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John Wayne's Holster: Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Scoundrels
John Wayne's Holster
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Photo Credit: Prairie Pictures

Woo-hoo! It’s the 4th of July! Well, almost.

As the nation prepares to celebrate its 232nd year of Independence, we must stop and remind ourselves of the great price our forefathers paid to secure the freedom we enjoy today. In most of the towns and cities across the nation, there will be flags hung out on the front porch, picnics in the back yard, parades down Main Street, and concerts & speeches in the town square. Most of the revelry will focus on our history. The founding fathers will be resurrected, and the talk will focus on patriotism.

That got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing). What exactly is patriotism? And what role does it play in our present lives?

According to Merriam-Webster, patriotism is defined as a “love for or devotion to one's country.” Sounds like something we should all aspire to.

I should think most Americans would like to claim to have at least some level of patriotism - however shallow that may be. Singing the National Anthem at the ball park is swell and everything, but I don’t think that doing so necessarily makes one patriotic. Nor is blindly supporting the actions of our government.

It seems to me that patriotism requires more than that. If one truly loves one’s country, he/she will demand that his/her country champion a higher standard, and hold it accountable when it violoates that standard. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn summed it up best, stating, “Patriotism means unqualified and unwavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank assessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them.

If only such men were alive today.

Instead, we have a Congress composed of careerist politicians who act as agents for corporate interests, be they national or global. Acting as such, the Congress has betrayed those who voted for them – those people whom they maintain they represent. The Executive Branch of our country is no different. Here again, corporate interests reign supreme. The Oval Office has been reduced to a lobby for moneyed interests.

This betrayal of America is evidenced by the sell-out of American workers through so-called “fair trade” treaties like NAFTA, GATT, and CAFTA, tax-payer funded bail-outs of both the automotive and airline industries, the bilking of investors by the cancellation of K-Mart stocks, the tax breaks giving to large corporations, the deregulation of the banking system, the surrender of our monetary system to a private interest - the Federal Reserve System, tax payer-funded government subsidies to private corporate interests. The list goes on…

And now we have this on-going war in Iraq. Certainly, one could make some argument that military action in the region was in the best interest of our National Security. Saddam was a destabilizing force in the region, and he conspired to assassinate former President Bush. Taking him out seemed prudent. And I supported the action. Well, now Saddam is gone. The lice-ridden would-be-king was dragged from his spider hole and hoisted up to the rafters like a piñata. Mission was apparently accomplished. Yet, we are still there. And still nation-building.

Maybe national security was not the real issue after all. Perhaps securing access to oil was the issue. As was creating a more stable political environment for corporate ventures. All this was and is being funded by the taxpayer, and paid for with the blood of our soldiers and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, the oil industry and corporate interests rake in the profits.

Going to war is no small feat. It requires a lot of support from the citizenry to get the Congress to authorize such action. So just how did the current administration garner the public support that made going to war possible?

For starters, they orchestrated a brilliant campaign that turned the notion of true patriotism on its head. The flag was dragged out, displayed prominently, and waved freely. Falconers released their trained eagles to soar over public gatherings while the band struck-up its repertoire of Sousa marches. Emotional speeches memorializing past heroes, warnings of imminent dangers, and pleas for immediate action were made against this star-spangled back-drop. It was a performance that would have made Himler envious. Anyone questioning the motives or objectives of the government was cast as unrealistic or cowardly – even a traitor. In a nutshell, the expression of true patriotism was made to seem, well - unpatriotic.

Nazi Luftwaffe Commander, Hermann Goering summed the strategy up best, stating, “Naturally the common people don’t want war…But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along... All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

So that's patriotism for you. Blind allegiance to one's country. Unquestioning support to official policy. Right or wrong, the best nation on earth.

Well, I love this country too much to follow the lemmings over the cliff. I consider myself as American as John Wayne and apple pie. But please, please, please, do not call me a patriot!


At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Around here,It usually rains on the 4th of July.



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