The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Patriotism, courage and liars

Posted by Bill Nance on September 1, 2008

Well here we are, approaching the seventh anniversary of the attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We’ll probably get the usual non-stop talk about the attack for a few days, the heroics of the cops, firefighters and others who risked all to help others. And after a few days, the talk will be over.

This is the way of things in America. We have a notoriously short attention-span.

But this year, I’d like to talk about one of the other consequences of 9/11 and its aftermath. Something about which we hear far too little in the MSM.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last seven years about patriotism, who has it, who doesn’t, who loves their country and who “Hates America.”

I was sick of this crap by about October 2001. And not because I’m some pacifist ninny, but because 90% of the talk was BULLSHIT.

I was of course, shocked by the attacks on the world-trade center. But I wasn’t surprised. I lived in Germany at the height of the Baader-Meinhof/ Red Army Faction violence. I remember having to check under my car for bombs, looking for suspicious fire-extinguishers (then a favorite method of killing American GIs) and generally being at a state of heightened awareness. I knew this was coming, and was surprised we hadn’t been attacked in more substantial ways, or at least more frequently, before 9/11.

What surprised me was the scale of the atrocity, not the attack itself. I was infuriated. The sheer scale of the attack was so massive it defied belief. And I remind everyone that the roughly 3,000 people murdered on that day was tiny in comparison to the numbers intended. If the towers had gone down quicker, the numbers could have easily topped 15,000, and I’ve heard estimates as high as 50,000. -As many as the total number of Londoners killed during the Blitz.

About Five minutes after the attacks I was hearing soccer moms and Republican-hating “pacifists” screaming to make the streets of every Arab city run red with blood, nuke Kabul, etc.I could hardly believe my ears. Where were all those principles they had expressed on September TENTH? Out the window I guess when principles might have cost something. (whether I agree with them or not)

The next day American flags were flying everywhere. Within 3 days every car on the streets had an American flag  bumper-sticker on it. Ok, we’d just been attacked, people rally ’round the flag when things like that happen, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The attacks galvanized all of us with a single purpose for a few weeks. Kill Osama Bin Laden. Destroy the religious fascism which formed him. Ok, I’m down with that.

The anti-war protesters claiming we shouldn’t go into Afghanistan, Noam Chomsky and the other “usual suspects” pissed me off as much as anyone. I was well aware of their empty philosophy and “America is the Great Enemy” crap long before 9/11. I grew up with it. My father was a radical leftist. He’d been visited by the FBI during the McCarthy days, (without lawful cause) and while there was much I admired about some of his ideas, and at times moral courage, I also knew how terribly wrong his prejudices were.

But the flag-waving, knee-jerk jingoism started to piss me off as well before long. Over the last 7 years it’s just gotten worse. I’m all for love of country. And of course as someone who’s served, (and not with any particular distinction I add) anyone who won’t support the folks in uniform, war OR peace, can kiss my ass.

Pacifists my ass.

Pacifists my ass.

Signs like this are pretty much an open invitation to a fist in the mouth as far as I’m concerned.

But questioning policy  is not anti-American. The stands taken by some may be just that. International  ANSWER and their ilk, along with the NION idiots are a good case in point. Peace at-any price, anti-war unless it’s defending Serbian genocide, better 50,000 iraqi children per year dying from sanctions than a war which will end them, etc.

But I don’t make my assessments because they protest. First it’s their right, second, protesting your country’s policies can be the HEIGHT of patriotism. (I confess I had problems about the protests AFTER the bullets first started flying in the case of Iraq, but only because in that unique case, a show of American unity was important to reduce casualties on all sides. Those claiming to be all about peace love and shrubbery were ADDING to the butcher’s bill.)

But on the other side, the newly made super-patriots pissed me off as much as the ANSWER protesters. I supported the Iraqi invasion (I’ll go into the reasons in another post) but I saw all these people also in support of it who frankly neither knew what the Hell they were talking about, nor had the guts to go enlist. This wasn’t a stand on principle (unless the principle was jingoism). It was simply knee-jerk chest-thumping AMURICA, YEAH! crap.

And this is the crux of my little essay.

It’s easy to claim to be a patriot. It’s easy to be a Bill O’Reilly, who has never served his country a day in his life, to beat up on anyone who dares question him. (And if Mr. O’Rreilly objects to my characterization, I’ll be happy to meet him at the boxing ring of his choice. But I’m sure he’s too chickenshit to take on my skinny disabled ass.)

And it’s easy to wear a lapel pin or put a bumper sticker on your car.

What’s hard is to stand up for principles. I’ve no use for pacifists. I consider it a morally bankrupt position. But I do admire someone like the Amish, who at least have the guts to live up to their principles when it really costs them something.

This is called courage. Courage is basis for most of the classical virtues, for without it, few of them can be attained.

Courage is what my Friend Larry D. showed when in 1968 he showed up for induction and refused to participate because he thought the war was wrong. -He spent 2 years in prison for his convictions. He DIDN’T hide out in college so a poor man with no connections could go die in his place.

Courage is a unarmed, skinny little guy with no training stepping in front of his wife to take a knife in the ribs so she can run away; or taking on terrorists who’ve hi-jacked a plane.

Courage is standing up to a teacher, a political leader or someone else who has power over you because they are doing something wrong; and accepting serious consequences for your actions. (And I’m not talking about spending 10 minutes in jail with 500 other people at a rally.).

Courage takes many forms; and not all, nor indeed most, are martial. At it’s root, courage is being afraid and doing the right thing in spite of it.

Putting a bumper-sticker on your car or wearing a lapel pin is not courage… AND NEITHER IS IT PATRIOTISM.

So to all you fair-weather patriots, to all you of flag-waving nincompoops who confuse unquestioning loyalty to a political leader or policy with love of country or mistake a symbol for substance: Take the flag off your bumper or lapel and put up your DD-214; or your voter registration card. It may not stand out and make you look “cool” but at least it’s a REAL show of patriotism.

-Nuff said


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