Sunday, January 05, 2014


I read this very good article yesterday at Counterpunch:
Patriotism: Signs of Saturation
On one of the flights (South West Airlines) there were some young, uniformed military personnel. I had noticed in the pre-flight waiting area a young man and woman, both in camouflage fatigues, she with a large backpack. As we inched to the gate at the end of one leg, an attendant solemnly requested that all passengers remain seated while these – in rough paraphrase – brave men and women who have just been deployed overseas and will be fighting on our behalf so that we may remain free have the honor of exiting first. This request was greeted by some polite applause, and then a woman began singing God Bless America. Several seemed to join her but it quickly died out. And then the troops exited to more applause.............A scene like this (familiar to many readers) renders with clarity the excellent selling job the state has done to its “appendages” in pursuance of its power arrangements. It is at once maddening, sad, and tragic.
Similar occasions do become familiar after a time in the USA. Just last weekend, watching the Kennedy Center Honors show on TV, as Garth Brooks paid tribute to Billy Joel one of the honorees, by singing Joel's song Goodnight Saigon - singing it very well too - of course an opportunity like that could not be left alone could it? Onto the stage marched a variety of military and veteran personnel. The audience rose to their feet, all was hallowed, it was as though the Messiah had entered the building. I tried to reduce my angry yell to a subdued complaint as husband shrugged his shoulders.

Yesterday glancing around Twitter I noticed a hashtag title "#AmericanvBritish", wondered what it was all about. It was mostly silly stuff about comedy or sport or celebrities, but among the "tweets" I found this:

Said by an American soldier after a tour in Iraq.

Notwithstanding my dislike of anything militaristic and overtly patriotic, I had to swallow a lump in my throat as I read it. As I recall, in the UK, people do not revere their military lads and lasses in anything comparable to the way people of the USA idolise theirs.
"Just saying"... as they say.


DC said...

I'm appalled at that type of behavior too. The all so glorious military...B.S. coming out of the states...
there's a verse (#18) in the Tao te ching that goes something like this, (I'll use three interpretations, they all vary somewhat...but you'll get the point)....the first interpretation....

"When the Way is forgotten
Duty and justice appear;

Then knowledge and wisdom are born
Along with hypocrisy.

When harmonious relationships dissolve
Then respect and devotion arise;

When a nation falls to chaos
Then loyalty and patriotism are born."
.....and the 2nd...

"When people lose touch with Tao,
they start talking about
"righteousness" and "sanctity."

When people forget what's true,
they start talking about
"self-evident truths."

When people have no respect
for one another,
they start talking about
"political correctness"
and "family values."

When the nation is unstable,
people start talking about "patriotism."...and lastly...

"When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born."

anyjazz said...

I have lived through a period when patriotism was a pride and an honor. The current patriotism swell seems generated to me; transparent, empty. In my usual "Conspiracy" mode, I fear that there are spin doctors afoot, implementing a guise of patriotism in order to avoid the degeneration of support as happened in the Vietnam action. After all, if the war machine ground down, what would the corporations do for income? If the ceo population lost some of their income, who would pay the politicians?

Kaleymorris said...

Jeff was very moved by the finale of "Goodnight Saigon" on the Kennedy Center broadcast. I just asked him why it touched him so, and he said it had to do with how the people who joined the stage were presented. They were dressed in everyday clothes instead of military garb and that made them familiar. For him, the sight was more about Vietnam and the people who served there. He could see faces in that group of everyday people who could have been his contemporaries. It reminded him of his friends, times before and after the war and of some who did not return.
This comes from a man who becomes annoyed to the point of defiance any time we are at an event and Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" is trotted out and the audience rises to its feet at the line "And I'd gladly stand up ..." He can't stand the implied "My patriotism is better than yours" notion and it extends to people flying American flags on their front lawns.
He says the two things do not compare.
I guess it all depends on what lens you are looking through ...

Twilight said...

DC ~ Thank you. I think I get the meaning of that Eastern wisdom.
In western, more vulgar, terms maybe we'd say: When things start going downhill fast, that's when true values become - or are directed to become - arse/ass about face.

Twilight said...

anyjazz~ I can believe that things were not always as synthetic-feeling as they are now in the US. It was, then, probably more akin to feelings in the UK after World War 2 - support and thanks to the army, navy and airforce personnel, of all nationalities, who had helped save us, was heartfelt, and with very good reason....that was long, long ago. They're not into all the ongoing, never-ending, flag-waving nonsense in Britain, so it comes as a shock to yours truly.

Twilight said...

Kaleymorris ~ Hmmm. The Vietnam thing - well, that's a lens I cannot see through, so ought not to comment on, otherwise I might get myself into bad books. ;-)

Jeff's more or less on the same page as me though - I won't stand up for any flag-waving number - ever!

And that ubiquitous "Thank you for your service" nonsense automatically mouthed to young - or older - service personnel who've probably never done more than peel a few spuds or mopped a few floors or done a bit of filing is downright stoooopid.Or downright obscene if the personnel happen to be involved in Obama's dronz-are-us programme. :-(

mike said...

I'm not into patriotism or nationalism...I don't wear a flag pin on my lapel or fly a tattered flag from my bicycle handlebar, either.

There are no jobs that compare to our combat soldiers...they have volunteered (for whatever reasons) to put themselves in harms way and are VERY likely to return in a coffin or missing limbs or shrapnel-imbedded flesh. The pay is about $1500/month for 24/7 on-call duty. Police and firefighters have a potential for death and injuries, but at much, much lower statistical odds, with better pay, benefits, and hours worked (doesn't apply to forest firefighters!).

Even those troops that push papers or peel spuds, if they are in a combat zone, risk their bodies.

These boys and girls don't make the rules or the wars...they do their job that they volunteered to perform. By volunteering, they allow their non-military peers to enjoy a civilian life working, attending college, having a home to return to each night, particularly during the holidays. The combat service they are trained to perform does not differentiate between a war in Iraq, New York City, or Disneyworld...these kids are following rules of command.

My bitch is with their command, not them. I can't say that I would go out of my way to say thanks, but I have stated that to some combat soldiers. One that I said thanks to was a temporary neighbor that was here for a legal internship and had spent five years in the combat zone...he had severe hearing loss and shrapnel-imbedded skin from an IED that detonated under his vehicle while in Iraq, and I suspect some PTSD.

I may not like my bank because it's corrupt and helped bring the economy down, but I say thanks to my teller after a transaction. I see entire communities come-out to say thanks to the firefighters that just saved that community...they even bake cookies and serve coffee to them. My city has several events each year to honor and thank police and firefighters that have performed exemplary duties.

I may have contempt for the designers and supervisors of the war machine, but I see no valid reason to deny a thank you to the combat troops that are doing their job as if Corpus Christi were being bombed by Russia, but instead put that same seriousness to work in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots. Their job is to follow rules by command and not differentiate or deconstruct those orders.

I think you dislike the patriotism-on-demand and we-must-say-thanks-to-soldiers-nationalism that the American public tends to perpetuate. Your beef isn't with the soldier, but the civilians that wish to endow the soldiers. I've seen many interviews with soldiers and read many articles, and the troops DO appreciate the thank yous, just like the police and firefighters and other public servants. I can handle that.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I respect your views but cannot share them. My beef is with the whole MIT and those who CHOOSE to be a part of it and go off to perpetuate these manufactured "wars" whose true purpose is to fill the coffers of arms manufacturers and expand the Empire, to get power over oil reserves - which involves killing people who pose no real threat to the USA. These people in invaded nations do fight back - obviously - who wouldn't? And who can blame them. That entails some deaths and injuries of US servicemen and women. The initial blame is on those sending troops to invade countries (or send drone attacks there - even more obscene in my view). Blame has to be shared by those carrying out the orders for which they have willingly and knowingly volunteered - they know exactly what will be entailed when they volunteer. I do not wish to thank them for killing people who are not attacking us.

We must agree to disagree, again, on this.

mike (again) said...

I'll assume that you no longer purchase gasoline for your car to protest the Mideast takeover for their oil reserves, which is what this "war" is truly about. There are many corporations directly or indirectly involved in this endeavor and they are profiteers...many of these corporations have subsidiaries that make household products. Do you have anything made of plastic (petroleum based product!) in your home? Many retirement funds have monies invested in corporations that are somehow war-related. It is extremely difficult to untangle our personal lives from global conflict and abuse...virtually everything we use in our everyday lives is involved in suspect global affairs. But I realize that most individuals rationalize these thoughts out of their's more convenient that way.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Of course we have to buy petrol for the car - the same way every family in our town has to buy petrol for their vehicles in order to move from within reasonable walking distance of their homes to buy food or go to work or school. There is no public transport here.

Of course we all have to use items or services relying on, or manufactured from, oil - there is no (or little) choice in the matter.

That still does NOT excuse the wanton killing of people abroad in order to acquire the oil under their lands. If the USA cannot obtain sufficient oil from its own resources then it should investing more in solar and wind and inventing new power sources; and ensuring that public transport is available in all areas of the country. It should be doing so anyway, and should have bee doing so decades ago, to try to limit and slow down climate change.

But USA Powers That Be prefer to have their brain-washed minions go murdering foreign innocents instead, because it's more convenient, and more profitable.