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Is Peace Patriotic?

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In the recent debate over contra aid in Congress, one of the main argumente of the Reagan administration has been that those opposed to U.S. intervention in Nicaragua were un-American and not patriotic. Offended Democrats and peace activists responded that this is not true. Some say that they are as patriotic as Reagan. Others say that they in the peace movement are the real patriots. This has been a " theme" of the peace movement in recent years. Red, white and blue bumperstickers with a billowing flag declare that peace is patriotic. Before we in the peace movement wrap ourselves in the flag we should ask ourselves a few questions: Is there reason to be patriotic about the United States? Are peace and patriotism compatible and, What will be the effect of the peace movement calling itself patriotic? Patriotism means pride in one's country, an allegiance to the state. Many liberáis cali themselves patriotic because they see the U.S. as a free nation or perhaps even the best one. Others say that it has "lost its way" but it was based upon principies of freedom and even revolution. Is America a free nation however, or is it an image? The US has always been based upon, more than anything else, the privilege of rich white men. Capitalism and "free enterprise" make where one lives, how one eats , how "much" free speech one has, how much leisure time one has, and how healthy one can be, all dependent upon how much money one has. Large corporations attempt to control the necessities of life w hich make us dependent while telling us we are free. The nation is plagued by (and operated on) sexism, racism, classism, militarism, and heterosexism. The right to dissent, held dearly by liberáis and conservatives alike, is severely limited by those in power. Only certain kinds of protest are truly permissible in this country. Calling for reform is permitted, but acting for real change is not Those stepping outside of accepted and controlled channels receive resistance and harrassment from protectors of the status quo (eg the media and academia) and repre ssion from the state. Think of all the people shot down at labor strikes or for being black. Think of all those jailed for speaking out or for being poor; all die people thrown out of the country or denied entrance because their politics didn't fit the mold; all the people put in mental hospitals because they found the roles prescribed for them too confining. Think about Angela Davis, Joe Hill, Eugene Debs, Kent State, Jackson State, Margaret Randall, Emma Goldman, Charlie Clements.the Haymarket martyrs, and the thousands of people whose names we don't know because our history ignores them. I don't wish to go on a year by year oddysey of US history, so let me just ask a few questions. When has the US ever been free or a just place to live for women, for people of color, for the poor, for the working class, for Native Americans? When has the US ever valued justice over profït, freedom over military and corporate aspirations, equality over privilege for a few? Perhaps the question of peace and patriotism is more basic than a judgement of the U.S. Is the concept of patriotism even compatible with peace? The most "progressive" view of patriotism is that one loves one's country enough to change it. An assumption behind this is that the country is worthy of reform rather than revolution. There is no reason to be patriotic about something you want to get rid of. Patriotism is allegiance to the state (remember reciting the pledge in grade school or at City Council meetings!), not to the people living within it The end result of patriotism is nationalism, which is also the root of war. The need for nationalism and patriotism has always been seen by presidents and generáis in times of war. It is not a coincidence that the flags are flown and stirring speeches given and anthems sung as troops march off or as bombs are dropped. We must ask ourselves if war is more likely when people are pledging their resistance or pledging their allegiance. Finally , what will be the result of the peace movement declaring itself patriotic? These days in America the propaganda is thick and steady saying that "America is back and stannding tall." The newspapers and TV report that there is pride about America again. The armed forces and ROTC are "back in style." The macho ethic of being number one is the mood of the nation. And while all this goes on the peace movement waves the flag and says peace is patriotic. The motive seems to be, if not based entirely on patriotic feelings, to use the flag and other trappings of patriotism to get peace. Yet by declaring its patriotism the peace movement gives support to the state that fights the wars. It plays the same game of nationalism and competition that the state plays. The flag it waves is the same flag carried to battle, flown at half mast, and draped across a cofñn. Besides giving support to the state, patriotism on the part of the peace movement makes co-optation easy, if not inevitable. Any military action carried out by die U.S. government will be declared defensive. As we can see by the example of Nicaragua, the media will certainly gobble up anything that the president and State Department teil it When this cali for defense of country goes out, the cry for patriotism will also be in the air. And wouldn't a patriot support the defense of the country one loves? Of course we in the peace movement should fight these lies and propaganda. But while we teil the truth about U.S. aggression and injustice, why develop a sense of patriotism towards it? Obviously, I feel that the peace movement shouldn't say that peace is patriotic. I believe that peace is unpatriotic and we shouldn't hide it Working against the military establishment and for freedom, justice and equality are subversive acts. As we work for the rights of all peoples to have power over their own lives, we undermine the powers of the state. I don't think it is cynical to say that it is in the best interests of the U.S. government to make war in Nicaragua. But the interests of the state are not mine and they shouldn't be the interests of the peace movement Let us build a movement without borders or flags. Let us dedícate ourselves to each other and a better world rather than to the state. If the reason we want to be patriotic is merely to appeal to what the nation supposedly wants to hear then we have sold out. One does not win through compromises; one wins compromises. A misguided alliance with the state can only serve the interests of the state which are antithetical to what we are striving for. Only through an honest struggle to do away with the powers over us will be bring about a better world. We should proudly declare ourselves unpatríotíc and American. Dave Buchen describes himself as a dropout, an American, an feminist, and a general nuisance upon society.


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