�Patriotism is the virtue of the
vicious.� Oscar Wilde
The menace posed to society by distorted paranoid patriotism
manifests itself in mysterious ways.
One of the most insidious characteristics of the
super-patriot is the support he lends to the sect of Power. In our times, he
melds intimately with Power, and is its vanguard. He joins in with its secret
societies circulating invisibly in the community, and secretly influencing
ordinary people who don�t suspect that the sects of Power and its enlisted
agents are forever observing them and stalking them and evaluating them in
order to determine if they measure up to the requirements of acceptable
patriotism. But for Power the super-patriot is no more than a pawn.
Ordinary things, on ordinary days. Your exultant �patriotic�
neighbor hangs out bigger and bigger Stars and Stripes. Your 4-year old son
practices the Pledge of Allegiance for his kindergarten debut. On your way to
work, every second car sports a �good ole USA� bumper sticker. Oh well, you
think at first, just a few eccentrics. Then you meet the hecklers and the ugly
faces surrounding the peace marchers and their shouts of �traitors� and
�terrorists� and �al Qaeda lovers� and their patriotic �support our troops in
Iraq.� And you see they are everywhere.
You might feel guilty. At least you feel different.
Then, overnight it seems, the new laws of the land to back
up the charges are in place. Soon arrive the denunciations, the house searches,
the eavesdropping, the controlled e-mails and cellphones, the No Fly lists, the
750,000 persons on the suspects lists, the arrests for abusing the flag or for
loitering outside the White House or for carrying an antiwar placard.
And then come the reports of legalized torture and the desaparecidos
And the tension spirals upwards.
Patriotism and patriotism
The USAPATRIOT Act, passed just 45 days after 9/11, suggests
the necessity of taking a hard look at just what patriotism really is. Or at
what people believe it is. Most certainly the name �PATRIOT Act� did not arrive
arbitrarily, out of the air, out of nothing. In effect, the PATRIOT Act appears
anti-patriotic, in line with the official newspeak.
It should be known that in reality the USAPATRIOT Act
threatens fundamental freedoms at home and abroad. It gives the US federal
government, actually the executive, the power to access your private life, to
gather information about your friends and what books you read, to secretly
search your home and to make arbitrary arrests. Abroad, it conducts and
sanctions arbitrary and criminal activities, the black night flights of
mysterious aircraft of the CIA and other agencies in the kidnapping, secret
jailing in foreign lands and torturing of suspected �terrorists.�
Such powers are the essence of fascism.
In its first sense, the word Patriotism -- from the Latin patria
for �fatherland� -- suggests the citizen�s love for and loyalty to his country.
With varying degrees of intensity, most Americans consider themselves patriotic
citizens. Patriotism has always been defined as love for one's country
and marked by readiness to defend its perceived interests.
In France during the revolutionary era of 1789, patriots
were the followers of �new ideas� in opposition to the aristocrats. The word
then was synonymous with revolutionary. During upheavals in the Italian
unification period of the 19th century the word patriot was applied to those
who fought to overthrow foreign domination.
In pre-revolutionary America a patriot was defined by the
colonial power as �a factious disturber of the government� and �patriotism the
last refuge of the scoundrel.� Whether an act or an attitude is patriotic or seditious
depends on the point of view.
Again today, reservations about the inherent virtue of
patriotism are a theme of commentary. The Left�s mistrust of patriotism prompts
the bitter accusation by disgruntled jingoists that �Patriotism has become a
dirty word.� Likewise in the American Revolutionary War, patriots were
revolutionaries against the British crown.
America itself was born out of the dissent of patriots.
Since the Revolutionary War however the word patriotism has
taken on narrow political implications and has been co-opted by right-wing
causes and shied away from by the left wing. Today, as a result of neocon
fascistic-imperialistic ideology combined with the events of 9/11, the label
Patriot in its partisan sense has shifted even further to the right.
Super-patriotism is now identified exclusively with the Right, and the
competition as to who is the most patriotic American is intense.
The degeneration of the meaning and the essence of the word patriotism
is doubtless one of the major social changes in America of the last seven
years. In contemporary America, in a land where the flag is used as a weapon
and the hate for everything not American is common, patriotism has finally
morphed into vicious jingoism.
Just as yesterday in Nazi Germany, today�s co-opted patriotism
does its part to keep fascists in power in America and simultaneously muzzles
It has become obvious that the ability to capture and apply
the word Patriot has come to determine political power. The patriotism label
remains an important criterion of what Power considers the �good� and the
�positive� in today�s American public life.
In recent times, I have heard and read the Nazi-Fascist
charge against the US government often but at this moment I don�t recall
official denials. They don�t care. The support of the less than 30
percent share of the people -- the super-patriotic component -- suffices nicely
to stay in power.
As Oscar Wilde warned, American patriotism today is a
vicious affair, and, moreover, a danger to the world at large.
Meanwhile, paramilitary militia movements across the USA
have also appropriated the word. They are not only filled with hate for
everything foreign and/or intellectual -- making them partial allies of Power
-- but equate Patriot with the firm conviction of white American supremacy.
Paradoxically, sometimes in parts of the heartland it even reflects hatred for
the federal government -- not for what it does, of course, but for what it does
Patriotism and nationalism
Patriotism includes pride in the fatherland�s achievements
and culture, the desire to preserve its character, its values and the bases of
its culture. It also implies identification with other members of the nation.
Patriotism requires that the individual place the interests of the nation above
both his personal and group interests. In wartime, the sacrifice extends to the
patriot�s own life. Death in battle for the fatherland is the archetypical
In day to day life, patriotism is expressed by those
symbolic acts we know so well, such as displaying the flag, singing the
national anthem on every possible occasion, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance,
participating in mass rallies, putting a patriotic bumper sticker on your car,
or any other public proclamation of allegiance to the state.
Thus patriotism is associated with nationalism and often
used as a synonym for it. In fact, patriotism in the USA has many faces,
ranging from Americanism, to super-patriotism and ultra-nationalism, to
chauvinism and jingoism.
Patriotism has the advantage that it does not require a
program of action; it alone suffices to stimulate nationalism, even if it
itself is not always truly nationalistic. Strictly speaking, nationalism is an
ideology that promotes patriotic attitudes as desirable and appropriate.
Patriotism too has salient ethical connotations: it implies
that the fatherland is a moral standard or a moral value in itself. The
expression my country right or wrong is the extreme form of this belief.
In this sense, patriotism remains forever a borderline
affair, love for the homeland on one side, belief in its supremacy on the
other. It is untrustworthy. Patriotism was, is and always will be not many
steps behind jingoism. Sometimes it is even the respectable face of jingoism.
One recalls that as a patriotic expression, nationalist political movements
like Nazism and Fascism were viscerally negative toward other people's
fatherlands just as the US government today is negative toward the world at
large. No one knows the extent of official US antagonisms being cultivated and
hatched in the dark cellars of Power.
Symbolic patriotism in wartime is intended to raise morale,
in turn contributing to the war effort. This is the case in the USA today. The
permanent war of the USA for over half a century is jingoism�s perfect creator
and container. But then, afterwards, in peacetime, the super-patriot would be
expected to continue his manifestations more or less by rote, criticizing and
punishing those who don�t, and diligently searching for new exterior enemies to
whom their colors can be shown tomorrow.
Iraq yesterday, Iran today.
Some demands made on patriotism are tactical, as in war,
transitory and circumstantial. But that is not all. Not by a long shot.
Patriots are encouraged to keep a sharp eye for expressions of non-patriotism
and to label it un-American. This is where patriotism gets nasty. This again is
fascistic. Denunciations by patriots were the basis of the system of control
used by the Nazi Gestapo and in the post-war period by one of history�s most
invasive secret police organizations, the STASI of former East Germany, both of
which must have served as models for the US Department Homeland Security.
Patriotism and morality
In ethics, the basic implication of patriotism is that a
person has greater moral duties to fellow patriots than to foreigners. In that
sense, patriotism becomes selective in its acts of altruism. Criticism of
patriotism in ethics is directed at this moral preference: that is, it borders
on and easily morphs into racism.
On the other hand, the view that moral duties apply equally
to all humans is known as cosmopolitanism, despised and abhorred by dictatorial
regimes and by extreme nationalists. American super-patriots today, as in Nazi
Germany, see cosmopolitanism as the opposite of patriotism and equate it with
treason. The predictable result is that dissenters are considered traitors and
peace movements anti-American.
While patriotism implies the preference for a specific
community, universalistic beliefs on the other hand reject specific preferences
in favor of a wider community. In the European Union today, some political
thinkers advocate a European-wide patriotism coupled with a belief in the
supremacy of European culture. The Roman Catholic Church promotes its brand of
Catholic patriotism in its missionary message of the supremacy of Christianity
over other beliefs. This is �new world order� thinking.
At the same time, traditional patriotism in Europe is again
raising its head -- the old kind of patriotism-nationalism. This is a
perplexing development because it is the patriotism that created the range of
diverse cultures in Europe that enriched Western civilization but that also
provoked centuries of nationalistic wars. Such patriotism refers to the ethnic
state, especially in France, Great Britain and some East European nations. It
coincides with and benefits from what is called Euroskepticism of those
who place greater value on national traditions and a tighter ethnic national community.
Each ugly display of American patriotism abroad however
reinforces an already negative view of America in the world at large where it
is perceived as arrogant, bullying and imperialistic.
In ethics, supporters of patriotism regard it as a virtue.
However, the problem with treating patriotism as an objective virtue is that
patriotisms conflict. Iraqis, once they found an invader on their soil,
rebelled. Iranians today feel patriotism and love for their ancient culture
vis-�-vis threats from the USA. Soldiers of both sides in a war feel equally
patriotic, creating an ethical paradox: If patriotism is a virtue, then the
enemy is equally virtuous, so why try to kill him?
The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his article "Is
patriotism a virtue?" argues that modern politics has no place for
patriotism anyway since there is no longer a real patria. For example, one begins to wonder
where the United States of America ends: it is no longer confined to the
coast-to-coast territory and its borders with Canada and Mexico. One speaks of
a North American Union to incorporate the latter two, while the imperialist
tentacles of America already reach around the world, with its military
installations in over 100 countries.
In any case, though nationalism and jingoism exist in the
USA, objectively there is less and less room for genuine healthy affection for
the nation because of the absence of a common program or projects that the
people can share with their rulers. That even 30 percent of Americans support
the present government rings incomprehensible.
Incomprehensible, but true. For they are Power�s allies. The
sect of Power and the secret societies standing behind it have at their
disposal the super-patriots, Power�s spies and infiltrators. Power counts also
on the acquiescence of countless numbers of unwitting semi-patriots in the
wings. They are all allies, deceived by senseless propaganda and demagogy and
repetition of slogans, or cowed by fear of punishment or loss of their material
In this technological era, those secret forces can determine
our destiny, our failures to measure up, our exclusion from society and even
our death. In their role, the super-patriots appear as a universe of the blind
in the service of super-Power. Yet, although Power gleefully uses these
super-patriot robots, it also despises them, as demonstrated by the fact that
it does next to nothing for them, their most loyal citizens.
It is a paradox that the lower on the social-economic scale,
among the poorest and most trampled on, the most neglected and abused, the more
paranoid patriotic the patriots are.
How can the people intelligently or even emotionally share
their government�s wars today? Can they share its aspirations for global power?
Impossible! That appears as a serious miscalculation on the part of Power. The
people cannot be part of Power�s projects for world supremacy. There simply
exist and perhaps have always existed, in all times and in all places, secret
aspirations for power in which normal people cannot share.
We like to think that as a man grows and matures in freedom
he will come to find it unnecessary to appear as a pillar of whatever society
he happens to live in, ever politically correct, ready to recite the Pledge of
Allegiance on every occasion to prove he is a good citizen as he was forced to
do as a child in school. And that he will understand that hanging out Old Glory
does not make him patriotically superior to anyone.
As the difference between patriotism and jingoism becomes
clear, the citizen might begin to wonder about the identity and intents of
those obscure sects and the shadowy members of the secret societies gathered in
their inaccessible conferences inside the dark caves and deep caverns and dank
grottoes of Power. And in a brilliant burst of understanding, he will come to
see the usurpers of power for the troglodytes they are.
Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. After studies at the University of
California at Berkeley and other American universities, he has lived his adult
life abroad, in Germany and Italy, alternated with residences in The
Netherlands, France, Mexico, Argentina and Russia. After a career in journalism
as Italian correspondent for the Rotterdam newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, and
contributor to media in various European countries, he writes fiction
full-time. His books, "Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A
Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River
Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by www.Wastelandrunes.com He lives with
his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.