Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Patriotize This

Many online and talk radio liberals are offended that their patriotism has been questioned by Bush in a frantic effort to kick start whatever war frenzy remains in the US. How dare he! Is Bush seriously suggesting that nearly 60 percent of the American public, who have turned somewhat against him, are traitors? Shame!

Know what I say? Fuck patriotism.

What are we supposed to venerate -- corporate control of the economy and political process? Privatizing larger sections of public life? Assaults on civil liberties? A governing class that enriches itself while the rest of us scramble? An insane foreign policy that ensures hatred and violence for perhaps decades to come? A gang of criminals who lie us into war, commit torture, use chemical weapons, and try to abolish habeas corpus for "terror" suspects? We're supposed to kneel before this set-up, bow our heads and thank God for our sweet blessings?

Fuck that.

Okay, cynical Son. It's clear that you hate your country. Have you no allegiance to it at all?

Depends on what you're talking about. I'm as American as it gets. Born and raised in the Midwest, surrounded by Republicans and fed the same steady nationalist diet as everyone else. Was in the Cub Scouts. The Army. Played baseball and basketball. Went to church. Can riff for hours about American comedy from any period. Enjoy cookouts and cold beer. And so on. Indeed, I'm semi-proof that in America, if you hustle effectively enough, you can rise above your humble roots (high school grad, C-average) and rub shoulders with the Smart Rich Celeb Crowd.

Of course, it was in that rarefied atmosphere where I saw the bullshit that fuels the Machine. New York lit parlors. Hollywood offices. DC political gatherings (the legislative minutiae chewed over in Georgetown pubs at night gives off a vibrating insect hum). In short, I've seen and experienced much of this country, at various levels. I couldn't pass as a non-American no matter how hard I tried, and yet I feel no genuine connection to what presently passes for America.

Should I be sad? Maybe. After all, there's much in American culture I do enjoy. I have a certain fondness for what's left of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But patriotic? Under these conditions? Not on your life.

Why liberals cling to patriotism sincerely stumps me. Do they honestly believe in such authoritarian concepts? Or are they trying to win over average folks by waving Old Glory as a political tactic? Either way it's a self-defeating proposition, simply because the wingnutty trogs do the patriot dance better and with more crazed feeling than liberals can ever hope to match. So why try?

Why not explain to those on the political fence, or better still, to those who grip the flag like a security blanket, what "patriotism" means in the present context. It's not about flea markets, Little League games, canned food drives and fireworks ripping through the summer night sky. It's about obedience to the state, keeping your mouth shut except to praise Dear Leader, fighting endless wars without any real debate, and generally allowing those with vast economic and political power to call the shots and profit from a fixed arrangement.

That's modern American "patriotism," as defined by W. on down. That's what we humble consumers are expected to happily swallow. And if we fail in our duty, then we are traitors and deserve the worst possible fate.

So call me a treasonous scumbag. Pray that my town is hit by Al-Qaeda, or whoever's the official enemy this week. Fantasize about me being tortured in Gitmo. I welcome it, because the America you offer and wish to see triumphant is a madhouse run by corrupt murderous egomaniacs who feed off misery and chaos, flashing false smiles from heavily-armed bunkers. If supporting that makes one "patriotic," then I'm as anti as I can be. And while I hate defining my position in negative terms, I've little choice at this rancid moment, and this makes me angrier still.

I don't know if those who are turning against this dirty war share my distaste for the status quo; I suspect that most are simply sick of being lied to while the dead and mangled are hushed-hushed back into the States, with many more on the way and no end in sight and billions of tax dollars keeping it all going. But the dark beauty of this horrid arrangement is that it forces people to make choices they'd rather not think about -- the political becomes personal at an accelerated rate, which is probably our only chance to get out of this mess.

In their efforts to further alienate, demonize and divide Americans, Bush and his followers might be performing a public service after all. The louder these reactionaries scream, the more Americans they wake up. Whether or not this has any lasting or positive effect remains to be seen, but we longtime, weary observers should take what we can get. Consider it the patriotism of the despised.