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Patriotism: Signs of Saturation

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Posted on Jan 3, 2014
Rennett Stowe (CC BY 2.0)

By James Rothenberg, CounterPunch

(Page 2)

His response to the coffin on the tarmac in the rain and the pain of the family members might have taken a different trajectory. He might have wondered, for instance, who is to blame for this? Instead of counting only the lost American lives, he might have at least considered the infinitely more lost Iraqi lives, the more so because we went there. They didn’t come here.

Others have gone through similar experiences to his and come to different conclusions, among them Veterans For Peace, that publishes The War Crimes Times. The masthead:

We will abolish war crimes when we abolish war – which is a crime in itself.

Any question of honor – honoring fallen heroes – if the word honor is to have any meaning at all, must refer to the question of goodness. Most good, least good, or plainly at the extremes, simply, good and evil. Does it matter which side started a war?  This is not a tough question. What American wouldn’t be able to answer yes, almost reflexively, if the US was not one of the sides? Patriotism can do that to you. It can make you misplace the blame. That’s the Dependent Mind.

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The ultimate cynicism of the motivational state consists in forcing its soldiers into a position where their lives are at jeopardy and declaring them brave in advance.

Pin medals on those who fight; jail those who refuse. That’s the game in a nutshell. That’s how it works. Lily Tomlin once mused, what does it mean to be a success in a mediocre world? Following that, what does it mean to be honored by a country that has no respect for international law? To receive the adulation of fellow citizens whose reactions are the patriotically-induced equivalent of canned laughter? Like declaring soldiers brave in advance.

Until we begin to place the honor where it is most deserved – with Veterans For Peace and with the few, not the many, soldiers of conscience who refuse to serve, and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers of conscience, and there are others, perhaps then we should recognize the honorable service of those that, like I said, “are at the wrong end of all this” and for whatever reason, and there are many, have participated in it and believed they were doing it for the right reasons. For this, we can and should presume their innocence.

James Rothenberg is a retired professional golfer, author of the book The Skeptical Golfer, and freelance teacher who got involved in anti-war groups in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He can be reached at: jrothenberg@taconic.net.


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