Thursday, July 05, 2007

Are You a Patriot or Are You Just Crowing?

I was drinking coffee and talking to a friend of mine the other morning concerning the past/present/future knowledge and wisdom of the earth's inhabitants. I mentioned what I had learned from painting houses for a living was that just throwing a coat of fresh paint over underlying structural problems is very temporary and only for show. It looks good...attracts attention...may even help sell the place, but underneath the glitter the structure is still rottening!

Well, my learned friend thought that was a good analogy and went on to say that it describes contemporary society/government quite well. "Shine the surfaces! Make it attractive. Who cares what's really underneath. A lot of our new knowledge is self-indulgent, more for entertainment, distraction, bedazzlement than anything useful. We've become like crows snatching glittery objects and flying off to our nests with them."

"We've become like crows!" Now I really liked that statement. It was one of those simple little tidbits that has the power to make one think and reflect. Of course, it doesn't seem to take much of a tidbit to activate my simple little mind, but that's fodder for another time. Given that research has shown numerous times that crows top the bird IQ scale, I thought this was a good reason to ponder on how our civilized society can't seem to get past the bait...the glitter, the fresh shiny coat of paint!

Being from the country, the old folks always told us kids how crows love shiny objects of any kind. And I've actually seen them pick up gum wrappers and small pieces of tin foil and I've also found their caches before. One in an old hollow knot on a red oak tree and another in the corner of a hay loft in our barn. I even found a couple of dimes in the cache in the barn! I understand that it's probably the younger crows that do this and it probably has to do more with food posibilities than anything else, but we humans do like our anthropomorphisms don't we?

And it just so happened that our conversation was just before our 4th of July holiday, which I have mixed feelings about anyway. All the color, glitter, and celebration just doesn't have the same meaning to me as it did back when I was more innocent and naive. It's much harder for me to immerse myself into the big show that surrounds this supposedly patriotic holiday. At least to this boy, the ugliness and the deterioration of the underlying structure can no longer be hid by the glitter and the shiny colorful surface! I am no longer attracted to the shiny objects like I once was when I was willing to sit back and accept what society expected me to accept. And this makes it very difficult to interact with other members of society who look down on an American who they believe isn't patriotic. What so many of us consider as patriotic, I consider as nationalistic! I consider myself to be a patriot, and at least in my eyes, there are entirely too many of our citizens who do not really know the difference between patriotism and nationalism! Patriotism requires commitment and struggle while nationalism requires only a love of shiny objects.

I wrote a piece back in April of 2003 voicing my concerns with the divide that has been wedged between the people. And I mailed these concerns to Noam Chomsky in an attempt to understand what the hell was going on in this country. And I was searching for an answer to my own questions about my personal feelings. A good friend of mine published the entire thing over at the old site of Members for Democracy. The piece was entitled Patriotism v. Nationalism: Keeping Workers Inside the Box.

When war advocates encourage and defend the Federal Government and they do it under the cloak of "Patriotism", I have to ask, "Is it for the love of their country and its people or simply loyalty and support for the central government which motivates them?" If they advocate war out of loyalty for the governmental hierarchy, then I would call that "Nationalism" and not "Patriotism"! The Constitution and its principles are where patriots' beliefs are rooted, as a nation that follows the rules of law and not the rules of men. The statement made by President Bush, "you are with us or against us" has left no room for neutrality, and puts a large segment of the world on the defensive against U.S. aggression and unfortunately has segregated the people of the U.S. The dissenters of the current government's doctrine are looked upon as traitors.


There are times when I think we should have a citizen license that must be renewed just like our driver's license program. Wouldn't it be funny to find out our immigrants know more about America, it's history, and it's inner workings than the majority of our born in country citizens? Yeah, that would be hilarious wouldn't it? It's so easy to take the position of a nationalist and cover oneself with the flag of patriotism in order to hide ignorance! As long as you have the flag draped over your shoulders, nobody will question whether you have enough knowledge to call yourself a good citizen!

Yesterday morning, the 4th of July, I read an article in Taylor Marsh entitled No Independence Today. The article started out with the sentence, "America wakes up in bondage today." Now that will make the hair on a nationalist's neck stand straight up!

I was one of those people who put partisanship aside after 9/11. Mr. Bush has proven unworthy at every turn. So this latest betrayal put on top of all of the other ones does not surprise. However, as Mr. Bush prays to his God, which hasn't resembled anything I know spiritually, morally or religiously for a very long time, our president should come prostrate and humble, on bended knee and asking for forgiveness for himself, because he has committed the gravest sin against us all. Mr. Bush has taken the oath of office he swore to his God and we the people of this greatest nation on earth and turned the Constitution and everything for which we have stood and the Founders and Americans die to preserve, and made it all a mockery. Turned it all to ashes.


You see, progressive thinking people are very rarely associated with the word patriotism! Everybody knows that patriots display the American flag at their homes while progressives turn it upside down and show disrespect! There is a well kept secret concerning our country's patriotism which very few know about. Our country's patriotic culture is steeped in progressive movements, radicals, and even socialistic ideals. Real patriotic Americans have endured mental and physical abuse in their fight to fuse their love of country with their dislike of the government's policies. It's part of our patriotic history that you won't hear from the nationalistic jingoists. It's patriotism's secret history.

The progressive authors of much of America's patriotic iconography rejected blind nationalism, militaristic drumbeating and sheeplike conformism. So it would be a dire mistake to allow, by default, jingoism to become synonymous with patriotism and the American spirit. Throughout our nation's history, radicals and reformers have viewed their movements as profoundly patriotic.


Howard Zinn's 4th of July message this year, Put Away the Flags, dealt with the same issues of nationalism portraying itself as patriotism. How the devotion to a flag and a feeling of being uniquely moral compared to the rest of the world can change a country into an empire. And with power of the sword of "Manifest Destiny", we have the right to mold this world, our solar system, and conceivably the entire universe...in our image!

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.


The flag waving hides the fact that although we are the richest country in the world, tens of millions of our citizens do not receive adequate health care and our health care system comes in as 37th in the World Heath Organization's Report. And according to Food Research and Action Center, we have literally millions of children in our country who go to bed hungry every single night! And our educational system is leaving our children behind and imprisoning them in a cycle that concentrates more on readying our children for the workforce rather than giving them a real opportunity to realize what "independence" really is! Perhaps it's time to take a look at liberating our educational system!

And still today, thanks to the focused agendas of a few corporatists, we have people who readily criticize FDR's ''New Deal" as something un-patriotic and un-American. According to Katrina Vanden Heuvel wrote in an article in The Nation, "The definition of patriotism is fighting to make sure your country lives up to its highest ideals." Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that patriotism in this country was founded on the principle of dissent in the face of tyranny...not in the knee-jerk, reflexive flag waving that is so prominent now! So if you want to show your patriotism, Act Now has listed five areas we can show our support in order to form a more perfect union.

Healthcare for All

End Torture, not Habeas Corpus

Voting Representation for DC

Employee Free Choice Act

Save Internet Radio

Now these five don't necessarily have to be the ones at the top of your list, but they should be ON the list for sure. The important thing is that it is imperative that you show your patriotism...the real patriotism...through your actions. And I don't mean cussing or throwing rocks at the neighbor because he displays the flag upside down! I mean real action! Action that comes from independent thought, not from the colorful, glittery, fireworks, and celebrations that are designed by the few to keep the people in mark step with their agendas. Their little glittery objects that we keep caching away in our comfortable little flag draped nests.

There is one right that we have, that many people have either forgotten about or during this time of wire-tapping and loss of freedoms, they are just simply afraid to think about. This is the Right of Revolution. A very important right if not "the" most important one. So here I go writing another one of these pieces that will most assuredly alienate me once again from community and family. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the part about alienating yourself from friends and even some family members once you have finally had enough and decide to make a stand for true freedom and support true patriotism. Dissent can be a breathtaking roller coaster...but I would still suggest you pay the admission and take a ride!

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