What’s wrong with Patriotism? Posted in Carolinus by R Lee Wrights on October 10th, 2006 by R. Lee Wrights “In time of war, patriots throw their politics aside and stand behind their leaders, because there can be only allegiance to their country, or giving aid and comfort to the enemy - there is no middle ground while our soldiers are in harm’s way.” - Guy Shepard, Kirtland, New Mexico, from a letter to the editor in the Farmington Daily Times For too many people the answer to the question, “What is wrong with patriotism,” is simple and easy. They will merely say, “Nothing is wrong with patriotism” and then dare anyone to disagree. To them the question is the same as asking, “What is wrong with loyalty,” or, “What is wrong with baseball and Mom’s apple pie?” They falsely see the question as a decision to be made between standing up for America in all her glory or supporting her enemy du jour. Well beloved readers, it just is not that simple. There are some serious flaws in the kind of patriotism expressed by Mr. Shepard in his letter to the editor. By way of clarification let me say that I think patriotism is not only acceptable, but also noble in its proper constraints. Being an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Air Force, I consider myself to be a patriot of the highest measure. I do not only talk the talk but I have walked the walk. Love for one’s country is the driving force behind any progressive society not to be taken lightly by any means. However, just like anything else in life when carried too far, patriotism becomes detrimental to individual freedom and has caused more atrocities to be justified than any other emotion known to mankind. For example, Mr. Shepard says, “In time of war, patriots throw their politics aside and stand behind their leaders, because there can be only allegiance to their country….” With this one simple statement he gives carte blanche to whoever owns the government to act with impunity. It is this very attitude that has allowed dictators to rise throughout history and massacre untold millions whether it be in the name of the Fatherland, or the Motherland, or the Homeland. It says that in times of war it is the citizen’s duty to support their leaders regardless of how evil or pure their intentions may be. I am sorry, but I just cannot accept that as a proper definition of patriotism. Blind allegiance is the mother of tyranny, not patriotism. In my opinion there is just too much intellectual dishonesty in Mr. Shepard’s statement to ignore. The gentleman from New Mexico says we have only two choices when he proclaims, “In time of war, patriots throw their politics aside and stand behind their leaders, because there can be only allegiance to their country, or giving aid and comfort to the enemy….” It’s not bad enough that he tells me once the shooting starts I must follow a leader blindly even if he is insane; he also tries to transform me into an enemy sympathizer if I dare disagree with the anointed one leading the charge. I could fertilize the whole north forty with this many droppings of the bull. Is it not this kind of thinking that is the foundation of every militaristic dictatorship ever established throughout the annals of recorded history? Is this not the philosophy that caused hundreds of thousands to march in goose-step behind an insane elected official who was killing millions behind the “patriots’” backs? Do we really want hundreds of thousands of highly-trained and well-armed government employees that will follow the orders, without question, of every crackpot that manages to achieve high military or civilian rank? One of my favorite people in the world (Barbara you know who you are;-) taught me long ago that a good patriot always reserves the right to question authority. Mr. Shepard closes his fairy tale description of patriotism by righteously proclaiming, “…there is no middle ground while our soldiers are in harm’s way.” He becomes redundant all too quickly and chooses to remind us, in his subtle way, that once the bombs begin to burst there is no turning back. He obviously agrees with President Bush’s foreign policy, which is simply, “You are either with us or you are against us. And God help you if you are against us!” I have never cared much for that my-way-or-the-highway kind of thinking, with the exception of situations where there are truly ONLY two choices. It is representative of the vilest of all false principles because too many freedoms are relinquished as a result of it and too many people fall in battle to defend it. The “middle ground” Mr. Shepard is, bring the troops home where they belong. That should ALWAYS remain a viable option when engaging in an aggressive military action especially when such action escalates to the level of full-blown war. Better yet, never send young men and women, who pledged only to defend their country and constitution, to their deaths on far-away battlefields serving in the capacity of global nation builders. And certainly do not attempt to create the false doctrine that it is some how unpatriotic to oppose such despicable actions just because they are perpetrated by the government of one’s own homeland. And don’t you dare tell me that I must follow any president blindly in order to prove my patriotism. I am a free-thinking, independent patriot BECAUSE I stand in opposition to a government corrupted thoroughly by a flawed foreign policy. So Mr. Shepard, and all Americans that agree with their friend from Kirtland, I will return to answer my own query which is, “What’s wrong with patriotism?” The short answer is nothing. I can find no fault in any individual simply because he/she has a genuine affection for the nation of their birth. I share this sentiment explicitly; so much so, I volunteered five years of my precious youth serving in my country’s military establishment as an United States Air Force MST (medical services technician). One honorably-discharged veteran non-commissioned officer says there is nothing wrong with “pure” patriotism, which is simply love of one’s homeland. But just as with anything else that is precious, it will require vigilance to preserve patriotism in its purist form; and, not allow it to become perverted with political propaganda produced by the marriage of blind allegiance and ridiculous rhetoric. Again, and it cannot be reiterated enough, Mr. Shepard’s declaration does not resemble anything close to patriotism. In fact, what he tries to pass off as patriotism is really a formula for totalitarian tyranny. He has articulated nothing more than unadulterated blind allegiance auspiciously adorned in patriotic garb. It is a lie! I don’t care if most of the American people do agree with Mr. Shepard. As the French author and critic Anatole France wrote before his death in 1924: “If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” And if 200 million people believe a lie, it is still a lie. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” - Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909) Originally published in Liberty For All April 1, 2003. R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in North Carolina. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All http://www.libertyforall.net. Contact Lee at LFAeditor@aol.com.