United States

A Time for Great Patriotism

Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-17124 Children of the Weill Public School pledge allegiance to the United States flag. San Francisco, 1942.

Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-17124 Children of the Weill Public School pledge allegiance to the United States flag. San Francisco, 1942.

In the 1980s as the Cold War was in its final intense years, punctuated by START talks and ICBM treaties, KGB defectors appeared on American television to issue warnings to the American people. In stark language, they outlined the KGB’s “active measures” which sought to demoralize a public and lead to the eventual class revolution that would install a Marxist paradise through war, chaos and revolution. In the following decade, the Russian state collapsed and consolidated into the hands of a dozen or so oligarchs, all subservient to the Kremlin and all driven by internal rivalries and mafias while the rest of the country collapsed into a state of disarray.

Welcome to the dystopian unreality of this precise moment in American history and so in turn, perhaps human history. In reality, we now know that our precious democratic system looks something more like a kleptocratic oligarchy from where we currently stand. In both red states and blue states, where support for Trump is greatest and weakest, this is the current working consensus. Let us move forward from here.

The American experiment has been punctuated by moments of breathtaking brutality, the sort of violence that ignites Hollywood scenes and sends blood pouring through the streets of our great cities. We have inspired the world at times and been defeated by it, as we were on September 11, 2001. In the time between our rise in the aftermath of the Civil War, during a time of dramatic upheaval in our nation and the reactionary re-entrenchment of the white landed classes of the American south during a phase of history we euphemistically refer to as “Reconstruction,” and the present, we have also so demoralized smaller nations and allowed for the state to prey on minority communities at home.

Every instance of a police shooting and every cop who is fired upon represents the core of a fundamental problem where American domestic policy and international affairs invariably intersect. It becomes difficult if not near impossible to make an argument for democracy as a greater guarantor of citizens’ rights in the world if our own citizens – white, brown or black, in uniform serving our state or absent one and all too often, minorities from the lower economic classes – are shot as feral dogs in our streets. Just as buffer states, it forces an individual confronted with such a stark reality into an impossible tension between accommodation and rebellion. Yet our people and nations in the world exist and survive with this tension every day.

This is one of only a handful of nations on earth that has ever demonstrated an innate tendency throughout its history to hear the voices of the oppressed, to withstand the cynicism of the great forever state of the future where peace and harmony are only ever achieved through constant war. We stand now on the brink of economic and political domination by the Russian state, at a time when a foreign nation — once our greatest adversary in the world for half a century – has demonstrated an outsized role in our electoral process through a hacking campaign engaged in gleaning compromising material on opposition figures. Russia stands accused of attempted hacking of the very instruments by which we cast our vote by our own intelligence community.

In America today we are experiencing the greatest stress test on our democratic institutions since perhaps the Civil War. In quarters small and privileged, a certain kind of elitism has arisen for those who seek only to protect the instruments of state from being pillaged through petty acts that chip away at the democratic fiber of our nation or enrich anyone but themselves and a small group of associates. This directly mirrors what occurred within Russia itself in the period from 1989-1991. Petty acts of corruption have magnified to such a degree that the American countryside, once the pride of the industry that sustained our nation and lead it charging past all other industrialized nations in the aftermath of the Second World War, is an unrecognizable, addicted, decaying ghost of its former itself. What we have retained is a shell, enough to sustain the military but not the middle class.

This is not a time to lose hope in the American process, vision or the values as they have come to represent America in the world today: inclusivity, justice, liberty, freedom, peace and prosperity. It is a time for tremendous patriotism, it is a time to listen to Eisenhower’s farewell address and think about his role and warnings in the context of our present predicament which has seen America at war for 15 years in a nation that was discussed all but once in the context of the presidential election and for no reason other than to attack an opponent’s ignorance of the matter.

A generation that has been asked to shoulder the burden of the war on terror saw its civil liberties and rights signed away to a security state apparatus that promised to protect us. This breach of electoral insanity that now sees our journalists and diplomats flooded with hacking attempts by a foreign nation suggests we have a long way to come from the heroic warrior myth built into a slogan, “We support our troops,” that most veterans I know hear as, “We are grateful it was you instead of me.” How much do we really support our troops if we do not ask hard questions about why they are engaged in a forever war with no clear strategy toward victory or bringing them home?

It is not just my generation that this concerns or my nation, but the lives of many in smaller nations around the globe who rely on America for currency stability, protection, and aid. There is no turning back or re-dos, no second chance at rewriting history. If millions die they are lost forever to the history books and recorded as such, a little more and sometimes much less, denied in the final act of genocide. For each of us who acts to defend the country from becoming everything we once ridiculed other nations for being, we need to take a long and hard look at what it means to be a patriot.

We need to understand that true patriotism is not built on empty slogans but in acts and deeds both small and greater gestures. There are threads we must work to build with and there are tunnels of despair we should do everything we can to avoid looking down. Do not cede your freedoms before they are taken. For each right you have now, blood has already been spilled for the privilege. Whatever you do, however you behave, whatever may happen to you, know this much going forward.

Happy Thanksgiving America.