Patriotism Reconsidered

As the flags are waved and the parades marched this 4th of July, we would do well to consider the freedom and independence we claim to cherish and defend.  In decidedly different ways, Edward Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster have challenged us to think about what it means to stand up for what we believe in, in ways that don’t involve spending billions of dollars fortifying our borders, stopping and frisking without cause, arresting people for expressing their First Amendment rights in washable chalk, perpetually attacking other countries,  the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and the highest per capita rate of gun ownership.

Bill Moyers reports that,

In just the six months since the Newtown killings there have been more Americans murdered by guns than the 4,409 United States armed forces killed in the Iraq war.

Aside from the fact that fighting spurious wars against other nations most decidedly makes us more vulnerable rather than safe, on our own streets and in our own homes, every day, we are waging war against ourselves.

Our military meanwhile censors news in defense of free speech and insists that maintaining the chain of command and good order trump legitimate prosecution of sexual assaults within the ranks, completely missing the point that the epidemic of personal violence being perpetrated by those who have sworn to protect us completely belies any semblance of a functional chain of command or good order.

At the same time, we have ignored both our own complicity in and the consequences of global warming.  How is it that the President just got around to making a major speech on that subject?

Last week there was an insert in my PEPCO bill that informed me that 41% of my power came from coal, 18.6% came from gas, 34% came from nuclear and only 5.7% came from renewable sources.  Meanwhile we are told that we must frack, never mind that it causes water to catch on fire and earthquakes, and we still don’t have a clue how to store nuclear waste (because the truth is it can’t be safely done) and we build tar sands pipelines through our farmland, wilderness and suburbs, and commit mountaintop mastectomies.  Our air and land and water are polluted, wildfires rage and entire cities flood.

And too, we cut education spending, close schools and fire teachers, and saddle our college students with impossible debt. Even with “Obamacare” there will still be those who do not have insurance.  In our legislatures and in Congress, a war is being waged against women’s reproductive rights. And retirement?  Don’t even go there. And Wall Steet?  Well it’s doing just fine.

That is the nitty gritty of the democracy for which we wave our flags. As Team America put it so eloquently, America, fuck yeah.

Josh Marshall (no relation) of Talking Points Memo makes the point that  American democracy is dependent on secrecy as an integral part of its defense and questions whether breaking that secrecy (even when it exposes the abuse of that mandate) is acceptable,

Let me put my cards on the table. At the end of the day, for all its faults, the US military is the armed force of a political community I identify with and a government I support. I’m not a bystander to it. I’m implicated in what it does and I feel I have a responsibility and a right to a say, albeit just a minuscule one, in what it does. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. (emphasis mine) So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free. It may just mean you did the right thing…
…And I’m very skeptical of the notion that what Snowden did is awesome just because leaking state secrets is always a heroic act.

No question, America does indeed depend on secrecy.  But as The New Yorker points out,

Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which surely broke the law. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public.

Yes, precisely.  And ask yourself this–Can you defend democracy with secrecy and spying or do those acts in fact completely undermine what you claim to hold dear?

Patriotism is a dangerous notion.  It assumes the supremacy of the state  that requires the constant exertion of ‘power over’ to maintain and the sanctity of borders that imply a damaging assumption of dominion and ownership which destroy any possibility of real freedom or democracy.

It’s time, past time, to reconsider what that flag we so proudly wave really represents and to stand up for the values that we hold dear.

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