Patriotism, Then and Now

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In
the wake of the September 11 attacks, Americans are showing their
patriotism with fervor comparable to that seen after the attack
on Pearl Harbor sixty years ago. Children once again recite the
Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms. People fly the American
flag on their automobiles and sing the Star Spangled Banner at public
events with heightened passion.

Such
acts of patriotism date back to this country's founding. Americans
have displayed their flag ever since the Continental Congress certified
its initial design, with thirteen stars, in June 1777. Francis Scott
Key wrote the lyrics for the Star-Spangled Banner in 1814 to celebrate
America's victory against the British in a battle at Baltimore in
the War of 1812. He penned these lyrics to what was then a popular
pub song, written in 1770 by John Smith. (Congress passed an act
in 1931 making it, with Key's lyrics, the national anthem.)

The
United States has gone through three stages in its 225-year history.
They started out as a republic (1776-1864). When the South
lost the Civil War it became a nation (1865-1916); and when
President Wilson sent American troops overseas to fight in the Great
War in Europe the United States became an empire (1917-the
present). Patriotism in America has also gone through various phases,
like the country it honors.

America's
first patriots included the 56 men who signed the Declaration of
Independence. In this declaration they mutually pledged to each
other "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor"
in their decision to secede from British rule. All of the signers,
except one, were wealthy landowners and thus had a lot to lose.
These patriots were willing to sacrifice their lives and property
to establish a republic that was based on classical liberal ideas
of individual liberty, the rule of law, personal responsibility,
and constitutionally limited government.

The
American republic lasted 84 years. It came to an end when
Abraham Lincoln initiated a Civil War against the southern states
that had seceded from the Union and, victorious, turned the country
into a nation. People no longer called the country these
United States but instead, the United States in a singular
tense. Lincoln also laid the foundations for the U.S. to be an empire,
a subject I
address in another article
.

In
the nation stage, a more nationalistic kind of patriotism arose.
The southern states were back in the Union, conquered and subdued.
Millions of immigrants were streaming into the northern states to
work in factories and build railroads. Americans embraced new patriotic
slogans like the one displayed at a Grand Army of the Republic encampment
in 1897, which proclaimed, "One country, one flag, one people,
one destiny." Immigrants should not continue to hold attachments
to their former country and have divided loyalties; and Southerners
must accept the fact that the United Stated is now a nation ruled
by the central government in Washington, D.C., to which they owe
their allegiance. Patriotic organizations like the Grand Army of
the Republic, the Women's Relief Corps, and the United Confederate
Veterans worked in concert to promote national unity.

In
the 1890s educators and opinion makers realized that public schools
could serve as a "mighty engine for the inculcation of patriotism,"
as the author of Methods of Teaching Patriotism in Public Schools
(1890), George Balch, put it. Government began using the public
schools to instill patriotism in their students. Balch wrote the
first Pledge of Allegiance in 1887, one that went, "We give
our hearts to our country. One country, one language, one flag."
But the Pledge written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister in
Boston, in 1892, won out. It said, "I pledge allegiance to
my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all." (Flag "of the United
States" was added in 1923, and one nation "under God"
by an Act of Congress in 1954.) Americans recite this pledge, with
its emphasis on the nation being "indivisible," a rebuff
to Confederate pretensions to secession; and "Justice for all,"
which presaged the current-day American Marxist's concept of "social
justice." (Francis Bellamy was a first cousin of Edward Bellamy,
author of the utopian socialist novel Looking Backward; and
he shared his cousin's belief that an enlightened centrally planned
economy would bring social and economic equality for all.)

President
Woodrow Wilson transformed the American nation into an empire
by sending U.S. troops to France to come to the aid of Britain,
France, Russia, and their allies in their war against the German
Hohenzollern Empire and its allies. By 1917, this war between European
empires, one that had no bearing on American national interests,
had reached a stalemate. American intervention in what is now called
World War I had disastrous consequences. The Wilson-inspired Treaty
of Versailles destroyed Germany as an economically and politically
viable nation, resulting in the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis,
and making it too weak to thwart the Bolshevik takeover of Russia
and thus prevent the rise of Stalin.

Franklin
Roosevelt steered our country into World War II, joining forces
with Stalin, who he called "Uncle Joe." Worse than Hitler,
who killed 20 million people, Stalin killed, in the name of socialism,
more than 40 million people, by starvation, exposure, and executions;
and his Soviet apparatchiks tortured millions of innocent men, women,
and children. Roosevelt told his soldiers that they were fighting
for freedom and democracy. But the truth of the matter is that World
War II resulted in Roosevelt delivering ten Christian European nations
to his Soviet "ally" to do with as he pleased. Stalin
and the rulers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who followed
him occupied and brutally suppressed these countries for the next
45 years, until the Soviet Empire itself collapsed in 1989. And
after World War II rulers of the USSR threatened our country with
nuclear annihilation.

The
American Empire's record in the Middle East is no better. It has
supported and help establish corrupt dictatorships throughout the
region, most notably in Iran, where American aid brought the Shah
to power in 1953. Our empire has trained and supported terrorists
that now attack us – Osama bin Laden, to fight the Soviet Union in
Afghanistan; and Saddam Hussein, to carry out a war against Iran.
Even worse, the United States government countenanced Iraq's use
of chemical weapons of mass destruction in its war against Iran.
Imperial American presidents impose their will on Mideast countries
by bombing them and by imposing crippling economic sanctions. The
economic sanctions that our empire has enforced on Iraq over the
last ten years have killed 1.4 million civilians, 400,000 of them
children.

Stephen
Decatur, U.S. Navy hero of the Barbary Wars of 1801-05 and 1815
against pirates in Tripoli, said, "Our country! In her intercourse
with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country,
right or wrong." Our country, right or wrong is the
motto for modern-day patriotism in imperial America. A patriotic
American in 2001 does not question the government's judgment in
its conduct of foreign affairs.

In
addition to displaying the American Flag, saying the Pledge of Allegiance,
singing the National Anthem, and not questioning our government's
actions in the running of its empire, government officials and opinion
molders in the media encourage a new kind of patriotism. Americans
need to get out and go shopping and buy new cars, refrigerators,
and VCRs to keep the economy strong; and they should buy stocks
to help support U.S. financial markets. It is now "unpatriotic"
to save. Americans need to get out there and SPEND.

The
ultimate sacrifice a patriot can make, of course, is to give his
life for his country. For what reason? For a geopolitical interest?
For oil at $20 a barrel? To maintain the U.S. empire or to repel
an invasion of our country? American soldiers fought in Vietnam
and 55,000 died. Why were American soldiers fighting a war in Southeast
Asia? Was it for a reason worth my life or your life? Richard Maybury,
author of Early Warning Report, speaks for many of us when
he writes:

The
only thing I would be willing to die for is my home and family;
I would do whatever it takes to repel an invader, to protect
my homeland. When I am deciding what I think of a U.S. military
operation in some far off corner of the world, I always ask
the question, would this be worth my life? If the answer
is no, then I don't think it would be worth anyone else's life
either.

Asking
questions like this fall on deaf ears in the current political climate.
Those on the Left, with their collectivist bias, like the writers
at The New York Times, advocate an empire-type form of global
governance. And with regard to causalities incurred in the realization
of this goal, as old French proverb puts it, "You can't make
an omelet with breaking eggs." Those on the Right, like the
writers at The Weekly Standard and National Review,
want to maintain and strengthen the existing American Empire (particularly
if they are in charge and don't have to be on the front lines fighting
for it). A true patriot will risk his life for his country, but
only for the right reason.

America
should follow the example of Switzerland, a country that engages
in trade with all nations but maintains neutrality in international
disputes. Fundamentalist guerillas may detest freedom and democracy,
but not to the point where they will mount an attack on a country
like Switzerland, which is a bastion of these virtues. People hate
America because the United States intervenes in their affairs. America
should adopt a noninterventionist foreign policy and become a Switzerland
writ large. With chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the
hands of terrorists, the price an empire must now pay to be the
policeman of the planet is too high.

In
the worst-case scenario, terrorists will use portable nuclear weapons
and the variola (smallpox) virus to kill large numbers of Americans
on their home soil. A nuclear weapon with the power of the one the
United States dropped on Hiroshima in the Second World War now weighs
less than 100 pounds and can fit inside a suitcase. FedEx will ship
suitcases weighing 100 pounds, overnight delivery, anywhere in the
world, for $700.

The
last case of smallpox in the world occurred in 1977; and in 1979
the World Health Organization declared that vaccination had eradicated
this disease in humans (but not the virus itself, which investigators
study in several laboratories). This organization, however, discounted
the possibility that some states would stockpile the virus and might
one day use it as a biological weapon – most notably the USSR,
which before its breakup controlled vast quantities of the virus,
some of it stored in warheads on missiles targeted at American cities.
Routine vaccination for smallpox was halted in the U.S. thirty years
ago; and in people vaccinated before 1972, the vaccine, being effective
for only ten to twenty years, no longer provides any immunity. The
disease has a 30% mortality rate in unvaccinated people, and antibiotics
don't help – antibiotics are useless against viruses. Smallpox
is highly contagious: it is transmitted person-to-person by skin
contact, contact with contaminated clothing and bed linen, and in
the air (virus particles in the mouth become airborne when an infected
person talks). The U.S. government's Center for Disease Control
(in Atlanta) currently controls enough well preserved vaccine to
vaccinate 7 to 15 million people, in a population of 300 million.
The Black Death in the 14th century caused by bubonic
plague, a bacterial disease susceptible to antibiotics, killed 40%
of the population of Europe. In the urban and widely traveled 21st
century, a well-planned and ruthless terrorist attack with variola
virus could produce a Black Death from smallpox that could kill
as many as 50-100 million Americans. (In the 20th century
alone, with vaccination employed on a mass scale, smallpox killed
300 million people worldwide before the disease was eradicated in
the 1970s.)

Homeland
security measures will not entirely stop determined terrorists.
Even if the country becomes a full-fledged police state that requires
national ID cards and travel permits, imposes martial law and curfews,
engages in phone/email/internet surveillance, and has soldiers with
automatic weapons manning check-points on the nation's highways,
terrorist attacks will still occur. No homeland security measures
can stop a guerilla that is willing to sacrifice himself in his
effort to kill other people. The only policy that will stop
terrorism completely on our home soil is for our country to bring
its troops back home and dismantle its empire.

In
my article, "A
Fourteen Point Plan for a Post-Wilsonian America
," the
first five points, from a foreign policy standpoint, are: 1) End
the United States' worldwide military presence and bring American
troops home; 2) Place no economic sanctions on other countries;
3) Engage in unrestricted trade with all nations; 4) Declare principled
neutrality in all foreign disputes and wars; and 5) Withdraw from
the United Nations. We should do this irrespective of its salutary
effect on terrorism. America needs to return to a foreign policy
of "peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations;
[but] entangling alliances with none," as Thomas Jefferson
put it.

What
should we do we do about the terrorists, and those who have supported
them, who have killed and maimed our loved ones and fellow citizens?
Use a remedy that the Constitution provides for punishing pirates.
Issue Letters of Marque, with substantial monetary rewards from
the United States government added, to anyone who can deliver, dead
or alive, the perpetrators of these attacks, beginning with Osama
bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Mark
Twain, in the closing pages of a notebook he used from 1905-1908,
wrote:

In
the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave,
and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join
him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.

As
the third stage in our country's history soldiers on to a bad end,
America desperately needs patriots like those who signed the Declaration
of Independence announcing the American Colonies' secession from
the British Empire. We need the kind of patriots now that America
had then. It will require very courageous people to effect this
country's change from the world's sole superpower, with troops stationed
in 106 countries supported by influential special interests that
profit from their presence abroad, to a Switzerland writ large – from
an empire to a republic. America needs brave and true
patriots, ones like Congressman Ron Paul, that can help to bring
this about, who will stand up to the United States Empire and free
America from its grip. The stakes involved are freedom, liberty,
and prosperity.

October
30, 2001

Donald
Miller (send him mail)
is a cardiac surgeon in Seattle.

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