Heroism and Patriotism
by Kim Petersen
May 9, 2004

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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 Wright.

A sample of emails indicates that Rall was obviously not generating a new fan base:


“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.”

Rall finds Tillman to be “admirable” for giving up the big money, but he nevertheless finds Tillman’s cause not to be admirable. Rall suggests, “He would have been a better person and a better husband if he took the $3.6 million and played football and left the poor and beleaguered people of Afghanistan and Iraq alone.”


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: kimpete@start.no.  




(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


Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen


* The Pornography of War

* The Fairy Tale of Liberation
* The Lesser-of-Two Evils
* The Etiology of Hate
* The New York Times’ Search for Missing Friends
* Anti
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* The Ethnic Cleansing of Africville: Identity Politics in Canada
* Passion Against Anti-Semitism
* Thwarting the Democratic Will of Haitians
* Sports As War
* Rubber Numbers and the Sanctity of Human Life
* Same Shit Different Asshole!
* Clear and Present Danger: The War President Contextualizes
* The Pits of Cherry Picking: Bush and Blair Must Resign
* Distinguishing Neocon Commentary from Drivel

* Relinquishing Sovereignty: People Power or the Police State
* Parecon: Toward an Equitable Economy
* The Great Auks, Wild Salmon, and Money

* Toxic Farmed Salmon
* Necessary Chinese Illusions: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
* CBC Newspeak
* Looking Back on Year 2003
* Rhetorical Absurdities
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* One China
* Shifting the Blame: Now it’s Mr. Chirac’s Fault
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* Killing by Remote Control: The Bulldozing of Morality
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