Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

In Praise of Unspeakable Things

by John Chuckman

When I turn to the opinion pages of a major newspaper in the muscular, brawling Midwestern city where I grew up, it’s an unpleasantly fascinating experience, a little like what I imagine a victim of child abuse might feel, smiling at a family gathering, still painfully hoping to sense some normal affection from someone who has done unspeakable things.

The newspaper’s opinion pages recently have overflowed like a plugged toilet with unappetizing sludge you might call Franklin Graham patriotism. This a lethal mix of baton-twirling Christianity and “Let’s nuke ’em” – all delivered in the heartwarming drawl of speakers at a Jesse Helms testimonial dinner.

The poisonous sludge fairly bubbles with sentiments along the lines of: “Like Mom was telling me the time I was on leave from ‘Nam and we first met Mickey Mouse at Disney World.”

Letters praising people for flying little flags on their car antennas. Letters upbraiding people who let their little car-antenna flags fall on the street. A letter telling us how the writer stopped three times in one day to pick up fallen antenna-flags off the street. A letter from someone plaintively whining over a flag swiped from his lawn at night and pleading for its quiet return. I suspect this last one was from a newcomer to Chicago, because when I was growing up, everyone knew anything left outside would disappear.

Letters and editorials crow over the new show of patriotism, as though a lost art had been re-kindled, or a great idea re-discovered. An exciting renaissance of jingoism. It’s as though the Baby-Boom generation had pulled their SUVs en masse up to a revival-tent meeting and come forward to speak in tongues and roll on the floor. Gratifying, indeed.

It’s no use asking why that’s a good thing, although one suspects it’s so they’ll cheerfully pay the cost of a bountiful Christmas this year, and of many to come, for the those fine patriots in the defense industry. Likely too, it’s so they’ll meekly embrace the serious loss of freedom Mr. Bush has thoughtfully shepherded into law.

But the letter that meant the most to me was the one commenting on a front-page picture of a Special Forces soldier. The writer went into paroxysms of admiration for this shining, clean-living model for America’s youth, obviously unaware that this was the bunch of thugs that unquestioningly assassinated at least 20,000 civilian village leaders in Project Phoenix during the Viet Nam War. Ah yes, I thought, might this letter not easily, with a few names changed, be that of a middle-aged German in, say, 1940 praising the pressed uniform and smart attitude of a young SS officer as an example to all German youth.

Plus ?a change, plus c’est la m?me chose.

John Chuckman lives in Canada.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation wasted $32.2 million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians