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The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

Hermann Goering, Hitler's second-in-command, Nuremburg trials, 1946

When Fascism comes to America it will be called anti-Fascism.

Attributed to Huey Long, governor of Louisiana


Continuing the analysis of the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on America....

From the LA Times, 9/22/01:

Loving My Country, Fearing Patriotism


C. Cushing-Murray teaches English at Century High School in Santa Ana

As I taught 11th-grade English last week, one star-spangled student asked me why I was not wearing the colors of our flag. Despite the emotionally charged state of our nation and with due caution toward trying not to impose my beliefs, I gave the only answer I could: I fear patriotism.

I suppose this is un-American, but it's not that I don't love my country. It's that the way we practice patriotism is, for lack of better words, unpatriotic.

I have a family that I love, and I am blessed that this love is returned. Our many differences of opinion do nothing to diminish our love. But patriotism, as often practiced, does not allow for these differences. Even those with less education or those less cynical than I am don't have to think hard to come up with crimes against humanity perpetrated in the name of patriotism.

However repulsive the act was to us, those hijackers were patriots to their people. Likewise, we Americans must have seemed like terrorists to the victims of My Lai or the civilian populations of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden.

As my eyes wandered across my students' faces, many of them paying respect for the dead by wearing red, white and blue, I wondered how egregious my perspective seemed. All I had to offer them were the cautions of men much smarter and more experienced than I, from William Tecumseh Sherman's, "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell," to Herbert Hoover's "Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die."

I tell my students that I know these are easy ideals for someone 3,000 miles away from the carnage. But I tell them that I worry about the anger and hate that may fill us in the days to come and how this anger and hate would blind us to the white and blue of our flag and act instead as a raging tributary to the red.

I tell them of the fears I have for them, because the price of vengeance likely will be paid with their blood.

And I tell them I wear black, not because I am not particularly proud to be an American but because I am not particularly proud to be human right now. And not just to mourn the thousands who died but to mourn the thousands who may follow.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

No heroes, only victims
From the LA Times, 10/6/01:

How Didn't They Die in Vain?


Jean Desmond lives in Rancho Palos Verdes

At my writers' workshop, Peggy began her reading, "They have not died in vain," and went on to say how, after the Sept. 11 disaster, flags were sold out in the stores and are being displayed all over town. I felt myself growing angry, and when she repeated, "They have not died in vain" at the end of her essay, the fury rose in my chest.

We have a rule: no cliches and I can't think of a worse one.

Five minutes later, when it was my turn to critique her work, I exploded. "I'm furious! Did these innocent people die so we could sell flags?" "Oh, I didn't mean that," she explained. "I just meant that it brought us closer together."

Closer? When "patriotic Americans" burn down a restaurant because it serves Arab food? When a car belonging to an Iranian family is smashed to pieces? When people mistaken for Muslims are killed, and others are afraid to go to their mosques to pray? When turbans and scarves, mandated by their religions, make people a target for hate?

Later I hugged Peggy, apologizing for my outburst but not for my sentiments. But I couldn't resist adding, "And these other 'loyal Americans' waving the flag with one hand, phone in the other calling their brokers to sell, sell, sell! This is the faith they have in the America they are proud to be part of? Hypocrites all!

"And what about phonies like Jerry Falwell, blaming gays, feminists, abortionists, et al, for bringing down God's wrath on innocent people? Sure, he apologized, but you don't think he's really changed his mind, do you? He just saw a threat to the contributions made to his organization and backpedaled."

Poor Peggy; in my anger I didn't give her a chance to defend herself as I went on. "Your son is draft age; if he goes into the Army and gets killed over this disaster, will you still mouth, 'He did not die in vain?' I don't think so."

I couldn't resist using one of the worst of cliches: "Our 'patriotic Americans' are crawling out of the woodwork and damaging all of our freedoms. In the name of 'security,' private planes are not permitted to fly; cars cannot enter the airport grounds; Congress is considering loosening the laws governing wiretaps and other invasions of our privacy."

The force of my fury surprised me. Along with the rest of the world, I was mourning the loss of so many lives. But I had not been aware of this rage that had been building up inside me. Much of it is directed toward the terrorists, but I am angry too with a government that allowed this attack to occur and is now threatening to start World War III.

I can see nothing good coming from this catastrophe. I am 82, and my remaining years look very dark indeed. I fear for the youth of this country—and the world.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

"Patriots" terrorize Americans
Why fear patriots as C. Cushing-Murray does? Why cringe as they come crawling out of the woodwork? Here's why:

Wednesday, September 26, 2001 (AP)

Newspaper columnist fired after writing that President Bush showed `cowardice'
(09-26) 15:44 PDT GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP)

The Daily Courier has fired a columnist who wrote about President Bush "hiding in a Nebraska hole" instead of returning to Washington immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Dan Guthrie said publisher Dennis Mack fired him from his job as columnist and copy editor because of negative reaction to his Sept. 15 "Dogwatch" column. Mack denied the column was the reason for the dismissal but declined to elaborate, saying it was a private personnel matter.

In the column, Guthrie wrote that Bush "skedaddled" after the attacks. "Most of his aides and Cabinet members split for secret locations, too."

Guthrie wrote that the airline passengers whose struggle with hijackers is believed to have led to its crash in Pennsylvania "are the heroes of this rotten week. They put it all on the line. Against their courage the picture of Bush hiding in a Nebraska hole becomes an embarrassment."

Guthrie noted that Bush's spokesman told reporters the administration had evidence that the White House had been a terrorist target, and that the president was following accepted emergency procedures. But he called those explanations "feeble excuses."

After receiving hundreds of letters criticizing the column, the newspaper ran an editorial by editor Dennis Roler apologizing to readers.

"Criticism of our chief executive and those around him needs to be responsible and appropriate," Roler wrote. "Labeling him and the nation's other top leaders as cowards as the United States tries to unite after its bloodiest terrorist attack ever isn't responsible or appropriate."

Guthrie had also run into trouble for a New Year's 1998 column in which he predicted the Seven Feathers Casino would change its name to the Single Finger. The casino's Indian owners were angered by the reference and, rather than apologize, Guthrie stopped writing the column. He had resumed it this January.

From CityPaper.Net:

October 4–11, 2001
Cover story

Speak No Evil

How patriotism is trying to silence voices of dissent.

by Daryl Gale, Frank Lewis and Gwen Shaffer

This is not the time.

Over and over we've been hearing this phrase in recent weeks. It's not the time for Democrats in Congress to question President Bush. Not the time to make jokes, however dark, however grimly fitting. Not the time for any of us to appear doubtful about the course that our president has set us on since that recent, long-ago day when a handful of men armed with box cutters and motivations we'll never understand executed a plan almost sublime in its brutality and changed the world.

Not the time. Some use exactly those words. Like when Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, reacted to comments from comedian Bill Maher about America's cowardice in "lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away," by saying: "It's a terrible thing to say and it's unfortunate. There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not the time for remarks like that; there never is." With two sentences, Fleischer seemed to extend President Bush's challenge to the nations of the world — "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" — to Americans as well. And as of press time, his only attempt to modify his statement had been to claim he was speaking only of Maher and a particular member of Congress.

Others, however, don't bother to present their contempt for others' views as admonishments, but rather skip right ahead to the threats. Often, these are threats of violence, sometimes veiled, sometimes not.

Predictions of the death of irony were premature, it seems; chief among the freedoms for which our enemies supposedly hate us is our freedom to express ourselves, in art, in music, in politics, but most or all, in the written and spoken word. And it is in the name of protecting these freedoms that many among us would like others to shut up. They seem shockingly oblivious to the fact that censorship is supposed to be anathema to us. As writer Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. put it in 1860: "The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think what we like and say what we think."

But now is not the time.

And sadly, not all of them are partisan political operatives or the armchair philosophers who have made talk radio so successful. Some of them work within or have some influence over the news and entertainment media, meaning they play a role in what the rest of us read, see and hear. And in their patriotic zeal, or their fear of those gripped by the patriotic zeal, they are censoring themselves. Even Saturday Night Live has gone all gushy, promising to avoid humor that, as producer Lorne Michaels put it, "is in any way disrespectful" to Bush, who before Sept. 11 was routinely portrayed on SNL as a squinting, adolescent buffoon. Presidenting just got a whole lot easier, because now is not the time.

But we're in this for the long haul, right? So if not now, when?

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there has been a growing intolerance for expressions of dissent over the latest additions to American dogma: that terrorists associated with Saudi exile Osama bin Laden were responsible for the attacks; that said attacks were utterly unprovoked; and that the best way — the only way — to respond is to visit grievous bodily harm upon these people, regardless of the cost in dollars and innocent lives.

If this were an election, we could report that the votes are tallied, the final precincts have reported and the results are in: Free speech lost.

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the lone "nay" vote on Sept. 14 when Congress authorized the use of military force in response to the terrorist attacks. For voting her pacifist conscience, Lee has been vilified and excoriated in the court of public opinion. Lee's press secretary, Andrew Sousa, says that his boss has received 45,000 e-mails and faxes, most of them negative.

"In the first days following the vote, the calls and e-mails were very angry and passionate," Sousa says, "and yes, there were threats and horrible, horrible things said. I should also say that now there are more calls and e-mails coming in from people who may disagree but respect Congresswoman Lee's vote as one of conscience. But more people are urging restraint now than there were two weeks ago."

In defending her vote against the use of force, Lee writes, "I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk. I do not dispute the president's intent to rid the world of terrorism but … measures that spawn further acts of terror or that do not address the sources of hatred do not increase our security."

Sousa, for his part, sees more danger in the tone of the correspondence his office has received than in his boss setting herself up as the sole voice of dissent.

"Dissent, debate and discourse are the basis of our democracy, and it's ironic that while Americans rally 'round the flag to protect our way of life, we also happily trample on the tenets that way of life was based on," Sousa says. "Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the First Amendment, and that means listening and giving due respect to opinions that may be unpopular at the moment."

Tell that to Les Daughtry Jr. The editor and publisher of the Texas City Sun, Daughtry commandeered a portion of his paper's front page on Sept. 23 to apologize for a column, penned by city editor Tom Gutting and published the previous day, that sharply criticized Bush for taking so long to return to Washington on Sept. 11.

And in a rebuttal titled "Bush's leadership has been superb," Daughtry called his city editor's words "offensive," "outrageous" and "so absurd that they don't even merit a response." He ended the fawning rebuttal with "May God bless President George W. Bush and other leaders, and God bless America."

Reached at his office for comment, Daughtry admits that the paper was inundated with negative phone calls, faxes and e-mails Saturday after Gutting's piece ran, but says he was moved to write a rebuttal because he was personally offended by the column. He won't explain why Gutting was fired.

"I'm not going to comment on the matter past what I said in my rebuttal and apology," Daughtry says. "I'm a supporter of the First Amendment, and I think reporters and editors have the obligation to be voices of dissent at times, but this was beyond the pale."

Daughtry refused to say whether the paper's advertisers threatened to pull out, and even refused to link Gutting's column with his being fired. He did admit that the Sun hasn't hired a new city editor yet, but plans to do so soon. He wouldn't speculate on whether the new editor would be restricted in what he writes for the paper.

In Grants Pass, Ore., the Daily Courier fired columnist and copy editor Dan Guthrie for writing that after the attacks, Bush "skedaddled" and that, against the courage of the passengers who allegedly thwarted the fourth hijacking by ditching the plane in western Pennsylvania, "the picture of Bush hiding in a Nebraska hole becomes an embarrassment."

The Daily Courier ran an apology to its readers the next day and handed Guthrie his walking papers.

Philadelphia Daily News editor Zack Stalberg was alarmed when he heard that journalists were being fired for being critical of the president, and he vowed that no such action would ever be taken against a writer at his paper.

"I'm just appalled that people are being fired for being the voices of dissent," Stalberg says. "But there really is a newfound sensitivity out there for George Bush in the wake of the attacks, and a tendency to see any criticism as a personal attack on the symbol of our country."

Stalberg says that the recent Daily News editorial demanding "Blood for Blood" was almost unanimously embraced by readers, while at the same time he's heard flak from readers for even the mildest of criticisms of the administration.

"It's as though in times of crisis the president can do no wrong, which is bullshit. Public figures need to be called on the carpet when they're wrong, and it's our job to be the thorn in the side of politicians and point out the flaws in the political process."

David Rolland was carrying on this tradition when he wrote an editorial titled "The politics of fear and anger" for the alternative newsweekly he edits, the Ventura County [Calif.] Reporter. Rolland accused Bush of manipulating the nation's fear and suggested that the president had "dangerously oversimplified a very complicated situation" by casting the U.S. as the good guy in a war on "evil."

The first reader to call sounded friendly at first, but then claimed to have lost two people close to him in the attacks. "Then he said ‘Watch your back walking to and from work,'" Rolland says. Another employee took the call, so it wasn't clear whether the threat was intended for Rolland or for everyone at the Reporter.

Another caller asked if Rolland were still alive. Informed that he was, the caller said, "He shouldn't be."

"It kind of left me a little weak in the knees," Rolland admits. His first concern, he says, was for the other employees. Later, his girlfriend pointed out that he, too, could be in danger.

"It even made me second-guess what I had said — a little bit, momentarily," he adds. But after re-reading the editorial, he decided it was valid, and he was glad he'd written it.

"The publisher asked if this was a battle I really wanted to fight," Rolland says (Ventura County is "a fairly conservative place," he notes). "I said, ‘This is definitely a battle I want to fight.'"

The complaints and vague threats of violence, he says, came from a few people "who are angry. Very patriotic and very angry."

On Sept. 24, the guests on CN8's news show It's Your Call With Lynn Doyle included Congressman Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Bucks County, and Burton Caine, a law professor from Temple University.

Greenwood and Caine mixed it up over the nagging question of civil rights versus national security. Caine raised the issue of declaring war; the Constitution gives this power to Congress, not the president. Greenwood, however, said Caine was missing the point.

"Yes, there are some academics out there who would like to question that," Greenwood said, "but with all due respect, sir, you're a tad out of step with where this country wants to go."

In other words, get with the program.

To his credit, Greenwood repeatedly made the point that civil libertarians should be part of the dialogue over protecting rights while increasing safety. But just as frequently, he suggested that if Caine and his ilk had nothing constructive to offer, they should keep quiet. "This is not a time for [a cynical] approach," he said.

Later, in an interview, Caine says he is not surprised. "People who assert civil liberties are now considered disloyal," he says. After his appearance on CN8, he received several hostile phone calls: "Why don't you care about the civil rights of the people who got killed?" "Why don't you get out of your office and see the real world?" And so on.

In his First Amendment classes, students are willing, even eager, to limit rights. Each semester he asks them to cite what they consider to be reasonable exceptions to protected speech. One year, they came up with 32. Even today, his students — future lawyers — are no more concerned with losing rights than the rest of the population.

Now is not the time.

But now is the time when voicing and listening to dissent is most crucial. Unity does not mean looking together in the same direction; it means looking together in all directions, because none of us, from the president on down, knows for sure where we're headed, or from whence the next threat will come.

More patriotic attempts to silence dissent
From TV critic Howard Rosenberg in the LA Times, 9/26/01:

A New Kind of War of Words

On Sept. 11, terrorists caused the deaths of thousands in New York, Pennsylvania and the Washington, D.C., area, rocking Americans like no event in recent history and pushing this nation toward what President Bush would call "a new kind of war."

Yet a commentary in The Times did "more damage to our USA than the terrorists did," one e-mailer wrote this week.

She meant my Sept. 14 column assessing Bush's skills on television, the primary medium through which our president speaks not only to the U.S. but to the entire globe. I praised Bush's heart, his compassion and "depth of feeling" for the victims and those grieving for them. I also wrote, however, that he "lacked size in front of the camera when he should have been commanding and filling the screen with a formidable presence as the leader of a nation standing tall under duress." I ranked him far below Presidents Reagan and Clinton as a TV communicator, however well he may have been performing behind closed doors.

His public tears, I added, "softened the toughness of his words" when he was addressing those fomenting the terrorism. I concluded by writing that Americans now "need a president they can look up to, not just one who will share in their mourning."

I appreciate the 50 or so e-mails, letters and calls expressing support for my comments. As for the other 950 ....

In other words, the response to my column was instantly torrential (and even now still trickling in), the near universal outrage a stinging reminder of what can await writers and other communicators who walk on raw wounds with spiked shoes, especially when Americans are staggering from a crisis.

Do I have second thoughts? Absolutely.

The column's timing stunk. I deserve full blame for responding badly to the kind of competitive pressure that I frequently fault TV newscasters for buckling under. At the very least, I should have waited another day and mentioned the president's trip to New York, where he visited the twin towers rubble and related warmly to rescue workers. There's no question, also, that in subsequent days his public appearances have inspired many Americans.

Do I regret what I wrote, though? Absolutely not.

Some of my critics were thoughtful. Very smart readers, very teed off.

The vast bulk of them, however, wanted my head. Some of them wanted my life, assuming their death threats reflected their level of anger. As one man warned: "You'd better watch your back."

In e-mail after e-mail, an epithet was attached to the word "Jew." I was ordered by many e-mails to leave the U.S. and, as one put it, "go live with the Arabs." My patriotism wasn't just questioned, it was assaulted, and many e-mailers equated my column with terrorism, in effect renaming me Osama bin Rosenberg.

Again and again, I was denounced as a "Bush basher" who was promoting my "liberal agenda" at the expense of the nation. And many e-mailers (and some local talk radio hosts) insisted that I be booted out by The Times before, as one writer put it, my "stench infiltrates the whole organization."

U.S. journalists walk a tightrope. We're Americans first, of course. If we're in trouble in another country, we turn first to the stars and stripes, not the Swiss, Japanese or Russian embassy. As Americans, moreover, we are as obliged as other citizens to never knowingly compromise national security.

But "my country right or wrong?" If that myopic dictum is followed, the U.S. media might as well pack away their megaphones and allow their 1st Amendment liberties to atrophy. If it had been followed by journalists reporting about Vietnam, My Lai and other excesses from that debacle would still be interred along with the bones of victims.

It may seem a big jump from that to a commentary about a president's competency on TV, and this is no attempt to narrow the gap. Yet the flag now being waved proudly by Americans all across the nation is a celebration, too, of the 1st Amendment, without which this democracy would falter.

It's one thing to label someone a miserable jerk, another to advocate stilling the jerk's voice just because you find it strident.

From "When the Ayes Have It, Is There Room for Naysayers?" in the LA Times, 9/28/01:

"I live in the penumbra of the World Trade Center," said Victor Navasky, former editor of the Nation, a left-wing weekly, and now a professor journalism at Columbia University. "I think there's a lot of poison in the air, and that makes dissent very difficult."

As an example, Navasky cited a military officer who appeared on the popular Fox News cable program "The O'Reilly Factor" and argued that people who do not support the government are "treasonous." The host responded, Navasky said, by saying that people who criticized the government were justifying the terrorists' attacks. "The ability to distort that position is one form of stifling dissent," Navasky said.

From "No Glory in Unjust War on the Weak" by Barbara Kingsolver in the LA Times, 10/14/01:

I am going to have to keep pleading against this madness. I'll get scolded for it, I know. I've already been called every name in the Rush Limbaugh handbook: traitor, sinner, naive, liberal, peacenik, whiner. I'm told I am dangerous because I might get in the way of this holy project we've undertaken to keep dropping heavy objects from the sky until we've wiped out every last person who could potentially hate us. Some people are praying for my immortal soul, and some have offered to buy me a one-way ticket out of the country, to anywhere.

From an e-mail by Rob, 10/29/01:

The Berkeley city council recently called for an end to the bombing in Afghanistan as soon as possible—which seems like a just and humane position to me. It was inundated with thousands of calls, e-mails, and letters labeling the council members traitors and the like.

For calling for the bombing to end ASAP?! Good thing the council didn't say the bombing should end now, or that we were wrong to start bombing in the first place. The council might have been tarred and feathered if it took those "radical" positions.

Clearly, American are in love with the idea of bombing Afghanistan into the Stone Age. This has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with revenge.

From Boondocks Speaks: An Interview with Aaron McGruder on AlterNet, 11/5/01—a report that Boondocks was censored for criticizing Bush.

In the wake of the events of Sept. 11, McGruder's strip was pulled from numerous newspapers because of its dissenting politics.

From the Boston Globe, 11/13/01:

Conservatives Denounce Dissent
by Patrick Healy

A conservative academic group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, fired a new salvo in the culture wars by blasting 40 college professors as well as the president of Wesleyan University and others for not showing enough patriotism in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

"College and university faculty have been the weak link in America's response to the attack," say leaders of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni [http://www.goacta.org] in a report being issued today. The report names names and criticizes professors for making statements "short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation."

Several of the scholars singled out in the report said yesterday they felt blacklisted, complaining that their words had been taken out of context to make them look like enemies of the state.

"It's a little too reminiscent of McCarthyism," said Hugh Gusterson, an associate professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was named in the report for his comments at a campus peace rally where he made a connection between American suffering after Sept. 11 and the suffering in war-torn Afghanistan.

Lynne Cheney, who was a powerful voice for conservative intellectuals as chief of the National Endowment of the Humanities during the first Bush administration, is not an author of the new report. But it is peppered with quotations stating her views, and it was prepared by two close allies. She was until recently the chairwoman of the council, a private nonprofit organization based in Washington. Her agenda -- to promote Western civilization and American culture as the bedrocks of US education -- continues to guide the group's activities.

The report lists 117 comments or incidents as evidence that campuses are hostile to the US government and out of step with most Americans who, according to polls, support the war in Afghanistan. "Indeed," the report says, "the message of much of academe was clear: BLAME AMERICA FIRST."

While there have been some campus antiwar protests recently -- such as the burning of two American flags at Amherst College -- these have been relatively rare, and most were criticized by college officials concerned about other students and alumni who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Anne Neal, an author of the report and council official, said that while she is sure many professors and students support the US government, they are afraid that if they speak out, liberal colleagues might shout them down.

"For the most part, public comments in academia were equivocal and often pointing the finger at America rather than the terrorists," Neal said. "It's hard for non-tenured professors to speak up when there's such a chorus on the other side."

Among the scholars named in the report, however, several said yesterday the council was carrying out its own political agenda: painting higher education as a bastion of political correctness and trying to silence any criticism of the Bush administration.

"These kinds of attacks will only discourage professors from speaking out and opening up dialogues about what's happening overseas, and why," said Kevin Lourie, a professor at the Brown University School of Medicine.

The council cited Lourie for writing, in a Brown news service opinion article, that the United States may be "paying an accumulated debt for centuries of dominance and intervention far from home." Lourie said he was attempting to explain how other nations and societies may view the United States.

Douglas Bennet, the president of Wesleyan, was named for a Sept. 14 letter to the Wesleyan community. The letter condemned the terrorist attacks, but the council singled out one passage in which Bennet voiced his concern that "disparities and injustices" in American society and the world can lead to hatred and violence, and that societies should try to see the world "through the sensitivities of others."

Bennet complained that the report's authors took his comments out of context. He said that he strongly supports the Bush administration's response to the terrorist attacks and that an American flag has hung on the door of his house since Sept. 11.

"I don't know where this group gets off extracting language from my statement," Bennet said. "They're trying to perpetuate cliches that belong to an earlier era. I don't think it'll wash -- we all have important, real work to do as a nation."

From An Organization on the Lookout for Patriotic Incorrectness in the NY Times, 11/24/01:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson made the list for remarking to an audience at Harvard Law School that America should "build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls." Joel Beinin, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Stanford University, earned a place on it for his opinion that "If Osama bin Laden is confirmed to be behind the attacks, the United States should bring him before an international tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity." And Wasima Alikhan of the Islamic Academy of Las Vegas was there simply for saying "Ignorance breeds hate."

All three were included on a list of 117 anti-American statements heard on college campuses that was compiled by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a conservative nonprofit group devoted to curbing liberal tendencies in academia. The list, part of a report that was posted on the group's Web site last week, accuses several dozen scholars, students and even a university president of what they call unpatriotic behavior after Sept. 11.

Proof that patriotism is all talk
From the LA Times, 10/26/01:

Lots of Interest, Little Action at Recruiting Office


Despite a surge in interest in military service since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there has not been an increase in enlistments, recruitment officials for the four services said Thursday.

Most of the people who inquired about enlisting did not follow through, and others were found unqualified. Much of the interest has come from people with previous military service.
In the 16 days after Sept. 11, hits on the Army Web site, http://www.goarmy.com, rose 116%, said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Ft. Knox, Ky. Similar increases were reported on the Web sites and toll-free phone numbers of the other services, but those inquiries have tapered off substantially, officials said.

The spike in interest—but not in enlistment—also occurred during the Persian Gulf War. Recruiters say it reflects the fact that it takes most young people a long time to decide to enlist.

"The days of young men walking in, raising their right hands and shipping out to basic training are over," Smith said. "The World War II image doesn't apply."

Although recruiting is difficult during times of economic prosperity, all four services achieved their goals in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Since Sept. 11, recruiters have discouraged some qualified applicants for fear that those who enlist on a whim could become quickly dissatisfied.

"Military recruiters know all about buyer's remorse," said Chief Petty Officer Joe Winton, a Navy recruiter in San Diego.

Comment:  Apparently, America's patriots are full of hot air. They talk a good game, and are more than willing to confront dissidents and minorities at home. But when it comes to putting anything on the line other than their mouths, they're nowhere to be found.

You bet the World War II image doesn't apply. This threat is several orders of magnitude less than Hitler's threat to world peace. Americans may cry for war from their comfortable reclining chairs, but they aren't willing to sacrifice their lives, money, or anything else for the cause. Perhaps they instinctively realize a handful of terrorists requires a limited police action, not an all-out war.

More on America's patriotic citizens—from the San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/21/02:

Over a third of college students would try to evade draft, poll says

WASHINGTON – Thirty-seven percent of American college students would try to evade the draft if one were called today, according to a nationwide poll released yesterday.

The survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz comes nine months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted a surge in American patriotism. It also shows that 79 percent of students do not think Western culture is superior to Arab culture.

Asked whether they would accept being drafted into military service, 35 percent said they would be willing to serve anywhere in the world, while 21 percent said they would serve only if stationed in the United States.

Males were more willing to heed their country's call. Twenty-six percent of men said they would "likely try to evade the draft," but 48 percent of women said they would.

Luntz said there was a direct correlation between religion and willingness to serve in the military.

"Those who attend church are much more likely to serve," he said, but he cited no data to support that. He also said students who were better informed about the U.S.-led war on terrorism were more supportive of the military.

The poll surveyed 634 students at 96 four-year colleges.

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Schools proud of brainwashing kids
From the LA Times, 10/12/01:

Intended to Unite, Displays of Patriotism Divide Some Schools

By STEPHANIE SIMON, Times Staff Writer

OMAHA, Neb. — A surge of civic pride has pushed patriotic lessons into classrooms across the nation. Older students are writing essays on American freedoms. Little kids are coloring American flags. And in classrooms everywhere, children are standing hand over heart to pledge allegiance.

Now comes the backlash—tentative at first, but getting louder as the shock of Sept. 11 begins to fade.

Rather than drawing all Americans together, the patriotism campaign has proved divisive. A small but staunch minority of parents, teachers and students is standing up to denounce the new boosterism. The pledge of allegiance is alienating, they say. "The Star-Spangled Banner," too hawkish. And the lessons on America, land of freedom and justice? Jingoism. Propaganda.

"I don't think the schools should have any role in teaching patriotism, because everyone defines it differently," said Phoebe Rosebear, a Wisconsin mother of two.

Much of the ire has focused on the pledge of allegiance, newly prominent in school after school. U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige has called for every student from Maine to Hawaii to say the pledge in unison today. "Join me . . . and other proud Americans across the country in showing our patriotism by reciting the pledge of allegiance," he urged. Millions will participate, with pride.

But some parents will tell their children to sit out. Some are uneasy about the religious reference in the pledge. Others find the language hypocritical when so many Americans still face discrimination. Still others are troubled mainly by the idea of kids vowing loyalty in lock-step; they would prefer a more reflective approach that lets students come to their own conclusions about whether the country deserves their allegiance.

"Mandating patriotism is a really scary thing. It leads to nationalism and ultimately, to fascism," said Suzy Grindrod, a first-grade teacher in Madison, Wis., who refuses to lead the pledge in her class.

"It makes our country as bad as Osama bin Laden [by setting up] a war between the believers and the infidels," added Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor of Freethought Today, a monthly newsletter dedicated to the separation of church and state.

Those are the extreme views. Others resisting the patriotic deluge tend to speak with more moderate voices. But they dig in their heels, nonetheless.

Educators Reject Pledge of Allegiance

In North Carolina, elementary school principal Sam Roman-Oertwig argues that community service teaches patriotism better than command-performance pledges do. Her students visit nursing homes, donate gifts to the poor and write letters of support to kids affected by the terrorist assaults on New York. But she will not demand that all her teachers lead the pledge in class, although a vocal group of parents has called for it.

"Rote recitation," she explained, "is not what makes a person a patriot."

In Vermont too, school board member Ruth Cody has turned back a move to make the pledge mandatory for the 1,500 children of the Springfield School District.

She contends that there are other ways to mold good citizens, from holding mock elections on local issues to reading aloud student poetry about America. And she suggests that the pledge may divide, not unite: "I worry about kids getting picked on if they don't want to stand up for it because of religious or moral convictions."

That stance baffles—and infuriates—a great many Americans.

They see the new patriotic zeal as a source of unity in a fractured society, a source of courage in a frightening world. They want more, not less, of it in schools. The pledge may be rote, they say, but it is a symbol that binds Americans together. And in a time of war, especially, they want their children to feel part of a great nation—a nation worth fighting for.

"I guess you'd call it indoctrination," said Norm Coleman, a sixth-grade teacher here in Omaha. That, to him, is not a scary word: "We're trying to inculcate loyalty."

His colleague, music teacher Deborah Mosier, has every kid in the school singing in high, sweet voices—not only the national anthem, but also "America the Beautiful," "God Bless the USA," "Grand Old Flag" and an armed forces medley, complete with marching and mock salutes.

"Can we brainwash the kids?" she pondered. "Well, yeah, we can." But as long as the pro-America fervor is tempered with respect for the nation's diversity—of races, of religions, of opinions—Mosier figures it's OK.

Second-grade teacher Cheryl Riddle agrees: "At this point, I can't see overdoing it. I really can't."

Much of the rally-round-America fervor that swept schools after Sept. 11 was a spontaneous, from-the-heart reaction to the terrorist strikes. Teachers collected pennies for the relief effort. Students announced patriotic themes for homecoming. Principals declared red-white-and-blue days. And the pledge made a striking comeback.

Making Patriotism Permanent Policy

As the weeks have rolled by, elected officials at all levels have moved to codify the initial flush of patriotism into permanent policy. Several states are considering new legislation to make the pledge of allegiance mandatory. Alabama lawmakers have called on schools to include more patriotic lessons.

And here in Nebraska, the state board of education dusted off a 1949 law declaring that every school has a duty to "arrange its curriculum in such a way that the love of liberty, justice, democracy and America will be instilled in the hearts and minds of the youth." The law lays out specific requirements for each grade: To memorize "The Star-Spangled Banner" or read stories about American heroes or study the evils of communism.

"This is just a critical time in our nation," said Kathy Wilmot, the board member who pushed for the long-forgotten law to be emphasized in new guidelines for district accreditation. "There are enough people out there who always focus on the negative about this country. This is an opportunity to focus on the positive."

That approach alarms some critics, who worry that blind loyalty may replace objective analysis. Even board member Steven Scherr, who joined the unanimous vote to emphasize the McCarthy-era law, says he worries it could encourage a "flag-waving" approach to education, a reflexive "we're better than everyone else."

"I hope the good sense of teachers in the classroom," he said, "will temper whatever jingoistic attitudes there are."

At Catlin Elementary School, an arts magnet in south Omaha, the new approach to patriotism is proudly on display.

Even before Sept. 11, every class said the pledge of allegiance daily. Since then, Principal Kay Mayberry has added a weekly "patriotic assembly" for songs and stories paying tribute to America. And patriotic themes thread through each day's lessons.

With her class of second-graders, Riddle spent a half-hour one recent day reviewing the pledge word by word. "Indivisible," she wrote on the board. "What do you suppose that means?"

"It means invisible!" Jacob shouted. "You can't see it."

"It means we can never be beat?" Tyler suggested.

"It means we can't be divided," Riddle explained. "No one can come in and make us fight each other."

Across the hall, first-grade teacher Christie Miller was reading the pledge aloud from a book glowing with photographs of American flags and landmarks. On the blackboard behind her, she had written the class news: "It is a cloudy, cool rainy day. . . . We have a new student. . . . It is patriotic Wednesday. We love the U.S.A.!"

In a sixth-grade class, meanwhile, students were creating poems in which the first word of every line spelled out a patriotic slogan, such as "God Bless America, Land That I Love." Next door, the fifth-graders had just completed essays on what it means to be an American.

"Maybe it is someone who helps people when they are hurt," a student named Randy wrote.

"Americans must believe in peace," Jared proclaimed.

And, from Elyse's essay: "An American would do anything for their country."

In the patriotic lessons, as in the rest of the curriculum, teachers emphasize multicultural themes. Second-graders are learning the pledge in Spanish, and older kids know the national anthem in sign language. Explaining the word "indivisible," Miller told her first-grade class: "We don't care what color people's skin is or what color their eyes are. We're all part of America and we all stand together."

Yet critics are not so sure the new school patriotism is that inclusive.

By emphasizing unity, they say, it makes dissenters look like dangerous kooks. The pride-in-America rhetoric tends to close out criticism. And no matter how much individual teachers may praise the value of diversity, said black Democratic Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers, "Patriotism always converts into racism and discrimination against people who are not 'Brand A' white Americans."

Or, as Wisconsin educator Gabriel Chavez put it: "Nationalism tends to create that us-vs.-them mentality, no matter how you teach it."

As acrimony over the pledge spikes around the country, a few voices are urging compromise in the name of patriotism. Perhaps the most poignant comes from a sixth-grader in Chapel Hill, N.C., who has watched in dismay as a nasty debate over mandatory pledges has ripped apart his community.

In a letter to his principal, the child urged everyone to focus on American ideals of freedom, unity and sacrifice for the greater good, rather than squabbling about the best way to teach kids patriotism.

"At such a time in U.S. history," he wrote, "we need to work together as a team, as a community. But instead, we are breaking apart and losing each other."

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times

Patriotism in our schools:  "Drop the bomb"
Bush preps children to be next generation of killers:

Posted December 3, 2001

Bush Youth

by Dale Allen

Recently, a close relative of mine, a 13-year-old child, made some remarks which left her mother, my wife and I all aghast. She stated that every citizen of Afghanistan—man, woman, and child—deserved whatever happened to them because their country had made war with our country. None of them deserved sympathy after what they had done to our people on 9-11. This is a child whom my wife and I consider normally to be very astute, nonjudgmental, compassionate and freethinking. This made her statements all the more appalling.

Along with her mother, we assured her that the Afghan people were innocent of the terrorist acts of 9-11 and, further, that their country had never declared war on the United States. We put her into contact with RAWA. She was quite shocked to hear us questioning our government's motives in all this, and she readily admitted that her teachers were hard selling her with patriotic propaganda.

The public school system had pulled out all the stops on drumming patriotism into our children. I work as a guest teacher in several school districts, and I can state that the public schools have never been so inhospitable to dissent. While it has always been discouraged, free speech has now been banned from our schools. The young lady who was expelled from Sissonville West Virginia schools for expressing her anti-war views is a case in point.

U$ flags festoon the hallways and the classrooms. Patriotic graffiti is not only permitted, it is encouraged. In one middle school where students in computer class were given the project of creating patriotic posters to hang on their lockers, I read the following patriotic slogans superimposed over the Statue of Liberty: "We don't forgive, we don't forget," "Might is right," and "Drop the bomb." These sentiments were not only permitted, they were encouraged. Yet the staff saw no connection between such blatant aggression and their own fears of school shootings.

As anyone who has taken an education course can tell you, the primary purpose of public education is to indoctrinate children into our society. From an early age, children are introduced to a rigid authoritarian system where their place is at the bottom of the power structure. Students are trained to be obedient, dependable workers. Those who resist the regimentation are singled out and either forced to conform or marginalized and punished for failure to do so. Those who refuse to reform are prepared for entry into the penal system or—increasingly—are drugged into obedience.

In response to the rash of school shootings, schools have become even stricter. Student behavior is now very closely monitored. Students who dress in black, sport unusual hairdos or body piercings, or who engage in antisocial behavior are singled out for special attention. In some districts, police officers who are assigned to school buildings identify troublemakers and keep track of their activities. In a growing number of high schools and middle schools, students are required to carry a picture ID, and can be punished for failure to produce one upon demand. To put it simply, children are being prepared for life in a police state.

And now students are being taught that the U$ is a nation blessed by god, besieged by evil terrorists who are jealous of our high ideals, our strong moral standards and our freedoms. They are not allowed to see how the rest of the world has suffered to maintain our high standard of living. They are not allowed to question our government's motives or actions.

Without being allowed to ask why the children of Afghanistan are starving, our children are being used in a propaganda campaign, urged by George W. Bush to send in their dollars to help the children of Afghanistan. This outpouring of aid by our young amounts to—at best—a few crumbs while the actions of our government thwart the relief necessary to truly prevent massive starvation. This was a callous misuse of our children's altruistic impulses for propaganda purposes by a man who hid in a second grade classroom as the terrorist attacks were taking place.

Now George Bush wants veterans to speak in classrooms, extolling the virtues of patriotism. You can be sure he did not have in mind Utah Phillips, Stan Goff, members of Veterans Against the War or the 30% of veterans who are among the homeless. Considering that this "War on Terrorism" is expected to last for at least a decade, the Bush administration wants to begin the conditioning of his future storm troopers today.

What next? Would it be so farfetched to learn that George W. Bush wants to establish youth groups whose purpose is to monitor everyone around them for signs of terrorist or subversive activity? Ultimately it is the children who will suffer for what is transpiring, here and abroad, now and in the future.

This system is permitted—indeed, thrives upon—lack of parent involvement. Yet, as parents, we have the right to oversee our children's education. Certainly, there isn't time enough in the day for everything which must be done; but when it comes to our children, we must make the time. Sit in on your children's classes, attend PTA meetings, and make appointments to talk with your children's teachers and their school administrators. Demand freedom of speech in the classroom and demand that all editorializing be balanced by dissenting opinions. To do anything less would be to sell our children short.


Not long after writing this, the author was banned from a school system where he was teaching after speaking to a high school civics class about the evidence of prior knowledge of the 9-11 terrorist attacks within the U$ government. Several students turned him into the administrators and filed written reports which led to his banishment.

Fortunately, not all Americans are children followed the Pied Piper, lemmings plunging over a cliff, etc. See Patriotism Means Asking Questions for more on the subject.

Native American patriotism
The following expresses the real meaning of patriotism. From the NY Times:

Live Free and Soar

Published: June 29, 2005

Boulder, Colo.

A week ago, at the conference of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) meeting at the Morongo Casino Resort, the evening banquet opened with a ceremony that begins most formal Indian gatherings. Several Indian men, often military veterans, march in with flags and place them on the stage. The American flag leads the procession. Last week, the Ute Mountain Ute Indian leader Ernest House carried in the Star-Spangled Banner, and then stood and faced it, as if reunited with a treasured comrade. After the others had left the stage, he gave the flag an intense salute and parted from its company.

Non-Indians familiar with the history of the invasion and conquest of North America might be puzzled or even troubled by this ceremony. No residents of this country have better reasons for anger at the imperial powers of this nation than do Indian people; no American citizens have a better-grounded historical reason to put the American flag at the end of the procession, or to refuse to carry it.

And yet, most native people are loyal and committed patriots. The American flag appears at ceremonies and rituals; stars and stripes are woven into beadwork and incorporated into powwow clothing.

Indian people, in other words, are complicated human beings, despite centuries of efforts to reduce them to narrow and simple stereotypes.

Patriotism is one element of that complexity. As a younger, more skeptical person, I might have mustered a patronizing sense that Indians serving in the military were a co-opted and exploited group. Now, guided by respect and consideration for their choices and privileged to watch veterans salute their flag, I have put aside the skepticism.

I take my bearings from the reality that these are people with an extraordinary knowledge of both the promise and the tragedy of this nation. "When I was about 30 years old," A. David Lester, director of CERT and a Muscogee Creek Indian, remembers, "the Blackfeet Indian leader Earl Old Person told me, 'One of our responsibilities is to teach our neighbors what it means to be American.' "

No one in these circles would advocate historical amnesia; making a peace with the injuries of the past is quite a different matter from forgetting those injuries. It is, in fact, a national misfortune that the Indian wars have faded from the memory of most citizens. We have surrendered the chance to learn lessons from the wars that might well guide our military and diplomatic policy today.

Much of what we have taken to calling "the lessons of Vietnam" -- perhaps especially the difficulty of sequestering noncombatants from violence, as well as the complex moral choices raised by confronting guerrilla war -- could just as easily have been learned as "the lessons of the Indian wars." If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ever hints at even the slightest interest in exploring the historical meanings of the Indian wars, I will be on the next plane to D.C.

In the meantime, my mind lingers on the fact that many Indian tribes held mourning or honoring ceremonies on behalf of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. I think of a group of Lummi Indian artists, led by Jewell James, who carved totem poles to place in recognition of the 9/11 victims at the sites of the attacks.

And I hold on to the memory of the remarks made by the Yakama Indian thinker and speaker Ted Strong as he introduced the entrance of the color guard at the CERT banquet last week. "In true tribal custom," he said, "we will post the colors of our nations. The American flag represents our allegiance and commitment to the well-being of our land, our neighbors and our country. ... Our families and friends have fought and sacrificed their lives to secure human rights for us and our future generations."

Next in the procession, after the American flag, came a staff bearing eagle feathers and "representing all tribes," Mr. Strong said. "The eagle," he explained, "is symbolic of the human effort to live free and soar above the weaknesses on earth."

Paralysis enforced by bitterness and resentment is an understandable response to historical injury. But spending time in the company of Indian people in 2005 offers a spirit-raising chance to know what it means when human beings "soar above weakness" and choose life over defeat and despair.

More quotes on patriotism

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain (American humorist, writer and lecturer, 1835-1910)

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

Oscar Wilde (Irish poet, novelist, dramatist and critic, 1854-1900)

The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born.

Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy (Russian moral thinker, novelist and philosopher, notable for his influence on Russian literature and politics, 1828-1910)

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

Bertrand Russell (English logician and philosopher, 1872-1970)

You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.

George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist, 1856-1950. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature)

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.

George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist, 1856-1950. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature)

You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.

Malcolm X (American black militant leader who articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the early 1960s, 1925-1965)

[T]he highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher standard.

George McGovern (American politician, b. 1922)

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism—how passionately I hate them!

Albert Einstein (German-born American physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity, 1879-1955. Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921)

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.

James Bryce (British politician, diplomat, and historian, 1838-1922)

More on patriotism
Killing Custer was patriotic
Celebrating the 4th of July
I pledge allegiance to the Constitution

Related links
God bless secular America
Right-wing extremists:  the enemy within
America's exceptional values
America's cultural mindset

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