Why I Will Not Rally Around the President

by Robert Jensen

We are told that in this time of crisis, all good Americans should rally around the president and the flag.

I will rally, but not around a leader calling for war or a symbol of nationalism.

It is easy to understand the emotion behind the chanting of “USA, USA.” But I will not chant.

In this time of crisis, I will rally around policies that seek peace and security, for all people everywhere. And instead of chanting, I will speak quietly about the grief we all feel, and loudly about the need to resist our leaders’ plans for global war.

Decent people agree that in this time of crisis, we cannot let the lines of color and culture, of language and religion, divide us. But we need to go another step, to understand that the lines dividing people based on nations are just as dangerous. We must also agree not to give in to the urge to value the lives of innocent Americans over the lives of innocent people in other countries.

For the past few days — in person and on the phone, through email and on the radio — I have been called “unpatriotic,” condemned as a “traitor” and labeled “anti-American” because my writing has opposed the drive to war, the call for blood to avenge those who died in the terror attacks.

But I also have heard from many others who also are concerned that U.S. officials will take us into a war that will bring only more death, pain and grief, leaving us less secure. They want to speak out but fear being attacked for not being “good Americans.”

This is a moment when we need the courage to say that being a good American does not mean supporting a war so violent and so indiscriminate that more innocent people will die.

That does not mean we renounce the ideals of freedom and justice so often associated with the United States; we should hold onto those ideals more fiercely than ever and put them into practice by resisting the rush to war.

We should honor the ideals of this country by saying, in as clear a voice as we can manage: Not in our name will the United States seek vengeance or go forward to kill.

It is important to read closely the joint resolution passed by Congress, which authorizes the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

That is not a resolution based on a quest for justice. It is an open-ended invitation to attack anyone U.S. leaders decide to target. And those leaders — Dick Cheney and Colin Powell among them — are some of the same people who during the Gulf War unleashed attacks not only on military targets but on civilians and the entire civilian infrastructure of Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people during and after the war. This resolution, and the statements from the Bush administration about an ongoing global war, suggest that what is coming will be even more frightening.

When we speak out against war in public, we will find support, but we also should expect hostility. We should expect the question posed by one of the people who wrote to condemn me: “Whose side are you on?”

The answers to that are simple:

I am on the side of the people — no matter where they live — who will suffer the violence, not the leaders — no matter where they live — who will plan it.

I am on the side of peace, not war.

I am on the side of justice, not vengeance.

And most important, I am on the side of hope, not despair.

We do not have the luxury of despair right now. There is too much at stake for too many people. CP

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu


Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Radical-Living-Learning-Gracefully/dp/1593766181 Robert Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://robertwjensen.org/. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving