on patriotism, and war.

  1. dub
    33,892 Posts.
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    Below I've copied an article I've just read. I would ask you to read it without automatically locking in to your own prejudices.

    It's from the site Veterans Against The Iraq War - which you can find at http://www.vaiw.org/vet/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=161

    Try it with an open mind, please.


    Patriotism And War

    When not grounded on America's democratic ideals, patriotism becomes a mask for militarism and a tool for oppression.
    By Lonna Gooden VanHorn

    It is fine to love one’s country and get teary-eyed over patriotic songs and speeches and to fly the flag in our front yards and on our cars. But the words “country” and “government” are not synonyms, and neither are “country” and “president.” What most of us think of when we hear the words “country” or “America” is not government nor president, but our heritage, our vision of America’s ideals, or as George William Custis said:

    • “A man’s country is not a certain area of land…but it is a principle, and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.”

    When the president speaks using words selected to appeal to our emotions rather than our logic, it is not patriotic to blindly accept those words as truth even when he says, “God bless America” in every other sentence. Patriotism, in its best sense, means questioning the words of our leaders and the practices of our government to ensure both remain true to America’s ideals as defined by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If we want God to bless America, it behooves us to adhere to policies and practices deserving of God’s blessing.

    • “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public.”
    --President Theodore Roosevelt

    • “It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”
    --Thomas Paine

    One of the best definitions of patriotism, in my opinion, is given by Carl Schurz:

    • “My country right or wrong, when right to keep right, when wrong to make right.”

    Add to that Mark Twain’s idea of duty to his country:

    • “My country, always. My government when it deserves it.”

    Under this administration, the government has shown little evidence that it deserves our support. But the country does deserve our support.

    Throughout her history, America has been a beacon of light to the world because of the ideals under which she was founded. We were the good guys. The people of Europe kissed our soldiers’ feet when we liberated them from the author of a war of aggression. But now America is looked upon by most of the world as a bully nation, the aggressor. A thug nation bent on world domination and even world subjugation. WE are the country whose power the people of other nations now dread! “Speak softly, but carry a big stick,” was good advice when Teddy Roosevelt gave it. The Bush Administration has a big stick, but it doesn’t practice the art of speaking softly.

    Our founding fathers warned against foreign entanglements. Many had fled Europe to escape her seemingly constant and economically devastating economic and religious war. Yet, now we are ignoring the wisdom of their advice and are following the imperialistic path of the powerful nations that have gone before us, slaughtering the innocents in a quest to accumulate the world’s wealth for our own. As a child I was told my country was better than that. I believed my country was better than that. I want my country to be better than that!

    • “The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher standard.”
    --George McGovern

    This is what America means to me: That all of us, not only our rich and elite, have rights. That our individual rights are not shackled by our government, that we do not live in fear of our government, that because we know how blessed we are to live in this great and rich country, we feel it is our duty to help people both here at home and in other countries who live in want.

    Sadly, today in America the word “patriotism” has come to mean “militarism.” If we are not in favor of the idea of the administration’s “eternal war” even against nations whose “threat” to us is dubious at best, we are not “patriots.” Some even call us traitors. And, increasingly the rights of Americans are being shackled.

    My country has lost sight of her ideals. Those ideals have been eroding over time, and now that erosion has become a torrent. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we no longer have major enemies -- although, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, we are certainly looking for them. If the policies of our government have evolved to the point where increasingly, now, we go to war slaughtering the poor in other countries to further the interests of corporate America or because our weapons manufacturers need a war so they can build more weapons, then our country has become very sick. But, as with a person, in order to heal the sickness one must first admit it exists.

    • “Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must make sense. The thought that the State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable, and so the evidence has to be internally denied.”
    --Arthur Miller

    What is happening in America today is what President Eisenhower warned us about:

    • “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    Ike was afraid our military industrial complex (MIC) would become so powerful and become so central for the economic health of our nation that its needs would determine policy. He was afraid important decisions such as our decision to go to war would be influenced too much by the MIC and its lobbyists in Congress. Today, one should substitute “administration” for Congress.

    In his worst nightmare, however, I doubt Eisenhower imagined the media would come to be controlled by segments of the MIC or that our president and vice-president would personally profit from the waging of war.

    This administration wants us to forget America’s ideals, to not see their desire is to rule the world and to export our way of life through force. They want us to follow their dictates blindly without question or protest. This is the very antithesis of democracy. They manipulate us through fear in order to bend us to their will. As General Douglas MacArthur noted:

    • “The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear: Keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real….”

    That great American warrior hero Marine General Smedley Butler said it best 70 years ago, and oh if he were only alive to say it now!

    • “War is a racket… conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the very many…of course it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and ‘we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,’ but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket and are safely pocketed.”

    Wars are nearly always fought for economic reasons, but of course the reason, “To exploit the land and the people for American corporate interests” is never given as the reason we go to war. Unless we go to war to bail nations out of their war -- WWI and WWII -- the reason given is that we are “helping” people; “liberating them from some evil. Whatever the reason given, the people would usually have been better off if we had left them alone. Wars leave the majority of the people in the countries in which they are fought dead, maimed, or destitute. A few who collaborate with the enemy in exploiting their country and people for corporate interests become powerful and obscenely wealthy.

    It is not talked about in the main stream media, but the first Gulf War and the sanctions carried out since that war have been responsible for the deaths of more than a million people in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was an evil man who killed his own people, but he did not kill a million of them. We did, breaking international laws by our methods of killing. And, we left millions of Iraq’s people diseased and destitute as well. A crumb to the Clinton haters, he is as responsible for this as anyone. The main responsibility, though, lies with the media, and the fact that most of us who only listen to the nightly news, really knew nothing about it. If we had, I don’t think we would have stood for it. Why didn’t we know?

    We went to war in Iraq for the oil, to establish a greater presence in the Mideast, and to intimidate other nations with clear evidence of our power. The American people were manipulated into backing this war against the better judgment of the rest of the world because of the fear the events of 9/11 had instilled in many of us. The administration shamelessly fanned that fear to advance their cause.

    Perhaps the best way to define the patriotism of the war-profiteering members of the current administration who ask other people and nations to sacrifice for the folly that is making them and their friends richer is by applying the words of Samuel Johnson who said the appeal to “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” And the best way we can demonstrate our own patriotism is by saying, as General Butler did, “To Hell with War!”

    Lonna Gooden VanHorn, Minnesota daughter of small farmers and now a resident of New Mexico, is the mother of 6 and the wife of a Vietnam veteran.



    Posted Friday, September 20, 2003
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