Friday, July 04, 2008

Patriotism and the Fourth of July

Devil's Dictionary: patriotism
A cynical view of the world by Ambrose Bierce
n.
Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.
In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

That's a little rough, but in light of the squabbling going on over the last few weeks I think maybe I'll just take that one. I'll take it with a wry cynical smile, because if I didn't know better I'd be pretty sure I'm a patriot. You see if I don't go all gingo-istic and demand we stay in Iraq until we win and if I'm not sure we need to try to destabilize Iran to keep bombs out of our cities I don't get to wear the pin. I'm not even sure what the pin looks like, apparently it spells out GOP in bright red, white and blue or something. Somehow hoping for the very best for our troops and doing what I can to help them out doesn't mean patriotic unless I want to keep them in Iraq.

What I hadn't realized was the to be a patriot you've got to be scared. Since I'm now 55, I'm old enough to have played the Commie bomb drill game of ducking under my school desk and kissing my butt g'bye. By the time I was in Junior High school I lived 14 air miles from Wright Patterson Air Force Base which was Strategic Air Command Logistics Headquarters, pretty much a first strike target for atomic warfare. Being directly east with prevailing westerly winds the B52 made their landing approaches directly over the house, flaps down, gear down, throttles opened up belching black streams of jet exhaust, great lumbering thundering bombers. In those good old days they were in the air all the time with nukes on board. I'm not easily impressed by the fear mongers. I didn't care to be scared then, fatalistic if anything.

We'll put the flag out on the 4th and I'll drive the SSR in the parade with Baker Country Democrats banners and a County Commissioner candidate in the truck, top down and we'll wave and later man a table under my racing awning. There'll be banners and flags and red, white, and blue stuff strung all along my blue awning and we'll look patriotic.

With all the faked up pumped up stupided up rhetoric surrounding just what getting shot down in a fighter bomber qualifies one for and being on the doubting side of the argument I expect to catch shit about it. I'll wear my DPO Gun Owners Caucus ball cap and have some literature for that part of the Party and a bit of Obama paraphernalia and whatever else we can round up and try to make the Democrats look good. But I have a real problem with the idea that patriotism comes from the end of military weapon. I look at this blog and my dedication to the electoral system as a more quiet and meaningful measure of patriotism when it means:
n.
Love of and devotion to one's country.

Even when my country's leaders do things that anger and embarrass me I push back and try to help things get right again. It's a long and generally frustrating endeavor, this idea that the words of our Founding mean something. Two hundred thirty two years of doing 4th of July and it seems we just keep getting it wrong. We'll sit in a park in little Haines Oregon, out here in northeast Oregon at the foot of the mountains and there'll be no ghettos, the bangs will be fireworks, and the politicians all small fry, and it will look pretty much like things are working out pretty well. The Democrats will be out numbered 3:4, the bombs will be far away, and patriotism will be easy. But underneath the neighborliness and the fun a chasm will yawn, and it will yawn because Bierce was right, it is the first refuge of some scoundrels, the first place they go because real ideas are too tough for them or just won't work for them.

They'll have infected our nice little party in the sun with their small mean minded rhetoric aimed at short term advantage. I honestly did hear a pud-nit on mainstream TV (in other words not Faux) state on the afternoon of July 3rd that some on the left want to lose in Iraq to teach America, again, the lesson of Vietnam. Now I'm pretty left in a left leaning state in a left leaning political organization and I've never heard such a thing but it surely was important to say such a thing. Somebody might have forgotten who the real patriots are.

4 comments:

KISS said...

I think this will be a good day to put on the DVD " Soylent Green" and ponder if the product would be in the future of Monsanto.
I might wonder just where Independence and freedom were lost. I hope the celebrants won't keep me awake with their misplaced joy and jubilee.

Zak Johnson said...

You put your finger on the oddest part of the Bush-era patriotism when you talked about fear. Very similar in my mind to the so-called patriotism of the McCathy era. At that time a more eloquent person than I can ever hope to be said this in oppostion:

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine . . . And remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment, unpopular . . . We proclaim ourselves indeed we are, defenders of freedom where ever itcontinues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedo abroad by deserting it at home . . . he [McCarthy] didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully."

Amen. Goes double for "W". Why are we suddenly supposed to be afraid of the Bill of Rights and of living in an open society? I'm not, and I won't be pushed into it.

Chuck Butcher said...

Edward R Murrow I believe?

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