Sunday, September 11, 2011

Displaying The Flag ≠ Patriotism

Hanging a multicolored piece of fabric is not patriotism.  If you think it is, you're a pretentious rube. When you consider the impact 9/11 had on this country, such a trivial gesture seems terribly inadequate.  Instead of having a meaningful and reflective conversation on the impact that 9/11 had on the country's foreign and domestic policies, politics, culture, media, etc., there seems to be  a race to be the most outwardly pious patriot possible.


Saying nice sounding things does not "honor" the soldiers or "respect" the victims or their families.  To the contrary, I would argue, such meaningless platitudes trivialize the sacrifices of those protecting us and the victims of 9/11.  But to express dissent from the fragile and air-headed sensibilities of the masses, is to call upon the masses to demonize one's self.


Just looking at my facebook feed is depressing how facile and prentious the 9/11 comments are: "God bless the USA" or "The families of 9/11 in our prayers" or "Never forget".    I would like to ask, what purpose does posting "God bless America" serve?  Setting aside the fact that no evidence exists for a god, what makes you think by saying this that he would 'bless' the USA?  Is it necessary to say this in order to prevent another terrorist attack?  Was it god's will for 9/11 to occur and for thousands to lose their lives?  If so, why are you trying to countermand god's will, and if it wasn't god's will, what makes you think he has the ability to prevent another such attack?  And why are you asking for blessing only for America?  Wouldn't world peace be more desirable?  I'll save my rhetorical (though I would be happy to hear responses) questions on the other two common sentiments since they're just as vacuous and serve only to flaunt the posters' faux patriotism.


I say "faux patriotism" because one would never hear these people take any substantive interest in any of the negative outcomes 9/11 had on society.  You wouldn't hear them take issue with the fact that we have essentially capitulated to the terrorists' goals of weakening our democratic principles.  Instead, if informed of the systematic undermining of the Constitution by their own government in the name of counter-terrorism, post hoc rationalizations are made along the lines of "well, if it increases our security, then I'll trust the experts."  Never is there a discussion of how to balance the inherent tradeoffs between of security and liberty.  Instead security is the only goal, and those that are concerned with the erosion of civil liberties are un-Patriotic


Take for example, the Patriot Act.  What a brilliant work of propaganda to attach the very attribute to which average Americans aspire to the piece of legislation that anyone that has a passing knowledge of the Bill of Rights would recognize as, at the very least, a threat to the 4th Amendment and 1st Amendments. 


This past week, the ACLU released a report as Glenn Greenwald puts it, "to comprehensively survey the severe erosion of civil liberties justified in the name of that event, an erosion that -- as it documents -- continues unabated, indeed often in accelerated form, under the Obama administration."  Reading Greenwald's analysis of the report is quite sobering:


Last week, the top lawyer and 34-year-veteran of the CIA, John Rizzo, explained to PBS' Frontline that Obama has "changed virtually nothing" from Bush policies in these areas, and this week, the ACLU explains that "most [Bush] policies remain core elements of our national security strategy today."  At some point very soon, this basic truth will be impossible to deny with a straight face even for the most hardened loyalists of both parties, each of whom have been eager, for their own reasons, to deny it.


Here are a couple snippets from the report:

This last point I think is the most important.  The continued torture, rendition, warrantless wiretaps, indefinite detention, and the targeted assassination of a US citizen are disgusting violations of civil liberties, but, in my opinion, are far less of a threat to a functioning democracy than surveillance for the purposes of silencing political dissent under the pretext of security.  A government so obsessed with security as ours is becoming (or has become) is one that loses any sembalence of Democracy.  When political dissent is considered a threat to Democracy, you no longer have Democracy; you have an authoritarian regime.  And perhaps an authoritarian regime that capitalizes on the fear that terror attacks fuel.


While few would be so stupid as to publicly wish for more terror attacks, one Arkansas Republican probably spoke for many when he said in 2007, "all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001] and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country."


But any thoughtful discussion of the important issues that affect society will by and large not take place on Facebook.  Instead you will see meaningless pablum from those that want to display their Patriot Feathers.  Or just as any good propaganda machine would love, you'll see vitriolic attacks on anyone that says anything (like questioning the multifarious impact that government policies have had on the country) that can be construed as not "supporting the troops" or "honoring the fallen".


So it is.  (and the hash tag is quite telling: I'm going to yell and curse at you until you agree with me or shut up.  And if you don't capitulate to my opinion, I'm not going to even try to refute your argument.  Go ahead, de-friend me.  Or we can have a civil discussion on the issues on their merits)

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