The Patriotism Enforcers
14 Defining Characteristics of a Fascist Regime
Fascism is capitalism in decay.
- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Dr Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. He found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
An American in Pakistan: A New Kind of Arrogance
by Catherine Mayo
As a Vermonter used to 6 months of snow, two months of mud season, and one month when I can take off my long winter underwear, it is taking me awhile to realise that Pakistani heat is not a one-day event that will go away with a thunderstorm in the morning. The solution I have found is to drink one coke after another - with ice. I’m not sure what a doctor would say about this, but it works. So I am doing all right with the heat. I can’t blame it for the bad mood I woke up with this morning.
I started reading the paper, but then put it down after glancing at the headlines. It gives me a severe case of nerves when I know what the news is before I have read it. Once America decided that "might is right", everything else became a cliché, too. When dissent is not allowed, all truth becomes predictable. But that is not the reason for my bad mood, either. What really bothered me, as I drank my coffee and ate my eggs, was that I had to somehow write a column that told the truth in new ways. It is getting harder and harder. What if one morning I wake up and find that it can’t be done anymore?
Feeling sorry for myself, I put on a CD of really old music. Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Genesis. When they woke up in the morning, they knew that they had a whole day yet to be invented. They could plan on moving to the moon, and make a list of what they would need to bring with them. They could make up a new kind of love, like the time that people did scientific experiments to show that two potted plants sitting next to each other on a windowsill could love one another if they listened to enough Mozart. Even the thought of such a possibility can make a person smile in the morning.
But if I invented a truth today, I know already that by the end of the day I would have to declare myself a failure. Someone would listen to me, and shake his head, and tell me that the truth doesn’t matter anymore. Feeling even more sorry for myself, I decided to go out to my favourite lake. I sat on a bench near the shore, under a trumpet vine just like the ones at home. Small birds almost like hummingbirds darted in and out of the orange blossoms. Every once in a while a fish jumped up through the surface of the lake. An old man, sitting on another bench, began to play a Pakistani kind of flute. He was very, very good, his music had so many surprises in it.
Americans are not surprised that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They are not surprised that Saddam Hussein cannot be found, and that Chemical Ali is missing instead of dead. They are not surprised that there is no Al Qaeda there. They are a little surprised that Iraq has so much desert, they thought that Baghdad made up most of the country. They are not surprised that Iraq’s only terrorist group has been recruited by US troops to serve as a police force. They are not surprised that Iraq’s nuclear facility has been looted, and Iraqi people are showing clear signs of radiation poisoning. What surprises them is that people are asking questions. It is all ancient history now, the stock market is up again, the news now is Martha Stewart again, and the Laci Peterson case, and the west nile virus. The rest of the world should be doing what they are doing: shrug your shoulders, man, what is done is done, it is time to move on. It goes right over the heads of Americans that when a crime has been committed, questions need to be asked.
Americans are true innocents when it comes to this. Since they did it, no crime has been committed, because America cannot do anything wrong. It is the innocence of an arrogance that even other empires in the world do not understand. When the Greek Empire ruled the world, or the British Empire, they understood that defeat at certain times and in certain places was inevitable. They knew that the power of a government did not insure its infallibility. Americans, on the other hand, make a false assumption based on the definition of democracy itself.
America relied on the free voice of its own people to tell the state when it was doing the wrong thing. Good prevails when every voice is heard with equal respect. There was no room in the American system for blind obedience. Each person in the country had the moral responsibility to speak his own truth, and to listen with equal seriousness to the truth of others. Judgments of right and wrong were made among the people themselves, through the humility of majority rule. When dissent is silenced, a person does not know the truth of the man standing next to him.
Cathy Mayo is an American journalist based in Pakistan
Patriotism is an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.
- George Jean Nathan
by Nat Hentoff
In 1950, Republican senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the first member of Congress to publicly confront Senator Joseph McCarthy's charges that those who disagreed with his version of patriotism were - as Attorney General John Ashcroft now says of his critics - giving "ammunition to America's enemies." At the time, Margaret Chase Smith was the only woman in the Senate. She led six other senators in presenting a Declaration of Conscience to the rest of her colleagues - urging them to protect individual liberties from the likes of McCarthy. It took four more years for the Senate to censure Joe McCarthy.
What Senator Smith said on that day ought to be studied not only by the president and the attorney general of the United States but also by certain editorial writers at the New York Daily News and the New York Post who have attacked members of Community School District 3 for defying the Board of Education's edict that the Pledge of Allegiance must be recited daily in every classroom in our public schools.
"Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism," Margaret Chase Smith said, "are all too frequently those who ... ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism - the right to criticise, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to protest, the right of independent thought." Are there any teachers in this city's school system who would dare defy John Ashcroft and tell their students about Margaret Chase Smith and her Declaration of Conscience, and how it applies to what's going on now?
The enforcers of patriotism on school boards throughout the country have been commanding that the Pledge of Allegiance be intoned every day. In some cities and towns, as in New York, students are actually informed that they can refuse to stand and pledge as an act of conscience - by order of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1943 (West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette).
But a student who remains seated or is sent to the principal's office so as not to disturb the ritual is often treated as a pariah by his or her fellow students. For one of many examples, a brave young woman in a California high school was pursued down the corridors repeatedly by enraged student patriots of whom John Ashcroft would be proud. Other dissenters, defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, have had to go to the courts, which have reprimanded boards of education and principals for ignoring the rudiments of the First Amendment.
In this city, editorial writers at the Daily News and the New York Post have directed their fire, with particular outrage, at Larry Sauer, a District 3 school board member who made the motion to have each of the schools in the district decide how to deal with the Pledge of Allegiance rather than mandating them all to fall in line. Said Sauer: "Requiring students to blindly repeat the pledge is no different than the Taliban requiring children to memorise the Koran and repeat it by rote, without understanding why or what they are saying." A more cogent analogy would have been to one of our current allies in the war on terrorism - the People's Republic of China, which holds the current world record for jailing political prisoners of conscience.
The New York Post, noting that District 3 covers the Upper West Side, characteristically added that this section of the city was "once termed, for good reason, 'Moscow-on-the-Hudson.' Condemning America is par for the course in much of that left-wing loony bin." In its invincible ignorance, the Post does not realise that in this comment it is jubilantly engaging in McCarthyism.
And the Daily News charged that District 3 "is afraid that patriotism may not be suitable for children. That sound you hear is Osama bin Laden laughing."
Years ago in the Voice, I pledged that once every year I would print part of the clearest and most fundamental definition of Americanism in our history so far - Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson's majority opinion in the aforementioned West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette. I failed to keep my word. However, I can't think of a better time to recall this testament of why we are Americans.
Because saluting the flag violated their religious beliefs, the children of Jehovah's Witnesses refused to participate in the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance in the West Virginia public schools. They were expelled and then threatened, as Justice Jackson noted, with being "sent to reformatories maintained for criminally inclined juveniles. In West Virginia, parents of such children have been prosecuted ... for causing delinquency." To a Jehovah's Witness, saluting the flag is bowing down to a "graven image," which is forbidden in Exodus 20:4-5. In his decision, Jackson, while affirming the free-exercise-of-religion clause of the First Amendment, emphasised the corollary rights of freedom of conscience and belief for all Americans, religious or not:
"That [boards of education] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes... Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order." Jackson's opinion then thundered:
"If there is any fixed star in our constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." (Emphasis added.)
He concluded: "We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control."
The Jehovah's Witness children returned to school and did not have to stand and pledge to the flag. This Supreme Court decision was handed down during our war against Hitler.
John Ashcroft scorns his critics for scaring Americans "with phantoms of lost liberty." What scares us is his and the president's dangerous ignorance of the essence of Americanism.
Source: The Village Voice Week of 2-8 January 2002 villagevoice.com
For articles on bioterrorism, patriotism enforcers, airport security, children in war, McCarthyism, humanitarian killing, Voice of America, pipelines, truth, lessons, anthrax, hatred and pain click the
"Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this War on Terrorism section.