Tuesday, July 08, 2008

PATRIOTISM

On Truthout, Michael Winship has an op-ed about Patriotism (http://www.truthout.org/article/what-patriotism-is-and-is-not).

What is it? You want to be careful here. Flag-waving? Not even Ronald Regan in his heyday could match Albert Speer for filling a stadium with flags: on poles, on wires, on the walls, in a massive parade. Obeying the government in whatever it says? This was recently proposed to Americans by Sen. Bond of Missouri, who has been listening either to too many of Hitler’s speeches or to way too much Fundamentalist ‘powers that be’ baloney. Wearing a lapel pin? The lapel pin was one of the very few pieces of regalia the late Fuhrer allowed on his own uniform. Ach, vat’s ein Patriot to dooo? Perhaps the kids have the right idea: just use the 4th of July as a great excuse to partay and let history or whatever sort it out. Or just yield to the moment, as is advised in the title of the recent puppet-film: Amairikuh, f**k yeah!

Patriotism, I think, is not definable by a set of actions because it doesn’t reside ‘outside of’ the citizen. It first resides within a citizen. It is an attitude; but not a ‘tude, not a’tall.

It is an attitude crafted over the years of a life, one that realizes the jungled abysses of human history and human excesses, and understands the value of a clearing in the jungle, where one can dwell among others in some amount of safety and embraced by a familiarity on a level deeper than appearances, and committed to a cooperation, a commonality, a concern for the common weal. And having lived years of one’s life, and having been raised to be aware of others who have lived their lives thus embraced and thus committed here before you, you respond to all that complex awareness with a sense of gratitude, and a renewed commitment to those with whom you share this special place in Time and Space.

But if you have reached such a level of awareness of your own patriotic sensibility, then you also realize that there are other people around the world who feel the same about the places where they have found refuge from the jungle. And you respect the fact of their accomplishment in their clearing, and are grateful for it, and happy for them.

Thus fortified, you engage in the constructive support of your own clearing, while respecting to the very greatest extent possible the right of all the other world-folk to do the same. You sustain a conscious commitment to follow the Great Advice: to “build a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations”. You build your life and your consciousness around a faithfulness to the Propositions of the Declaration of Independence. You use that Advice and those Propositions as a trellis to shape the growth of your life, the common life, and the lives of the children to whom you pass on not only the patriotic concepts but the living example of your own habits of heart and mind.

You take great care before exercising the power of violence. You never unleash such fiery dangerousness into your own soul or into the lives of others – foreign nor domestic – except as is consistent with the Advice and the Propositions. And you never ever ever use the Advice and the Propositions as a cover for grabbing your own satisfaction at the expense of others. And you don’t listen to anybody who would urge you to just glide on the surface of it all by listening to the government, or the Leader, or the Party. Not these days. A complicated government requires more competence in the People, not less. The 20th century’s generations should have been striving for more active competence as a citizenry, as The People, and not just settling for a little Sousa with their hot dogs, a quick hand over the heart before the game began, throwing a brick at a hippie, or getting high in honor of the troops over in ‘Nam.

Once that’s become part of your life, then all else will be added unto you: should I put up a flagpole? Should I wear a pin? Should I paint my car with stars and stripes? Get the dog a star-spangled rain-cover?

Too much patrioteering, not enough patriotism. Too damned many flags (isn’t there a law about only-one-flag at any gathering?) and not enough grasp of what the flag is supposed to stand for. Too much self-satisfaction, not enough humility. Too much assurance that we are pure and good – that’s how come we could elect that unripe melon Bush, as clearly an actual Eddie Haskell as America has ever seen in real life, and keep a straight face through all his posturings and blatherings. Too much living on the surfaces of life – so that we could feel like we were patriotic if we put a flag on the car after 9-11. So that we cheered the firemen when they put flags on the trucks, right near the exhaust pipe, dragging them around night and day, rain or shine, until smoke or dust or road grime just tore them up, and then drive around the streets with the filthy, tattered shreds hanging off the truck as if they were the shell-torn battle-colors of regiments that had once carried them on a blood-gold day into the maelstrom of Gettysburg or the Belleau Wood..

Do we not ‘get it’? Have we spent so much time trying to get the feminists’ ‘it’ that we’ve used up all our energy for ‘getting’ anything else? Or have we bought into the feminists’ toxic ever-unstated message: that if you just get our ‘it’ then there’s no other ‘it’ that really matters … ? Where does that leave the country? Where does that leave us – as individuals, as a people, as The People?

Go inward. Then bring forth good fruit and share with everybody else. And read that book of rules about flag etiquette.

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