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Commentary Last Updated: Nov 7th, 2007 - 01:28:41

Super-patriotism�s intercourse with the secret sect of power
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 7, 2007, 01:26

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�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 of America.

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 potential opposition.

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 not do.

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 extreme patriotism.

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 possessions.

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.

Gaither 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 He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail:

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