June 19, 2007

Connected Diss: Rethinking patriotism

Several months ago, I wrote a column questioning the appropriateness of military air shows as a form of community-sponsored family entertainment. I received a number of responses. The gist of most of the letters was that the military defends our freedom, and without it, I could not write these words. Indeed, I was told that to criticize militarism is unpatriotic and how dare I impugn the honor and integrity of those who serve in the armed forces, defending the American way of life.But what precisely is this American way of life that our military purportedly defends? We live in the richest country in the world, yet unlike other developed countries that have universal healthcare, tens of millions of people in this country do not have health insurance, and our medical care system comes in dead last behind comparable countries. Millions of children go to bed hungry every night, and our educational system is leaving far too many children behind. The standard of living of all but the rich has fallen, and people are losing their homes. Our energy use and wastefulness is a toxic disgrace.In the name of all this, we squander trillions of dollars to send our troops to fight a war that was justified by lies. In Iraq, we have killed an uncountable number of innocent people and so destroyed the infrastructure of the country that millions of children are starving to death (one in eight children will die before their fifth birthday). Going to school or feeding one’s family is all but impossible, and millions have now become refugees living in unspeakable conditions. The result of all this is that violence continues to escalate, more and more people hate our country and the world is a far more dangerous place. And when all is said and done, we bring our wounded warriors home to the squalid conditions of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.To defend a government that claims these actions in the name of “democracy” is hardly patriotic. At best, it might be construed as nationalism. As George Orwell once put it, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”Indeed, in the aftermath of the atrocities that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, in a scene that seemed scripted by Orwell himself, American flags started to appear everywhere — on cars, lapels and babies’ bottoms. That literally defecating on the flag to which we pledge allegiance could be construed as patriotism should surely have given us pause to wonder if perhaps the true meaning of patriotism had been hijacked. Clearly and conveniently forgotten in this unquestioning, reflexive flag-waving is that dissent in the face of tyranny is the ultimate act of patriotism — it is, in fact, how this country was founded. We Americans are long overdue for a very serious discussion of just what it is we are defending, which, by any definition, is a far cry from democracy or freedom.There is no excuse for putting the interests of our way of life over those of any other country or people; in doing so, we only harm ourselves. To continue to misconstrue militarism as defensible in the name of patriotism is bankrupting our country and imperiling the planet, its resources and all of its citizens. If we continue along this path, there will, in the end, be nothing left to defend.As July 4th approaches, it may well be time to consider whether patriotism and the defense of national borders is, in fact, an outmoded concept. Instead of Independence Day, perhaps it is time to declare an Interdependence Day and to pledge allegiance as global citizens, to build our strength by nurturing our resources rather than plundering them, by nurturing all of the world’s citizens, especially the young. Most of all, it is time to pledge to end the wanton destruction of the planet and the politics of hatred and greed that divide us. Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org, and her work has been published in numerous publications. She blogs for both the Feminist Peace Network and Women in Media and News. Contact her at leo@leoweekly.com

Rethinking Patriotism

By Pstummy

Ms. Marshall, while you are throwing around Orwell quotes, bear in mind that he also said, "Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, he that is not with me is against me." He also said, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

I can respect your disdain for the present war in Iraq and your aversion to some of the policies of the President, but it is clear from your writings that you don't have much of anything good to say about our military or the United States of America in general. You have a "we are one world" approach to everything, and that is just an incredibly naive and dangerous view. You and your ilk go to great lengths to try to convice people that our fighting men and women in Iraq are slaughtering innocents, but you never, NEVER find the chance to condemn the Islamic Facists who behead innocent people on video or the enemy who strap bombs to their own women and children to blow up other innocents. People like Ms. Marshall are so obsessed and committed to their ideology that they view our president and people like OBL and Saddam Hussein as being on the same moral plane. Likewise, they view our soldiers and the video beheaders/suicide bombers as being no different.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans (liberal and conservative) realize the importance of a strong military and the need to secure our borders from foreign invasion and other threats, which by the way our constitution mandates our leaders do.

The America you yearn for and want (a socialist/collectivist society that has no military) never was and never will be. That said, why expend so much energy trying to radically redefine America? Why not just move to Holland, Denmark, Canada or whatever socialist or any other progressive nation whose ideals better fit your own???