Patriotism 101: Required Reading

by Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) by Jim Grichar

(In the interests of full disclosure I must acknowledge that James Bovard is a friend of mine.)

Politicians of all persuasions love to wax eloquent about how they have practiced and do practice patriotism and how we should do the same. Trying to convince the public as to who is the ber patriot has become part of the political discourse in this country, particularly in a presidential election year.

The current president, George Bush, lectures Americans almost nonstop about being patriotic in the sense that they should make sacrifices and give service to their country (as if they are not already tax serfs) by helping to alleviate both domestic and foreign problems, mainly by spending more money on domestic programs and spending more money on foreign adventures and sending more troops to die in far-off lands, all in the name of spreading freedom and democracy. Many Americans have been taken in by the false notion of patriotism put forward by George W. Bush and his minions. Those that have opposed Bush and his Administration on their domestic and war policies have been dubbed "unpatriotic," as if blind obedience to a sitting president in an undeclared war is required in the Constitution.

But that is not the definition of patriotism. According to the 1986 version of the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary, a patriot is … "a person who loves his country and defends and promotes its interests." Those who have criticized the Bush Administration for its domestic and foreign policies are much more patriotic than those who have gotten the U.S. into the fiscal and war/foreign policy mess that it is now in.

One American – a true patriot in my opinion – who has not been hoodwinked or bamboozled by Bush Administration propaganda is James Bovard. In his new book, The Bush Betrayal, Bovard documents the mendacity with which George W. Bush has run his Administration. Whether in domestic or foreign policy, Bovard proves with facts that Bush has betrayed his oath of office – to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, Bush has betrayed his oath of office – in a highly egregious manner – by expanding unconstitutional federal programs, abridging Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, and leading the U.S. into undeclared wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have nothing to do with winning the war on terrorism. In running his Administration, Bush has consistently used the "Big Lie" to lead America into one fiasco after another while aggrandizing more power for the executive branch of the central government.

As is his style, Jim Bovard marshals and provides meticulous documentation for the facts that substantiate his points. Starting with the events surrounding the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Bovard documents how selective and repetitive lying about what the Administration knew about the attacks and what it did following the attacks – including the monumental bureaucratic bungling by the FBI, CIA, Defense Department, and the rest of the alphabet soup of federal departments and agencies – has been used to lull the public into believing that "their government" was and is taking care of them.

In the early chapters, Bovard provides ample evidence of Bush mendacity – often in a very humorous way reminiscent of H. L. Mencken's sarcasm. Here are a few examples:

  • how all anti-Bush protestors are kept away from the president during his domestic trips outside Washington – they are moved far away from the president to "free speech zones," where the media are not given access. As a result, many Americans are led to believe that there is no opposition to Bush Administration domestic and foreign policies. Those unwilling to go to the "free speech zones" are arrested and charged with various bogus crimes, just to make them a lesson to others who might want to protest the president's policies;
  • how Bush perpetrated "Ed Fraud 101," the name Bovard gives to the No Child Left Behind Act. Ed Fraud 101 has led some states to degrade their testing standards so as to lower the number of schools failing to meet standards and to alter definitions of what a violent crime-ridden school is (actually rigging the definitions of what constitutes a violent crime in a school), all in the name of preventing parents from moving their children to better schools. Gifted education programs are being gutted to fund keeping dumb and education-hostile students in school;
  • the ridiculous and graft-ridden Americorps. In a March 12, 2002 speech in Philadelphia, Bush wanted Americans to think about giving 2 years – over 4,000 hours – of public service to their country. Bush ignored the fact that members of the public are already the equivalent of tax serfs. As Bovard wryly observed, "Bush's u20184,000 hours' mandate illustrates how the nation's most renowned Masters of Business Administration degree-recipient thinks like a government bureaucrat. Bush proposes to measure good deeds the same way federal workers snare their pensions. A person's service to humanity is gauged by a simple test: Did someone put in the time";
  • Bush's farm bill. "The new farm bill entitled farmers to snare up to $360,000 per year. This u2018limit' contains the usual King Kong-size loopholes so farmers can drive their harvesters back through the Treasury coffers for second and third loads." "The notion that a politician is being generous when he confiscates one person's paycheck to deliver to someone he considers a worthy recipient is one of the most pernicious delusions in contemporary political and moral thinking";
  • increased foreign aid. Bovard quotes investment guru Jim Rogers, who has driven around the globe, and who stated, "Most foreign aid winds up with outside consultants, the local military, corrupt bureaucrats, the new NGO (non-governmental organizations) administrators, and Mercedes dealers. There are more Mercedes dealers in places where there are not even roads"; and,
  • how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has bungled, at vast expense to taxpayers, its mission of providing safe flying conditions for passengers. "TSA agents are entitled to reverential treatment, regardless of how much damage they inflict on people's travel schedules or luggage."

The humor rightly diminishes as Bovard moves on to the president's (and his minion, John Ashcroft's) unprincipled and unconstitutional restrictions of civil liberties that are reminiscent of what Lincoln did during the Civil War. Whether it is the holding – violating the Geneva convention – of arbitrarily defined "enemy combatants," suspending "habeas corpus" to hold others – without charging them – incommunicado in various domestic military prisons (in violation of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down Lincoln's similar suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War), or inflicting torture on prisoners to extract information from them, the president and his minions have sunk to new lows that are unworthy of American leaders.

Bovard also goes through the lies used to get the U.S. into Afghanistan and Iraq, stories with which most readers are familiar. He does bring to the surface additional and more recent information that helps further confirm the image of Bush betraying his oath of office.

He also reserves a great deal of criticism for the so-called Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which prohibits issue-oriented campaign ads within 60 days of an election. Issue-oriented ads, which are placed by groups like labor unions, the National Rifle Association, and other groups, are often the only way most people get educated on the major issues in a campaign. With an electorate that is largely too lazy to read, the BCRA is nothing more than a blatant and unconstitutional way of keeping incumbents from being booted out of office.

With a lazy electorate that cares only for its immediate comfort and not freedom, Bovard concludes that it is no wonder that we get the kinds of leaders we have, leaders that are driven by the quest for ever-increasing amounts of power over the populace. Bovard does not make any election predictions or endorsements of presidential candidates but fears that more of the same policies will continue, and possibly expand, regardless of whether Bush or Kerry wins the election in November.

And that is why it is so important for everyone to read The Bush Betrayal. It serves as a reminder of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they established the republic, not the twisted vision that has been imposed on an unsuspecting public. It's the best book for an introductory course on what patriotism really means, and it will certainly help awake a comatose public before all its rights are trampled by future "Bush's."

Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government, writes to “un-spin” the federal government’s attempt to con the public. He teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides economic consulting services to the private sector.

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