Heroism and Patriotism
A previous article challenged the notion that the mere fact of being a soldier confers bravery upon that person. (1) Unless buffoonery and heroism can exist within the same body, then the photographed perversion of many US-UK troops in Iraq adduces the article’s contention.
Whatever his motivations were, former pro football player Pat Tillman left his big-salary contract to enlist in the armed forces and serve in Afghanistan. He can’t be accused of shirking what he probably considered a patriotic duty.
Patriotism is an attribute inculcated into a nation’s citizens. It is a feted characteristic that has its dark side. It is the sense of patriotism that leads people to fight their government’s wars, or to otherwise rally around the heroic troops. Famed physicist Albert Einstein loathed patriotism that he saw masquerading as “heroism” and “senseless violence.” Mathematician Bertrand Russell stated bluntly, “Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”
Tillman was misguided. For his patriotism/misguidance Tillman paid with his life.
It is often argued that America’s fighters are risking their lives to protect American rights and values. It seems, therefore, a startling contradiction to censor those rights; especially, when applied to criticism of war.
A cartoon by Ted Rall, who traveled in Afghanistan following 9-11, called into question the heroism of Pat Tillman.
In fewer than 15 minutes Rall’s
cartoon drew 110 mostly “vicious” e-mails responses. MSNBC.com
subsequently pulled the cartoon, as it didn’t meet its “standards of
fairness and taste,” according to MSNBC.com chief editor Dean
“You make me sick”; “lies and distortions”; “move to France”; “I pity you”; “disgusting”; “sad and pathetic”; “f--- you, you coward bastard”; “I will s--t on your grave”; “horrendous”; “rot in hell”; “freak”; “I hope you’re killed by an Arab terrorist attack”; “people died to publish the b.s. you do.” (2)
Rall spoke to E&P: “The word ‘hero’
has been bandied about a lot to refer to anyone killed in
Afghanistan or Iraq. But anyone who voluntarily goes to Afghanistan
or Iraq [as a soldier] is fighting for an evil cause under an evil
commander in chief.”
Even WWII General George Patton agreed somewhat. He told his army, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.”
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Kim Petersen, “An Act of Cowardice that Must Surely be Unrivalled in History: Challenging the Assumption of Valour,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2003
(2) Dave Astor, “Rall’s ‘Tillman’ Cartoon Pulled by MSNBC.com,” Editor and Publisher, 3 May 2004
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