FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Patriotism: Signs of Saturation

by JAMES ROTHENBERG

It is necessary to begin with an acknowledgment that the word, patriotism, is not ordinarily used as a pejorative, hence, would not easily be recognized as such. Naturally this has something to do with dictionary usage, but more – far more – for the way states prepare the minds and habits of their people. The soft term would be persuasion. The harder and more operative term is exploitation.

The weekend CounterPunch adaptation of a 2001 article by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, The Good War, Revisited, includes a quote from Charles Beard (1874-1948), a portion here re-quoted:

“In short, with the Government of the United States committed under a so-called bipartisan foreign policy to supporting by money and other forms of power for an indefinite time an indefinite number of other governments around the globe, the domestic affairs of the American people became appendages to an aleatory [uncertain; chancy] expedition in the management of the world…” (emphasis added).

The citizen as appendage is not an appealing metaphor, and yet it is not only taken but taken exceedingly well by most Americans. And if it was true when Beard said it, that we and what we do are mere appendages to a growing imperialism, how much more true must it be today. No matter. Dan Rather, media figurehead, expressed this American “condition” when he stated that George Bush just has to tell him where to line up and he’ll do it. Yeah, he said that. The guy who was so tough on Nixon (not really).

I’m just off a weeklong holiday trip involving some legs on Southwest Airlines. It’s easily my favorite airline and I enjoy the liberty they give to the flight attendants to act out their personalities, although I get the sense that much of their schtick originates in-house.

On one of the flights there were some young, uniformed military personnel. I had noticed in the pre-flight waiting area a young man and woman, both in camouflage fatigues, she with a large backpack. As we inched to the gate at the end of one leg, an attendant solemnly requested that all passengers remain seated while these – in rough paraphrase – brave men and women who have just been deployed overseas and will be fighting on our behalf so that we may remain free have the honor of exiting first. This request was greeted by some polite applause, and then a woman began singing God Bless America. Several seemed to join her but it quickly died out. And then the troops exited to more applause.

A scene like this (familiar to many readers) renders with clarity the excellent selling job the state has done to its “appendages” in pursuance of its power arrangements. It is at once maddening, sad, and tragic.

Maddening that so many people can’t (or won’t) see through a selling technique that, while cleverly done, shouldn’t fool anybody. Sad to witness the Dependent Mind, the mind given over to authority and orthodoxy. Tragic that the young will learn to hate, fight, and die, and cause the reciprocal.

And all at once to see how saturated the country is with a patriotism that is blind to its rotten core. That makes it useless to interfere with the flight attendant that they’re not fighting on our behalf and that only our own government can take away our freedom. That makes it useless to shout down the clapping and singing. That makes it useless to do anything to embarrass the young soldiers that are on the wrong end of all this who actually might bleed and die and never come back. How useless is this patriotism.

And how we respond to this bleeding and dying conforms to our political views about war-making. How are wars started and should it make a difference which side was the aggressor?

One response to this resulted in something known as Patriot Golf Day, after that darling creation of our legislature, the Patriot Act. As a life member (longevity, retired) of the Professional Golfers Association of America and one who still receives media from the association, I’m presented with some of the promotion associated with this particular day.

It began when Dan Rooney, golf professional turned F-16 fighter pilot in Iraq and just off his second tour, had an experience on a commercial airliner like the one just described, only more sobering. The captain’s voice over the intercom:

We have an American hero on board making his final journey from Iraq.

Killed by accident. A chain hoist striking him across the neck. Rooney waited with the other passengers and saw below on the tarmac the American-flag-draped coffin that had been removed from the plane. It was the first war coffin he had seen and it moved him to create a local Fallen Heroes golf tournament with proceeds going to the children of soldiers killed in the war. He quickly expanded it into the national Patriot Golf Day, with support from corporations and associations, amongst them my association, the PGA of America.

Rooney was no stranger to death. He had just never seen it up close. Speeding along at high altitude, supersonically and imperviously, while dropping bombs insulates one from what happens on the ground. The pain. The suffering. The coffins.

His response to the coffin on the tarmac in the rain and the pain of the family members might have taken a different trajectory. He might have wondered, for instance, who is to blame for this? Instead of counting only the lost American lives, he might have at least considered the infinitely more lost Iraqi lives, the more so because we went there. They didn’t come here.

Others have gone through similar experiences to his and come to different conclusions, among them Veterans For Peace, that publishes The War Crimes Times. The masthead:

We will abolish war crimes when we abolish war – which is a crime in itself

Any question of honor – honoring fallen heroes – if the word honor is to have any meaning at all, must refer to the question of goodness. Most good, least good, or plainly at the extremes, simply, good and evil. Does it matter which side started a war?  This is not a tough question. What American wouldn’t be able to answer yes, almost reflexively, if the US was not one of the sides? Patriotism can do that to you. It can make you misplace the blame. That’s the Dependent Mind.

The ultimate cynicism of the motivational state consists in forcing its soldiers into a position where their lives are at jeopardy and declaring them brave in advance.

Pin medals on those who fight; jail those who refuse. That’s the game in a nutshell. That’s how it works. Lily Tomlin once mused, what does it mean to be a success in a mediocre world? Following that, what does it mean to be honored by a country that has no respect for international law? To receive the adulation of fellow citizens whose reactions are the patriotically-induced equivalent of canned laughter? Like declaring soldiers brave in advance.

Until we begin to place the honor where it is most deserved – with Veterans For Peace and with the few, not the many, soldiers of conscience who refuse to serve, and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers of conscience, and there are others, perhaps then we should recognize the honorable service of those that, like I said, “are at the wrong end of all this” and for whatever reason, and there are many, have participated in it and believed they were doing it for the right reasons. For this, we can and should presume their innocence.

James Rothenberg can be reached at:  jrothenberg@taconic.net 

James Rothenberg can be reached at:  jrothenberg@taconic.net

More articles by:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail