideal.

iamthemob's avatar

When anyone says it, it’s wrong. It’s not your country. It’s our country. All of ours.

That’s the unfortunate result of true freedom.

wundayatta's avatar

A colleague and I had lunch together today, and we were talking about the meaning of “I want my country back.” He lives in North Carolina, which, as many of you know, has a huge contrast in the general views of the population when you compare the academic areas to the rest of the State. I guess he has family out in the hinterlands.

He was visiting and talking about a phrase—maybe “IWMCB” or maybe some other equally coded exhortation. He asked his relative some questions about what she meant and what her idea was based on, and she just exploded—unwilling or unable to answer his questions.

I’m sure I’m jumping to conclusions here, but my sense is that just as certain religious sayings such as “the sanctity of life” are used by people to identify others of their view of the country, “IWMCB” is something similar for persons of certain political views.

We then started talking about the spitting rage that Conservative pundits often serve up over the airwaves, and wondered why there were so few liberals who did the same thing. Why don’t liberals get spitting, slaveringly angry nearly as often as conservatives do?

He said there was a study about this. The researchers were looking at the effect of losing on testosterone and cortisol levels. Most people, it turns out, have reduced testosterone and cortisol levels when they lost (say their team loses or they get fired or their political candidate loses). However, conservative cortisol and testosterone levels rise after a specific kind of loss: the loss of their political candidate.

So conservatives get much more angry in response to political losses. Liberals have lower testosterone and cortisol when their candidate loses. They lose affect and get depressed.

I don’t know why there is this difference. It would be interesting to offer a theory or two. Perhaps conservatives have higher testosterone levels in general. Perhaps having higher levels make it easier for people to flip out. Whether testosterone increases a desire to affiliate with conservatives, or being conservative raises your testosterone level, I have no idea.

Perhaps it’s a whole lifestyle and life choices thing. More of a willingness to fight or take tough responses to just about anything they don’t like. I’m just speculating. But I do think there is a general character difference between conservatives and liberals. They have different personality types, on average.

cockswain's avatar

Very interesting.

laureth's avatar

@wundayatta – Conservative types are also notably ruled by fear, even if this is something they might not like to admit. (I’m also sure it doesn’t relate to any conservatives that may ever read this, just like no conservatives that will ever read this are racist.) But fear comes from deep in the gut, a more visceral response than something that is reasoned out. Fear that the country isn’t “theirs” anymore (because of policies they don’t like, or a president from a race they don’t like – or are afraid of) could cause that spitting rage as a kind of overcompensation. Of course, like I said before, it’s not any of you reading this that feels that way – it’s all those other guys out there.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta I know I got depressed when Bush won. The second time I was more depressed than the first, but for both I was in a fog for a couple of weeks.

@laureth I agree Conservative are ruled by fear, especially those on the far right; I blame it on religion mostly; but I think liberals are fearful also. The some, not all, Republicans I know in the south feel the liberals want to take away God, take all of their money, give their money to people who are a burden on society, and that those people who are a burden are hopeless and will never learn or do better. They want their Confederecy back.

I think at this point both sides are terrified, because the sides are so polarized now. When the other guy wins, it means the country could take a very different turn.

YoBob's avatar

So now conservatives, with the exception of those who read @laureth‘s posts, are not only racist, but motivated by fear? Perhaps it would be enlightening to look up the definition of the term bigot and consider how this applies to the tenancy among some participants in this discussion to stereotype those who do not share their political philosophies.

I do think that @wundayatta is on to something about testosterone levels. However, I believe it has much more to do with Alpha leadership traits and dominant/submissive roles in social orders than it does with a fear response.

JLeslie's avatar

@YoBob Interesting theory.

Judi's avatar

I could buy that since conservatives (in my experience) tend to be more concerned with “me me me” and progressives tend to be more nurturing, caring about society as a whole.

wundayatta's avatar

You know I don’t like conservative ideas, but @Judi, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Look at all those religious communities. They’ll reach a hand out to anyone who is willing to let themselves be saved. Maybe even to others, as well. They give money to charity and they care about individuals—many of them do, anyway.

Me, me, me, is a capitalist kind of thing, and Reps are the party of the business folks. But there are many businessfolk who understand that if they don’t treat their people right, and if the society isn’t doing well, their businesses will fail.

I think the arguments are about the best way to move the economy forward. I think we all agree we want it to get better. But people are starting to think someone is crazy if they want to cut (or raise) taxes. Either way, someone says jobs are being destroyed.

iamthemob's avatar

I think that @wundayatta‘s right. I would say that both sides are about wanting society to be better as a whole, about caring about everyone – but they want to help on their terms. Both.

laureth's avatar

@YoBob – When I say “ruled by fear,” I am not attempting to be a bigot. Did you read my link? Perhaps this video will explain the concept in a way that is less offensive to you.

iamthemob's avatar

@laureth – I just referenced that video (and you bringing it to our attention) in two or three other threads on this type of thing. It’s awesome.

laureth's avatar

@iamthemob – Thanks. I mean, it’s easy to be offended if you think someone’s calling you a “scaredy cat” or similar. But that’s not what I mean at all. I think those with a more liberal ideology have been shown to have other qualities, such as “more open to new things,” which can translate to “being less afraid to try new ways of living or novel solutions to problems,” which is pretty much what I’m given to believe is much harder for conservatives (who, by definition, prefer to conserve and use the tried-and-often-true solutions). It’s not me being a jerk, I’m just observing. Of course, it does seem as though everything I say can be mocked and made to look offensive if the reader really wants to.

iamthemob's avatar

@laureth – I find the idea that I can be offended so easily because of my reading and not what you say particularly and personally offensive. ;-)

laureth's avatar

@iamthemob – Sadly, perception is often reality.

Nullo's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir If it’s all subjective, then why ought a person not try to change things back?
You have essentially said that the stance that you take on the issue of progress vs. misdirection is of no importance, rendering your own participation in this thread pointless.

@DominicX Think of it this way: The romanticized past may not have existed. But it is entirely possible – probable, even – that the effort to recreate an imaginary past would end in the desired future. Instead of going back, you’re moving towards a better forward.

@Not_the_CIA Liberals cannot imagine any useful reason for a person to not like Barry, so obviously dissenters must be racist. :\

laureth's avatar

@Nullo – We liberals can imagine reasons why you might not like him, we just don’t agree with all of them. And, this may surprise you, but not every liberal approves of Obama either. Some think he’s sold out far too much to the Right.

If only we could run a controlled experiment with a right-leaning black president (Colin Powell, perhaps) and see how many Americans run out to join racist organizations afterward.

YoBob's avatar

Oh yes, @laureth, I read your link. It’s just that I put about as much stock in articles from UC Berkeley News as many of the more left leaning put in news stories from the Fox network.

The video stream doesn’t seem to be working on my system, I’ll try again later, time permitting.

As for a right-leaning black president, it would indeed have been very interesting to observe the effects on our collective perceptions. At minimum, it would serve to more accurately separate those with conservative political views from those who are truly racist. I find it unfortunate on many levels that Dr. Rice chose not to step up to the plate.

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