Thursday, July 5, 2012
As the Cookie Crumbles: Patriotic Poison
Not only the killing and the maiming and the destruction, but the conniving and the thievery and the profiteering and the cowardice, too.
Oscar Wilde thought of it that "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."
At Nuremberg, the Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering opined: "... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
The redoubtable Julius Ceasar recorded his thoughts on the matter:: ""Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind."
World renowned psychologist Erich Fromm held patriotism in low esteem: "Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. "Patriotism" is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by "patriotism" I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice."
Neither of the contemporaries George Bernard Shaw nor Bertrand Russell had much good to say about it. Shaw, ever irascible, thought "Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy." Russel wrote: "Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons."
And of course, that is the subject of Wilfred Owen's wrenching, poetic account of the deadly costs of trench warfare and the "glories" of perishing for God and Country: "Dulce et Decorum Est." In one of those freakish flickers of fate, Owen was killed on NEARLY the last day of World War One. Read it here: http://www.english.emory.edu/LostPoets/Dulce.html
Perhaps most tellingly and famously, according to Dr. Johnson, lo these many hundreds of years ago, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
There is an extensive debate over who first said, When fascism came to the USofA, it would be carrying a cross and be wrapped in the flag, and would be called "Americanism." It probably wasn't either Sinclair Lewis or Huey Long; it might have been a fellow named Haford Luccock, sometime in the early 30s, according to the New York Times of the day. Though the sentiment has long been a familiar one.
But none can doubt its truth, any longer, I think, since that dread arrival has already occurred. Flag-wrapped fascism is on radio, every day, and cable television; likewise it's arrival been celebrated from thousands of pulpits, where it's been widely heralded as a necessary restorative to American primacy.