Friday, July 05, 2013


patriotism is loosely defined as supporting your country, so many people mistakenly identify it as joining the service and going off to fight whatever war the country is waging. our country has had a long string of them, and the reason we've come to call world war I "the good war" is that so many of the ones since then, large and small, have been questioned, both our motives for entering them, and who exactly benefits from them. the words "fighting for our freedom" after a while ring a little hollow when we are occupying afghanistan, for example, or sending guns and planes to one group in syria, that is made up of a coalition of radicals, moderates, and various other people.

so then, is patriotism just agreeing, and going along with it, or voting first, and then agreeing or going along with whatever is the collective agreement about where and when we should fight? is it possible to define patriotism as loyalty to one's culture, which may or may not be damaged by these wars, or in the case of syria or maybe turkey, may or may not find its government to be acting in its own best interests? rebels in places like turkey and syria are often called patriots by us, but that sets us in the difficult position of saying, people have to decide what's best for them, and bailing on one's own government is a pretty radical move.

the nsa scandals have driven some people to the very end of their patience with even the obama administration, which is demonstrably more liberal and less war-prone than its predecessors, but nevertheless couldn't help looking bad when it was pointed out that government spies were running through our e-mails, etc. i myself have no opinion on this anymore. it just seems to me like there's no privacy anyway, if facebook has it why shouldn't the government have it, china certainly has it, but china simply kills people who, like we're so used to, simply criticize the government. the world is small. china and the usa will soon enough be working together, and iceland and bolivia and those countries that might feel a little outside of the loop, well, it'll all be one loop. this would give a new meaning even to "loyalty to one's culture."

we were hurtling across the plains of eastern new mexico and could see for hundreds of miles, scrub wasteland, going on up to roswell, hardly a fence, no sign of human occupation at all. eventually we found a ranch, this was after we'd gone up a few thousand feet, and one ranch had a huge flag out more or less on the road, all by itself, nothing but a road and vast plain for hundreds of miles. turned out, right around then, there'd been a freak hailstorm that had dumped a couple of feet of hail, way up north of roswell. you never know about this stuff, it's the high plains, anything can happen. got up here, high in the mountains, and it smells of piney woods, and we can see hundreds of miles out across the mountains or down into the valley that has alamogordo in it. that's where i saw some fireworks, small, way down in the valley, from a cupola of an old lodge here where they brag about this old ghost woman, rebecca, who supposedly haunts the place, but whom i have not seen at all. that night, the fourth, i ran back and forth up to that cupola hoping i'd find some nearer fireworks, some in the area of the lodge, but apparently people have been very nervous about fire danger, and they're cutting back these days. it had actually rained when we got into the mountains, but it hadn't been much, or enough. the woods were still crackly. people weren't all driven to blow stuff off, apparently. and they were in the habit of not doing it, which was a relief as well.

you see these flags everywhere, on lawns, at the grocery store, the hospital, it was a pretty big deal. but remember, out here, in the southwest, is where those nineteen firefighters died as well. it's a tenuous balance, this gun-happy, blow-it-up kind of feeling, and the temperance of trying to control one's wild impulses, keep the fire danger down, save lives, pay attention so that whole towns don't go up in smoke. we were almost out of texas, near the town of plains, and there wasn't much traffic; most people, it being in the middle of the day in texas, were out at farms doing barbecues or something, because it was the fourth. but we came upon this town that impressed me; it was called tokio. tokio texas is a ghost town. most of its houses have fallen in roofs. and most of these fallen in roofs, people have just left there. it's like, it's easier to move on, and just leave this stuff there, than to actually clean it up and get it out of there. and that's what they've done. but if that isn't a fire danger, i don't know what is. i do know, the winds and the dust come tearing through there. so do the hailstorms, the rain, everything. it's the high plains. the ranchers and cotton farmers, the frackers, the hustlers, they're all busy, they don't want to mess with tearing down an old roof. but somebody should look into it. who knows, maybe it'll be fire next time.

you get that sense out here. fire is the worst. everyone is jumpy about it. patriotic yes. but be sensible, look at that hillside. don't let it burn down, like it did a couple of years ago. next time it might be worse.


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