Saturday, July 05, 2014

patriotism

it's kind of a wild scene to go across the highway to the city park and watch the fireworks, but we managed to do it, i and three children, and actually found a friend of the smallest and had an enjoyable fireworks show. after many years, many cities, many fireworks shows, i can say that i enjoy every one, though i'm wary, and i appreciate the effort a city puts into it to make it happen. a good fireworks show allows me to say to my children: i won't buy them, and shoot them into the street, or into the neighbor's yard, or anywhere else. i'm keeping my hands off this stuff, and letting the city handle it.

a neighbor brought over a kind of anti-fundamentalist passage that tried to argue against using the bible to support every war the country gets into. it's true that i've been opposed to every war that happened in my lifetime, as i haven't been given a good reason for any of them, but i consider this patriotic, since it's our duty as citizens to think critically and let our government know how we feel. this might be different for soldiers, who must follow the government way no matter whether there's a good reason or not, but we citizens are free to criticize and in fact must - if we'd done that a little more we might not be in the pickle we're in. in fact unlike many of my friends, i've come to the realization that one should not reject patriotism, since practiced in its pure form it's doing right by the nation and the culture under whose protection you live - one should redefine patriotism and live it out as you feel it should be lived out. i for example do not consider it patriotic to arm myself to the teeth and dare everyone to come and try to break into my home. patriotism can be shouting for team usa in the world cup, which i'm all for, or going down on the border to try to make signs that show people they aren't welcome on this side of it. but i define patriotism as doing the right thing for this nation and its people, and i take that patriotism seriously. if the nation didn't have an economy, a military, border police, etc., it would be like syria or iraq, and i'm glad it's not. so i like and support this government structure, even now, even though i disagree with so much of what they do with our tax money and foreign policy.

there is no question that this nation and government is about to experience some hard times. dragged into war in the south china sea, dragged into war in the ukraine, already mired in occupation in afghanistan, korea, and various other places, we are stretched very thin, and china is getting tired of paying the bill. why should they pay our retirees and our healthcare, when they don't pay their own retirees, and they have no healthcare? but our government needs guidance. who is around to tell them that it's an enormous waste of money and resources to park our tanks over in the middle east? six trillion, seven trillion, all wrapped up in gas and supplies and soldiers' lives, and hoping we can take care of these boys when they come home in the future is some kind of faraway, future dream that maybe we'll have money for when the time comes, kind of like my social security and retirement. we've had signs of trouble, signs of its caving in. fiscal responsibility should lead us to this conclusion: stop putting billions of dollars into setting up a multi-cultural state in iraq, palestine or any other place. stop supporting shiites, israelis, or anyone else who uses the money for aggressive suppression of a people. start letting countries that have their own economies - korea, japan, germany, etc. - provide for their own defense. give our support to peoples who deserve independence and who rightfully won't be happy until they have some; this would include the kurds and the palestinians.

we get the kind of nation that we collectively settle for, and if that is a powerful, swaggering, drone-dropping bully, that's what we've got. but when we the people say that we want a government that is not so quick to kill, no longer concerned about catching a bin laden who is dead anyway, and eager to build a non-competitive, non-hostile world, then that's what we will begin to see around us. i have no problem with fireworks, the red, blue, white, swirly kind, the pretty pinwheels, exploding things in the sky. some people say that they reflect our nation's violent past, and its obsession with explosives, and its tendency to turn to violence whenever there's a problem somewhere in the world - all this is true. but the act of sitting out on the grass in front of a city park, watching the city dudes make colorful explosions in the sky, is not itself violent. they do it all the time, and it hurts fewer people than when you let people buy them and blow them up in their own yards.

people don't take anything the quakers say about foreign policy seriously, and that's because we oppose all wars on moral grounds. true, i also wouldn't fight in a war, because i believe it's wrong to kill even for a just reason, and as a result i'd make a terrible soldier even though i'd be willing to help my country in any way it wanted. but perhaps because of my perspective i can ask: has violence ever truly worked, or not led to more violence? all these times we commit american lives, has this led to a more peaceful world? now we could look back to world war two, which was before my time, or the revolution itself, and say, yes, this was justifiable violence. you can kill somebody because they killed your uncle or because their taxman is causing you unspeakable pain, but my religion would still tell me that that's wrong and i shouldn't do it, and it's partly rational: because, no matter how cool revenge feels, violence begets more violence, and it has always been this way. to transfer this logic to the international stage, would it be a surprise if we were mired in more wars in the near future? no. the violence, export of arms, drones etc. have set the stage to the point where we are now expected to keep these arms coming: the bully is forced to prove and renew his status regularly. of course i don't expect foreign policy makers in this country to listen to me. i would just ask though: do you have a reason that we're occupying afghanistan? a reason that we're drone-bombing random wedding parties in yemen or pakistan? i thought not. we are reduced to supporting violent, random acts of aggression, and apparently we've become accustomed to not even being given a reason.

enough of this rant. my family, down by the lone river that snakes through lubbock, enjoyed the fireworks immensely. our earlier town was smaller, thus, the fireworks were smaller. this particular river, the only one for hundreds of miles on the caprock, high southern plains, was the site of the ruination of the comanche when white folk chased them down and cornered them, what maybe only a hundred and fifty years ago or so. maybe, as the mostly conservative texans around me say, i should shut up and be grateful for what i have, and hoist an american flag outside my house alongside theirs. i say, if a flag means blind obedience to a number of wars, i'll pass, but of course, it means what you want it to mean. obviously i'd make a better canadian than american, but that ship has sailed, and i'm here, no texas flag, no american flag, even the flagpole itself is beginning to bend a little. i can tell you that the idea that these poor soldiers are "fighting for our freedom" is beginning to sound a little hollow - in the revolutionary war, they were fighting for our freedom; in the civil war they were fighting for some people's freedom; but in afghanistan? in iraq?

this country has a number of internal problems - race relations, economic justice, etc. i say, if you are working to better these problems, every day, you're a patriot. so i count myself a patriot. i celebrate the wild and diverse beauty of a fantastic country with a volume of poetry, i do my best to help the place, and i speak out when i feel its foreign policy is misguided. i realize that working for peace has, at times, been labeled as terrorism. that's bullsh-t. terrorism is killing people in order to instill fear and get people to do irrational things, like start unnecessary six-trillion-dollar haliburton wars. that ship, too, has sailed. they would be wasting their time calling me a terrorist, unless someone were to listen to me, in which case i suppose i'd undermine the whole tenuous card castle.

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