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Who’s Really Unpatriotic?

Posted by Rick · September 11th, 2003 · No Comments

The anniversary of 9/11 brings sadness for two reasons. First is for the individual victims of the violence and their families.

Anyone who has read my posts on the topic knows I’m not a fan of the way the United States has responded to 9/11. They know I believe that our government has shamelessly exploited the tragedies for untoward ends. (Each and every lost life and impacted set of family and friends is its own tragedy, so the plural is appropriate.) They know I believe the President has been remorseless in worsening the condition and in exploiting it for his own political gain and possibly even to financially enrich himself and his friends.

But that does not change my feeling that the individual losses are great—even greater than the aggregate losses to those who live with them.

In fact, it’s because of those sympathies that I fight all the harder.

We frequently say, “The sacrifices of these people should not be forgotten!” And, consequently, some people consider it unpatriotic to refuse to stand by this President. It’s considered unpatriotic to question the response of the administration.

But there is a false dichotomy here; the argument that you have to support the Bush Administration because to do otherwise is to refuse to stand with America, or that you have to support the Bush Administration because to do otherwise is to dishonor the victims of the tragedies of 9/11 is bunk.

As Jim Norton notes,

In a false dichotomy (also called a false dilemma, either or, black or white, the missing middle) you are presented with two choices, when in fact there are more than two choices. If one choice is discredited, then the reader is forced to accept the other choice. But this is not an adequate argument, the choice favored must be supported by evidence. – Found at http://info-pollution.com/false.htm

The choice we are presented with these days is, usually, “Support George Bush regardless of his policies or else admit that you are unpatriotic.” Or, “Support George Bush regardless of his policies or else you are spitting on the memory of all those lost to terrorism.” Regardless of how the dichotomy is formulated it is still false. It is entirely possible to refuse to support George Bush, or to refuse to support specific policies of George Bush, or to support the policies with reservations—and this list isn’t necessarily exclusive—and still call yourself patriotic and still honor those lost to terrorism.

It is not only possible to challenge the policies of the current administration and proudly call yourself “patriotic” and honor those who have suffered. I argue that to do otherwise is what is really unpatriotic.

Ours is not a government by, for, and of the “mindless sheep.” Ours is a proud government, bequeathed to us by our forefathers as being by the people, for the people, and of the people. Mindless sheep go where they are pushed. People—at least those with a sense of dignity—don’t like to be pushed. Washington certainly didn’t like it; Jefferson certainly didn’t like it. Nor did any of the innumerable un-named others, such as the hundreds Paul Revere mentioned who harassed the line of British solders sent to destroy “Rebel” (that was us, before we thought it was unpatriotic to question bad government) munitions at Concord or the thousands who died to establish this country.

Real patriots love the U.S. enough to want to make it the best it can be. Real patriots love the U.S. enough to be willing to examine what’s happening and at least consider whether things need to be done differently. It’s because pseudo-“patriots” have kidnapped the minds of the average American that we believe it’s unpatriotic to want to see the U.S. not only as the land of the free and the home of the brave, but also as a beacon for, or an example of, that freedom and courage for the rest of the world.

Pseudo-“patriots” talk like this:

There ought to be limits to freedom. –George W. Bush, filing a lawsuit because someone made fun of him on a webpage.

Patriots talk like this:

Governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – United States Declaration of Independence

Pseudo-“patriots” talk like this:

If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator. –George W. Bush, during a CNN interview.

Patriots talk like this:

The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper. – Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785. ME 5:181, Papers 8:632

Pseudo-“patriots” talk like this:

[T]o those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. John Ashcroft, explaining that questioning the government is harmful and we should stop doing it.

Patriots talk like this:

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else. – President Theodore Roosevelt.

It’s about time we stop this insanity of saying that in order to protect the United States and all that it has ever stood for, we need to sacrifice the Constitution. Rather than silencing discussion, we should be showing the world that real freedom is about because, as Thomas Jefferson stated:

Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error… They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only… If [free enquiry] be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVII, 1782.

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical….An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government. – A Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison.

So tell me, all you people who think the rest of us should just shut up and quit asking questions about how George Bush, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, or Donald Rumsfeld are handling things, who’s really unpatriotic?

Categories: Politics-In-General


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