Thursday, September 11, 2008

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
Edward Abbey

"Patriot Day?" What the FUCK? "Patriot Day?" How about "PNAC/Pearl Harbor Day?" Why not "PATRIOT ACT Day"? Why not skip to the chase and call it "Jingoism Day"? Or "Bomb-A-Brown-Person" Day. Or, at it's gentlest, "Americans Suffer Most Exceptionally Day"? Cuz, for one thing, there are already at least four OTHER commemorative/holidays on which Americans (exceptionally) celebrate their exceptionally patriotic 'patriotism': Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran's day, and Flag Day. That's GOT to be plenty, doesn't it? Exceptional, right?

The events the day is supposed to demarcate were tragic, violent, and unexpected. But what has "patriotism" to do with this date, anyway? What was 'patriotic' about it? It might as well --and would far more honestly-- be named "Propaganda Day!"

Or "National Poultry Day," since, indeed, it was (as Ward Churchill was so mercilessly and unjustly pilloried for correctly pointing out) just a few of "Murka's" toxic, violent, imperialistic, neo-colonial chickens--of the hundreds of thousands which had marauded across the globe with apparent impunity for over 50 years--coming "home to roost." America had mostly been spared repayment-in-kind for the pains it had inflicted, until that day.

The loss of life that day was shocking and tragic. But whose "patriotism" do we celebrate?

Not the dead in those planes or the Towers. They had no intention or expectation of dying for "America" that day, or any day. They did not "die for their Country." They went to work. The died, if truth were told, for their salaries.

Nor the selfless and heroic 'first responders,' many of whom also died that day, but for whom "the Fatherland" could scarcely have been a consideration as they went about their desperate, doomed work.

And then, if we are to collectively, nationally, mourn the victims who died that morning, of what are we culpable if we ignore--or worse, if we dismiss as irrelevant (or as the mere 'cost of doing bidness,' as 'collateral damage')--the desperate forgotten fates all those, in the Middle East, but in Southeast Asia, too, whose victimization at "our" hands for at least half-a-century planted and fertilized (albeit unheeding) the seeds of the attacks which we "commemorate" today? It's not a rhetorical question.

This is NOT a day on which we celebrate "patriotism." It's a day we remark utter failure. The philosopher, Santyana, observed: "A man's feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world." It is precisely because our eyes did NOT survey the world, did not record our own complicity, that the events of seven years ago occurred.

Malcolm X reminded us: "You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it." What this day should remind us of is our popular and cultural blindness to the real-life consequences of our 'acts' as a power in the world. To the extent we forget, we merely invite more of our foul/fowl to return the favor.

Here are some notable opinions on the subject of "patriotism." Think, if you can, of how the spirit invoked by the memorials today compares:
“Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -how passionately I hate them!” Albert Einstein

“Patriotism is as fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave, blind as a stone, and irrational as a headless hen.” -- Ambrose Bierce

“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.” -- Oscar Wilde

“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” -- James Bryce

“Patriotism is the religion of hell” -- James Branch Cabell

"Patriotism means unqualified and unwavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank assessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them.” -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

"Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched.” -- Guy de Maupassant

“Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.” -- George Jean Nathan

"Patriotic societies seem to think that the way to educate school children in a democracy is to stage bigger and better flag-saluting." -- S.I. Hayakawa

"He is a poor patriot whose patriotism does not enable him to understand how all men everywhere feel about their altars and their hearthstones, their flag and their fatherland." -- Harry Emerson Fosdick

"If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident." -- Montesquieu

"It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind." -- Voltaire

“The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” -- Pablo Casals

(As usual, this first appeared on The Pond, where there's a nifty foto to accompany the thing. It's also up at Station CharonM, and will go up on WWL in a few.)

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