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  • Sunday, January 30, 2005


    Tests of Patriotism

    I don't generally wear slogan buttons these days. The reductionist philosophy of using words which can fit on a button or bumper sticker holds less attraction to me these days than in my youth. But I do have a button on my jacket. It reads "Since when did unquestioning obedience to corporate interests become patriotic?" Not exactly pithy but it embodies an aspect of my political views.

    During the confirmation hearings for Condoleeza Rice to Secretary of State, one senator (I'm not sure who) actually said that any questioning of Dr. Rice's abilities and qualifications would undermine her ability to act as Secretary of State. This is a fascinating political position to me. It's a "pre-emptive" way of questioning the motives and patriotism of those doing any such questioning and laying the blame of anything bad in future on the questioners. Pre-emptive? That sounds awfully familiar to me...

    "Patriotism" is a word that you hear often these days, usually misused. Patriot comes from the Greek patrios (of one's father). [This father connection is almost too ripe for interpretation in my opinion.] My Webster's Seventh Collegiate dictionary defines patriot as "one who loves his (sic?) country and zealously supports its authority and interests." Note too the use of "zealously" from "zealot": a fanatical partisan.

    Connected in my mind to patriotism is the word "fascism". People who style themselves patriots are probably shocked that I would connect the two but I think it's rather clear. Fascism is usually accompanied by a "strong" leader and the demand that citizens support and believe in the infallibility of the government. Go back up to the phrase "...zealously supports its authority and interests."

    Just in case you're not familiar with the definition of fascism, here it is from Webster's: "a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation and race and stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." It may seem as if Bush is for de-centralized government and privatization but look more closely at the phrase "centralized autocratic government". To the Republicans in Congress, now in the majority, bipartisan seems to be a dirty word. The current administration has also worked very hard to consolidate more power in the executive office, trying to place the presidency beyond international treaties and agreements. This is actually undermining US authority. When military action is the primary consistency of response, other countries have no faith in diplomatic negotiations. When the US pulls out of agreements negotiated by previous administrations, it seems to signal that our government is profoundly unstable and unreliable.

    Patriotism is a word that reminds me of McCarthyism, of hunting down the "enemies" of the state. It's been said before and I say it again: loving your country does not mean standing by silently while it does horrendous acts in the name of freedom and liberty. Being a patriot shouldn't mean excusing a government which tortures prisoners or looks for loopholes to allow such torture. Torture is not an American value.

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