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Many people believe that they are patriotic people. But, what truly makes one patriotic? In "Saying Goodbye to Patriotism" Robert Jensen critiques the effects of patriotism on today's modern society, the United States, and globalization after the attacks on 9/11. Jensen defines patriotism in his talk delivered to the Peace Action National Congress as "love and loyal or zealous support of one's own country." (Jensen 741) But, that is not the only definition of patriotism. One may love living in the United States so does that make them patriotic? Patriotism is probably one of the hardest words to define in today's society.Jensen presents two alternative definitions of patriotism in his speech. The first one suggests that patriotism is to defend our country because it was attacked, and that must mean that there is a need to defend the United States and the citizens of the United States must support. Perhaps, this definition is the one that George W.
Bush had been taught. In his speech he states, "...we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger into resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or justice to our enemies, justice will be done." Just nine days after the attacks on 9/11 and already a plan to fight back was being constructed. In Fahrenheit 9/11, Lila Lipscomb supported this definition of patriotism, but that was before her son was killed in action. Patriotism was probably the last thing on her mind as she grieved the death of her son. Perhaps she has a different outlook on patriotism after her experience. Perhaps a lot of people who lost a loved one during a war that they are not sure what they are fighting for.
The other definition as given by Jensen speaks of the following: "...exercising our judgment, evaluating policies, engaging in discussion, and organizing to try to help see that the best policies are enacted." But how many people can actually say that they practice those activities on a daily basis? Politicians probably will tell you that they do, but not even members of congress read the bills that they vote on as seen in Fahrenheit 9/11. To quote John Conyers, "Sit down, my son. We don't read most of the bills." These are the exact words from the congressman on how they were going to pass the Patriot Act without reading it. If our leaders don't have the right idea of patriotism then how are the citizens in which are run under them supposed to get the right message about patriotism? If the leaders of the country just keep creating policies and the majority of the citizens just accept them as they are, then this country really isn't that big of a democracy as one may think it is. In Jensen's talk, he also gives a quote of Emma Goldman's that states, "Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, and more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others." This sounds a lot more like what patriotism is today. War is something that has always existed and even in this modern day in age, it is still considered the best way to resolve conflict.
Jensen feels war in Afghanistan is barbaric because of the fact that people seem to think that their lives are more valuable than Afghanistan citizens and if innocent Afghans have to die then so be it to achieve the goals of the United States. But, are the goals of the United States truly patriotic? What are the real goals of the United States as it embarks on a new war on Iraq? From an Afghani American's standpoint Tamim Ansary compares modern day Afghanistan to Nazi Germany and he does a pretty good comparison when he states; "When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think 'the people of Afghanistan' think 'the Jews in the concentration camps.'" So the United States was trying to achieve a goal in capturing bin Laden, but they have still not found him and many innocent Afghan people have been killed in the past three years. So, this brings us back the definition of patriotism given by Emma Goldman. Are the people's lives in Afghanistan not really that important, in order for us to search for a very small group of people, but to take innocent lives from people that just happen to live in the same "particular spot surrounded by an iron gate" to achieve a goal that never was achieved? I thought it was alright to kill innocent people as long as our goals were being met. One could argue, such as Bush, that the United States is only making things better by getting rid of the people behind the Taliban, but if it means killing the people of Afghanistan isn't that only being guilty of the same crime as the enemies that the United States is allegedly is fighting against? Bush himself states in his speech that "This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion.
It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used a not a single American was lost in combat." Bush makes a very true statement and a very false statement. Let's start with the false, he said that the war would not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago. That was written in October of 2001 and look at who we are fighting now, Iraq. The true statement that Bush says is that it would not be like Kosovo where not a single American was lost in combat. Well, he is right about that too. Over 11,000 troops have been killed in Iraq alone since the war began in 2003. This war is defiantly not like Kosovo.
In all truth, the United States has had a history of direct and indirect aggression against other countries: Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Panama, South Vietnam, East Timor, and Laos just to name a few. Even World War I the United States could've chose to remain neutral, but remaining neutral in a time of war does not seem to fit in with the definition patriotism that the United States has told the world it believes in. Jensen suggests that, "...as decent people who want honestly to claim the ideals we say we live by, we must say goodbye to patriotism...I believe there is no hope for ourselves or for the world if we continue to embrace patriotism, no matter what the definition." But, is it even possible to say goodbye to patriotism? With a majority of the world that hates America, how can we get rid of our own patriotism, we would be exempt to many more attacks on the United States. Bush said in his speech that the Taliban hate us because, "they hate what we see right here in this chamber --- a democratically elected government." But, perhaps they wouldn't hate us so much if we weren't so patriotic. Maybe if the United States would get rid of its type of patriotism then possibly the whole world would be better off.In conclusion, it is apparent that patriotism is defined differently depending on who your influences are and what kind of person you are. There are many different types of patriotism in this world and sometimes they conflict with one another and that is ultimately what creates war in the first place. Patriotism is supposed to be, as defined in the dictionary, "love and loyal or zealous support of one's own country." (Jensen 741) Instead, it has become the leading cause in war itself.
One could say that the United States is much like the New England Patriots professional football team, pun intended. The patriots are undefeated as of this writing and they take out all of their opponents fairly easily. This is much like the United States, undefeated, because we do not consider Vietnam a loss. The Patriots are a brute force in the NFL; the United States is a brute force in the world. The New England Patriots rage war on the football field, the U.S. rages war on Iraq. The New England Patriots celebrate in times of victory and grieve when a player gets hurt, but still play to win. The United States celebrates in victory as well, and grieves when a loved one has died in battle. If the patriotism of the United States is just as barbaric as the likes of an NFL football team, that gives means to consider a revaluation in patriotism..
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