They did not die defending our freedom

In the days before Facebook when e-mail was the more common form of communication around the Internet, there existed a type of e-mail that did wonders in destroying the collective psyche of everyone who fell pray to its psychological torture. It seems the “No true Scotsman” fallacy is alive and well and in full swing with regard to “likes” and “shares” on Facebook, wherein if you don’t “like” something and/or don’t “share” it, then you’re not a true American or a true patriot.

This is, of course, the Facebook manifestation of e-mails that carried similar messages. If you don’t forward that e-mail to everyone in your address book, then you don’t really care about the topic of the e-mail, or you don’t really appreciate the “sacrifice” our troops have made for “our freedom”. The most recent manifestation of this that I’ve seen on Facebook is this:

I see two problems with this picture and the message next to it: 1. The message is factually incorrect in its implication, and 2. the sentiment or “patriotism” is empty. Allow me to explain and hopefully I can drive my point home.

How many likes for these heroes who died for our country?

Keep scrolling if you don’t care…

Well I guess I don’t care, as I didn’t put my Facebook “seal of approval” on it by “like”-ing it. Oh well. The world isn’t going to end and the United States isn’t going to falter because I didn’t do that. And actually “like”-ing it won’t make me any more of a patriot than anyone else, nor will refusing to “like” it make me any less of one. So if you’re feeling like you’re more “patriotic” than those who didn’t “like” that picture on Facebook, then the stench of your arrogance is overwhelming.

And that is one of the central issues with things like that. It shows how well people have become indoctrinated into the “USA! USA!” bullshit. Calling our fallen “heroes” and saying “they died for your freedoms” seems to tie ideas of Christianity in with our government. I wonder how many people have noticed the parallel: “Jesus died for your sins so you can go to Heaven” versus “Our fallen heroes died for your freedom fighting for your rights so you can be FREE”. It’s almost like my liberties are under constant threat from external sources, and that is certainly not true. I wonder what other parallels exist with regard to this. No wonder people have called patriotism a “civil religion”.

The sentiment above is certainly right in that those fallen “heroes” died for this country, but not in a way many would like to think. They didn’t die defending anything except an interventionist, flip-flop Middle East foreign policy – a continuation of this country’s modus operandi extending back to the early 1950s. They aren’t heroes by any stretch of the word, not unless you twist and distort the definition, which has been happening far too often over the last decade. They weren’t fighting to defend the Constitution, our rights and freedoms because our freedom was never under threat, at least not by the people our military is actively attacking.

And spare me the many canned responses you might say in response to this. I’ve already heard it all, everything from “You don’t truly understand the freedom we enjoy” to “You should live in an oppressive regime, then you’ll really understand what our troops are fighting for” and some things that I’d rather not reproduce here. And let’s not forget the many variations on “Love it or leave it”. And arguably the most frustrating are the many variations of “You don’t appreciate the military and the troops and the freedom they fight to defend.” As such I highly doubt anyone can come up with something original to say. When you speak out against the “cult of the omnipotent State” and how its military is exercised, those deeply indoctrinated and entrenched into the cult tend to not react very intelligently.

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., said it best 45 years ago in a sermon he gave before Ebenezer Baptist Church, and it is perfectly relevant today:

In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

Dr King was speaking during a time when the United States was deeply entrenched in the Vietnam conflict, and the need to fight against the spread of communism was deeply ingrained in the hearts and minds of Americans. Opposing the American involvement in Vietnam was not popular, despite the fact that the war was only growing less popular with each passing year and increasing American involvement. Unfortunately Dr King would not live to see the war come to the dreadful end it reached with the fall of Saigon in September 1975.

Later in that speech, Dr King said words that I feel are the most pertinent still today:

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”

Yet many today, mostly in the impassioned, indoctrinated American conservative right-wing, are convinced that America is a messianic force for God. They see these wars as a religious wars, Christianity versus Islam, and they’ve bought into the rhetoric so deeply and have become so convinced that Muslims hate America because of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Except this overwhelming blanket statement is not true when used as an explanation for the attacks of 9/11. And actually I’d say it isn’t true at all.

I find it interesting how when one Representative from the State of Texas proposed during a debate that the United States adopt the Golden Rule with regard to our foreign policy, he was booed and shouted down! Why is this? Because of the conservative rhetoric promoted with a passion by the Republican Party.

As I wrote in my Memorial Day commentary, the several thousand dead military personnel did not die for this country, did not die protecting your rights and freedoms. They died because bullies only get more aggressive when their victims have the audacity to fight back. Our government is the bully. The military is only a fist — a fist armed to the teeth with massive ordnance and, let us not forget, nuclear weapons. When will you realize this?

Republicans and their backers and supporters talk about ramping up our foreign excursions and interventions, including using a nuclear strike as the solution to a problem *the United States set in motion*. The United States has been the common denominator in all of the issues in the Middle East and conservatives have the audacity to blame Islam for our troubles! Oh no sir, no madam, Islam is not to blame. Islam is merely a catalyst. We are to blame.

The question is whether the rest of the United States will realize this and break out of their spell of cultish patriotism before it’s too late, with a complementary question being whether it is already too late.