February 26, 2003

At War with the Warmongers

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of our leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism…It works the same way in any country.” –Hermann Goering, Nazi official

With U.S. lust for war in Iraq getting hot and heavy, the Bush administration is calling for people to do their duty as patriotic Americans. So, on a recent excursion to the Recession Mart for plastic sheeting and duct tape, I decided that I too would become a hardcore patriot.

I figured that being a patriot would be noble and perhaps even fun. After all, it is a real privilege to actively participate in political discourse in one of the most open and diverse nations in the world. And boy, did I have some good ol’ dissent to contribute! I could hardly wait.

In undertaking this, however, I forgot to consider the mantra of the new age: “Everything Changed After 9/11™.” The meaning of patriotism had been forever altered. People were still exercising their First Amendment rights, of course—but mainly to put down those who use their First Amendment rights to question the actions of those who are sworn to defend First Amendment rights. These days, it seems, only those who support war are deemed worthy of free speech.

What blows my mind is the extreme passion with which people want to silence opposition to war. When millions of people around the world took to the streets in the largest one-day show of anti-war solidarity in history, the ever-vigilant media dutifully cropped their coverage to make it appear as if the only protesters present were Barbra Streisand and NAMBLA. War on Iraq is Must-See TV, and who are protesters to say the show sucks? Democracy is all about giving people what they want, and people just love to sit at home, eat chips and watch the war!

Free speech entitles any person to express his or her rationale for silencing anti-war activists. Free speech also entitles me to say what a crock of flaming hypocrisy that is. This country always needs a genuinely balanced dialogue; it especially needs one now amid the prospect of undertaking such a questionable military action.

Certainly someone must be allowed to cut through the pro-war rhetoric. What does violating the UN to attack a nation in violation of the UN accomplish, exactly? If there is good reason to fight, then why not uphold our Constitutional values and wait until the time is right? At least that way there isn’t a 100-percent chance of combat. Where is the link between Iraq and al-Qaida that has been so endlessly hyped? Are we allowed to ask these questions or are we subject to the whims of our leaders?

While we’re at it, can we please dispense with this Bush-equals-America-equals-God BS? Since when are the actions of the president so unquestionably accepted as gospel? Maybe it was a by-product of the Y2K glitch, because I never saw such admiration for Bill Clinton. On the other hand, I have seen this level of supposed “affection” for the likes of such divine leaders as Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler and—all together now—Saddam Hussein!

Part of living free is being exposed to a variety of viewpoints and being able to ask questions. It is a core tenet of being patriotic. No one said that being an American patriot is a smooth ride; however, it is well worth the destination. This is one ride I may have to get off soon, though, because patriotism is apparently one un-American activity.

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