Why I'm not patriotic
It’s obvious that blind patriotism is destroying America
By Steve Terranova
“Peace is Patriotic,” the signs read at our futile antiwar protests. I never really bonded with the idea. Nor did I get behind the “Support the Troops: Bring Them Home!” signs. Sure, bringing the troops home is the best thing for everyone, but the irritating message they were trying to refute, smugly delivered by glazed-over automatons in SUVs sporting magnetic yellow ribbons, put us in a bind.
“Support the Troops,” they’d holler, driving off with a big sneer. They knew they had us. What were we supposed to do, cheer the troops onto some kind of “victory” while they shot, bombed and tortured Iraqis who were ostensibly defending their country from us, the foreign invader? What about the civilian “collateral damage”? What about the people just plain killed in cold blood by frustrated soldiers, still working out their adolescent rage and arrogance? Am I supposed to cheer on raw imperialism just because the poor guys and gals sent over to do the bidding of the thugs in power didn’t know what, or who they were really fighting for? No thanks.
I suppose that I can see the idea behind saying that peace is patriotic. We purportedly live in a democracy, and part of that democratic process is dissent. So, in a time of war, those who are dissenting and pushing for peace are exercising good old, American democracy. Nice theory, anyway. In reality, once war starts, all bets are off. Our leaders know this all too well, which is why they are so damn happy to start up a war.
When I worked the Peace Table at the Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo, I saw that first hand. We became traitors, a focus of hatred, with a surprisingly ignorant citizenry brainwashed into believing that we were trying to destroy the country. After the war in Iraq started and we continued to set up the Peace Table, things got really ugly. I still recall a guy from the PFLAG table (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) coming up to me and saying that it was “seditious” to protest the war after it started. Didn’t any of these people remember Vietnam? It got so bad that I left the country for a couple of years.
To me, saying that “peace is patriotic” is almost as Orwellian as saying that “war is peace.” Patriotism is about choosing sides. It is about ignoring the misdeeds of your own country, while trying to highlight those of others. It is about using the resources of other countries with impunity. And it is about believing that the lives of people in other countries are less important than those here. Apart from the Fourth of July, when I start hearing talk of patriotism and see a lot of American flags waving, I think one thing: War is on the way.
Perhaps patriotism once served a purpose as this country became what it is today (of course, Native Americans might see it differently), but those days are long gone. This world could be annihilated in a matter of minutes. There is little point in creating divisions between countries with terms like “The Axis of Evil.” Eventually, we will not be able to sustain these enemies, so usefully created by our corrupt leaders. Maybe that time has already come.
The patriotic fervor that has gripped Americans since 9/11 has created a country barely recognizable by its founding principles. Suddenly, we have a president who seems unbound by the laws of the country. Free speech? Seditious. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? Forget about it. The right to privacy? Gone. Torture? No problem. Invading other countries? All in a day’s work. It should be obvious that blind patriotism is destroying America.
This country is a beautiful place and the people of this country have achieved many things, but we have to start thinking about what is best for the world. Isolationism has led to a kind of ignorance and arrogance in America that is really causing a lot of human misery. The only patriotism that might serve a useful purpose is patriotism to the world as a whole. American patriotism should be left in the scrap heap, like that of other empires of the past. §
Steve Terranova is a peace activist and ex-expatriated, ex-patriot living on the Central Coast of California.