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Virtual Patriotism (ain't nothing like the real thing, baby)

By       Message Horace Coleman     Permalink
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"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

So said the 18th century British author and dictionary maker Samuel Johnson.

Ambrose Bierce, a 19th century American famous for his funny Devil's Dictionary, wrote "In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first."

Both men were referring to the way many politicians and individuals use appeals to patriotism to manipulate and inflame people's emotions to get them to accept actions they normally wouldn't. Chauvinism (fanatical patriotism; the prejudiced belief in the superiority of one's own group) replaces patriotism.

"My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

Carl Schurz said that .in 1872. Schurz was a Union Civil War general, a senator and a cabinet member. In an 1899 speech he said:

"I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves ... too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: 'Our country, right or wrong!' They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: 'Our country-when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right."

In the days after the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, this country was shocked, frightened, upset and angry.

Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda operated in Afghanistan with the knowledge assistance and approval of the Taliban, the ultra conservative Muslim that ran the country after it had deposed a Marxist government. The U.S. armed and trained the Taliban.

We knew who had done the 9/11 attacks but preferred to beat up on Iraq (who we'd been softening up for more than a decade). When our reasons for invading Iraq evaporated (Saddam was caught and executed, no WMDs were found, connections to al Qaeda were shaky-at best), we still put more emphasis on occupying Iraq than stabilizing Afghanistan. Better to pressure an unstable Pakistan into having a government easier to manipulate than to try to clean up Afghanistan ourselves.
'
One way to tell that the general public really doesn't take the Iraq war seriously is that few of its members volunteered to fight in it. Evidently the current administration and Congress think it's better (less risky to their political careers) to have the few military forces in the field do multiple more tours and rack up more combat time than World War warriors did than to have a draft.

Save the easier and more profitable work for mercenaries and corporate contractors. If this works out well, maybe we'll entirely outsource the next conflict and make a profit by selling broadcast, film, book and naming rights. Perhaps we'll found Wars Are Us, Inc.

We could become the world's governments and intelligence services, corporations, prison guards and police department's field training in population / prisoner control and interrogation. And overcharge ands double cross them all. After all,

In the alternate universe the U.S. lives in:

• The weird stuff we believe is true; the weird stuff other people believe is just weird.
• American turds smell better than perfume.
• The rest of the world is either envious, inferior or threatening
• God loves us best

The purpose of government is to make us safe, satisfied, secure, happy, prosperous and to have our druthers replace the laws of physics and nature. It says so in the Bible-somewhere (or does when properly interpreted).

Consumerism and domination uber alles!

Virtual patriotism is a knee jerk, abstracted, watered down, digitized, bastardized, and commercialized ritual; an unthinking jingoistic perversion practiced with symbolic acts and plastic love.

Real patriotism goes far beyond your neighborhood, relatives and friends. It embraces distant strangers who are citizens of this nation.

It's more than boosterism for your city, state, region and nation. It's not shallow allegiance to a political party. It's not a cafeteria style secular religion. It includes serving and promoting the best-and long term-interests of this country. We've grown lazy, decadent, frightened and distracted. We think out whims are out our rights.

For the first time in decades, the Canadian dollar, the British pound and the European Union's Euro are worth more than the U.S. dollar. Ambitious and aggressive nations offer equivalent goods and services and compete for improved life styles (and raw materials) without using the force of arms.

Reality is knocking on our front door and demanding its due.

Effective and real patriotism goes far beyond sports fan fanaticism, the waving of pennants or flags and the wearing of pins. Or, shouting "We're #!" and glorying in successes to which little was contributed and nothing risked or sacrificed.

When an actual patriot says "Support the troop!" it's a preface to doing something tangible that actually benefits troops. Real patriotism lies in deeds that express, reinforce and achieve needs, not in talk that only expresses slogans and creeds.

Huge mistakes are still being carried out and planned by the strong mouthed, weak brained, twin twisters of reality who evaded their generation's call to duty.

Giving them the benefit of much doubt and assuming their bad judgments and stupid acts were sincere efforts, what beside ineptness and miscalculation explains government persistence? It's enough to make you think the only difference between a mob and a democracy is the quality of the leaders and members.

Our leaders are lost, driving the gas guzzling vehicle we're all in but refusing to consult a map, use the navigational system or take the directions offered by those who've been there before. In the mean time, the gas tank is almost empty and it's getting dark. The nearest filling station is who knows where and charges who knows how much. We're out of cash and they're speeding up.

We have shocked and awed ourselves with our use of gangster tactics (e.g.," extraordinary rendition" for kidnapping and torture-when we aren't doing it ourselves).

We've sullied our international reputation and maxed out the nation credit card. We've built oversized facts on the ground in Iraq--indicating we don't plan to leave any decade soon. We're filling graves here while fulfilling what real need? And, giving injured and traumatized warriors substandard care.

Way to go BushCo!! Your legacy is how to:

* Mismanage a national budget
* Start (and stagnate in) colonial wars in places that aren't even our colonies
* Mistreat war veterans
* Aid and abet the corporate fleecing of America

Put in some document in your un presidential library that you did the best a spoiled, clueless, inept and aging fraternity face man could do (which wasn't much).

When was the last time this nation fought some one in its weight class or equipped with similar technology? The fortunes of war won't always favor war profiteering, justified by over reaching and ill conceived political actions, and misinterpreted intelligence fueled by virtual patriotism.

By going thousands of miles away on unnecessary missions, we invite what we say we're trying to avoid while undermining ourselves. In the meantime, people in high places scheme and plot about Iran and China.

Could any one else's pre emptive strikes be as much, or more, justified as ours?

We might need more brain feeding and less chest beating though. Virtual patriotism ain't gonna get it. There's no guarantee that we won't go the way of all the other empires.

Chauvinism, legislated by politicians who never do military service or see that military veteran's needs are adequately met, is not patriotism. If the military's purpose is to fight wars and project power, the defense industry's role is to provide the tools of the "trade"-not to bloat itself with excess profits or provide jobs.

To have or not have a draft is a consequence of the size of the forces ands arms in hand and the public's willingness to voluntarily serve in our righteous wars. [Note: Any war the U.S. is in is righteous]

Drafts are not used or abandoned as President Richard Nixon did to make the war he was waging more acceptable and extend his reign but should serve military necessity. [Another Note: By definition, every military action the U.S. takes is necessary]

If any one can finish the tiger ride without ending up inside, it's us. Those other empires dwindled and died because they weren't us. Besides, God loves us best and is on our side-if he knows what's good for Him and is as smart as He claims to be.

Meanwhile, virtual patriots worry about the economy and ignore the massive debt avalanche headed toward their children and grandchildren. And the troops? They "support" them by calling every one who wears a uniform a hero; going shopping (as BushCo's CEO suggested) and attending funerals.


P.S. In many governments headed by civilians some generals always prefer advancing their careers to "speaking truth to power." In military dictatorships generals-unless they engage in coups-prefer certain survival, obeisance and adroit military politics to speaking truth. In all governance systems during conflicts militaries engage in some high ranking commanders ignore excessive violence. Some mid and low level officers and NCOs encourage, condone or encourage it (what happens in the field, stays in the field). And, a few troops get kill crazy. Most civilians don't care what "their" troops do to enemy troops and civilians. These things also apply to irregular forces / illegal enemy combatants and their leaders.

No matter the cause, justification or the weapons or tactics used, the essence of human nature is the reason why war is hell. And, why virtual patriots openly or secretly love them so much and accept them so often. Especially if they don't directly cost them any thing or require their direct participation.

People are potentially but not inherently evil. However, the use of force in groups makes it easier to temporarily become demonic.

 

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California based essayist / poet. Background: university professor, public information officer, technical writer, proposal writer / editor, community college instructor. Vietnam veteran.

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