Americans watch as their nation and its government continues to undergo a radical transformation that began at the turn of the new century; they see a grossly incompetent government that is allowing this country and its democracy to rapidly deteriorate; one that has become enslaved by the money, power and influence of the masters of Corporatism. And while this treachery is going on, millions of Americans still cling to the belief of "My country right or wrong."
"My country right or wrong." Does that mean that no matter what this government of ours does, no matter how unconscionable, unjustifiable or illegal its policies and actions in this country or around the world may be, that 313 million Americans have a sacred duty to accept and condone all of them without any objection or resistance? Well, now; that seems to be in direct opposition to Thomas Jefferson who said it best: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." So during these very trying times should we readily accept whatever our government does, no matter how egregious the acts may be or, rather, react by expressing our dissent in meaningful, constructive ways?
While "My country right or wrong" is very commonly used in situations where the people of America desire to show their solid support of their country and government, Carl Shurz, a general of the Union Army, many years ago, had a different take on that observation when he said: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." And that's exactly what we Americans should be using as the basis for making judgments of our government's behavior and actions.
So, with this in mind, let's try to analyze and understand how and why the people of America currently react, or fail to react, to what their government is doing. In my observations I have seen three separate kinds of reactions, ranging from complete indifference to blind support to a combination of dissent and constructive alternatives.
The first segment of this society includes those people who want no part of the political process, hold it in contempt, and do not vote in any election, either local or national. They take no time to study the issues and educate themselves; they can see what is going on, know that conditions in America are deteriorating but have no reaction and concentrate on what's happening in their own lives. They could care less about this nation's many problems. We can conclude that there is nothing much that can be done to involve these people in our democratic process and to continue to try is a complete waste of time; they just don't care.
The next segment of this society includes those many millions of Americans who don't have much use for this government, disagree with many of its actions, think it's too big, creates too many regulations, and is totally corrupted. But they still grudgingly accept and support anything and everything it does. They don't really like the endless wars but, then again, good Americans must support their troops and their government even when the nation's wealth and resources are being wasted in building a world military empire. As I see it, this very large group includes Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others of various political persuasions.
Why is it that so many Americans who may strongly object to what their government is doing just go along with it and accept what they believe to be wrong? It is entirely possible that they are caught up or locked in a state of denial. They know that, on many important matters, it's their government that is doing wrong but it's still their country. So, the reality of such a situation can become so intense and so painful that it must be dismissed and ejected from one's mind; that's what's called simple denial in which an individual totally denies the unwelcome facts and stays fully supportive of their country.
Then there is another element of denial called minimization in which, for example, a person decides that these ongoing wars, while they may be troubling, may not be that big of a problem when one looks at the big picture, the security of this nation; that the many problems that this nation faces are not that bad, that corporations have no other choice but to eliminate jobs and ship them overseas; that our economy may be rapidly spiraling downward but that it will, without any doubt, rise again, as it always does, because of its all a part of the normal economic cycle.
And there is yet one more facet of denial that is present in America today. It's called projection and that's when the truth and the facts are both acknowledged but there is a denial of the responsibility of those who are clearly the cause of the problem or the illegal or immoral action. Many Americans still believe that G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney were entirely justified in conducting the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq; it was Saddam Hussein's fault because he fully intended to use his deadly weapons of mass destruction (none were ever found, they did not exist except in the minds of the war mongers) to directly attack America. That's denial taken to the highest degree.
Lastly we have that segment of this society that witnesses the same things that the first two groups of Americans do, that clearly judges certain, very specific government actions as being entirely wrong when measured by legal, ethical and moral standards, and then decides that if "My country is doing wrong, then I need to do everything in my power to make it right." And that's what they do; they object, they will not accept obvious wrongs when they see them, and a great many of them offer constructive recommendations as solutions to the problems.
They are the backbone of America but the problem is that there are just not enough of them. Just some of the progressive writers and activists in this group who are providing great leadership include the anti-war activist, David Swanson, together with Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, Noam Chomsky, Ray McGovern and many of their counterparts who work tirelessly in the effort to stabilize this nation. And there are many nameless, dedicated Americans who are following the lead of these activists and are getting involved with trying to reform this government. All these Americans are following in the footsteps of Jefferson, the Father of patriotic dissent.
The meaning of honest dissent is clear; if you search your conscience and decide that what our government is doing is clearly illegal, unethical or immoral, then your duty to your country must be to speak out against it; but not only to speak out but to personally get involved in trying to find the ways to right the wrongs. These are the people in our society that have some fight left in them; those that are involved with the Occupy Movement around the country trying to highlight the most egregious sources of our problems such as Wall Street and Corporate America and working hard to find ways by which to combat their increasing control over this nation.