Rumsfeld's visit to Ft. Bragg gives the local politicos a chance to bring
out their banner proclaiming Bragg's sister community, Fayetteville, as
America's Most Patriotic City. Were I a card carrying member of the press
rather than just a grass roots activist, I'd like to ask those smarmy small
town officials to reflect on patriotism.
I know what patriotism means to me and the
other military families in this community who are tired of empty slogans and
photo ops. It doesn't mean anything any more.
I was born in a brick hospital. What if I told you I believe brick hospitals
are superior to all other types of hospitals? Would you feel nervous if I
told you people born in brick hospitals are unique and special? Would you be
uncomfortable if you saw me pray publicly and often for God Almighty to
especially bless people born in brick hospitals?
Patriotic Americans have that attitude about their birthplace. Through the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune they believe they are lucky enough
to have been born into the greatest country ever. These patriots are
prepared to defend their country against all detractors.
It just doesn't make sense.
The Nazis were patriotic. There is little difference in patriotism and
nationalism. A feeling of superiority is not an asset but a curse. Pride
does not equal self worth. Pride is nothing more than a preoccupation with
how others view you, or in this case your country. When Americans fail to
criticize America, evils are perpetuated. To view this country in black and
white leaves out the grayness that is the reality of our national existence.
America produced Audie Murphy, Billy Graham and Eliot Ness. It also produced
Lt. Rusty Calley, the Reverend Jim Jones and Ted Bundy.
Sometimes great good arises from great malevolence. The evil of sanctioned
racism gave Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the chance to rise to prominence.
The greed of the tycoons of the industrial age gave Mother Jones her
opportunity to fight for the rights of working people. The melting pot
contains more than pure gold.
In the current age, those who criticize the country are labeled as
America-haters. Point out how many soldiers have died in Iraq and your house
may be vandalized as happened recently to a Florida woman. A Navy Petty
Officer who publicly aired his belief that the war is all about money was
charged with disloyalty by the military.
What is amazing is how many meaningless, superficial acts are associated
with patriotism. Standing up with hand over heart at a sporting event is
patriotic. Slapping one of those ubiquitous made-in-China magnets on your
car is patriotic. "Supporting our troops" (as if that is somehow different
than supporting the government ) is patriotic. There is no real meaning in
any of that.
I have noticed that the patriotic act of enlisting in the military is much
more popular among people from the bottom of the economic ladder than it is
among people at the top. I suppose the rich show their patriotism by
advocating for lower taxes.
Although I shun the word "patriotism" I do see love of the American people
manifested by young people who volunteer for programs like Teach for America
or Americorps. I see a love of the American people at every antiwar
demonstration I've ever been to. And, yes, the kids who are raised in a
system that teaches militarism from kindergarten onward, the kids who go on
to enlist (in ever dwindling numbers), these kids love their country too.
That love soon dissipates for many of them as they are confronted with the
reality of Donald Rumsfeld's world.
During his last visit to Ft. Bragg, Rumsfeld said, "The world knows why when
the president dials 911, it rings right here in Fayetteville."
Who can Fayetteville call when we need protection from the president?
Lou Plummer is a member of Military
Families Speak Out. He can be reached at:
Other Articles by Lou Plummer
Veterans Against the War?
Type of Hero
to the Bottom of It
Anti-War Movement in a Military Town