Wednesday, May 23, 2018

On Patriotism

I should be cutting the lawn right now. It desperately needs it. But our extension cord  for our mower is badly frayed--a zot! waiting to happen, I suspect. So Eva's going to pick up a new one tonight.

I'm exhausted. I went to bed at my normal time last night -- even a few minutes early -- but woke up twice to go to the bathroom (yeah, I'm getting old, hooray) and once with a very unpleasant tightness in my chest. I've felt that before. It faded, like before, and I was left with my shoulder, which has now downgraded from painful to merely unpleasant most of the time. (Most.)

So if this makes no sense, blame that little bugger inside me that says  write right, right now. Inconvenient of it, but that's nothing new.


Patriotism. Two events have prodded me towards this topic of late.

The first happened a couple of days ago. Laura Kaminker, the NDP candidate for the riding of Mississauga Centre, sparked a great deal of outrage with this statement:

“I just wear my peace button on my jacket as always and wait for the collective brainwashing to blow over” and “when our masters give the signal, everyone can take off the fake poppy — made with prison labour — and create a bit more landfill. And another annual ritual of war glorification comes to a close.”

Well, now, tell me how you really feel.

I hate to say this, because it's not patriotically correct, but the woman has a point.

She's not correct in every particular. The poppy, for instance, does not glorify war. Not in and of itself. Most veterans would be happy to correct her on that point. However, the culture surrounding the poppy certainly seems to glorify, if not war, at least what a leading British newspaper called "a litmus test for a particular sort of nauseating pub bore nationalism". If you're not wearing one early enough,  in public, every day, you're gently, sometimes not so gently, ridiculed and ostracized. And while wearing a poppy does not scream  the old Lie, the people are are seriously gung-ho on poppies tend to be the same ones who do things like celebrate THE BEGINNING of a world war and seem to yearn for more bloodshed. Especially if your country is full of brown people.

"Can you remember the last white people --can you remember ANY white people we've EVER bombed? The Germans, those are the only ones, and that's only because they were trying to CUT IN ON OUR ACTION! They wanted to dominate the world! BULLSHIT--THAT'S OUR FUCKING JOB!!!"
--St. George of Carlin

How many people, wearing their poppy, even spare a thought for the "enemy" deaths? Do they count too? If not, why not? We're all human. Even in the midst of the worst conflict the world had ever seen,  incredibly touching stories of shared humanity crossed the lines of battle.

Kaminker's right about the prison labour, and she's also right about the landfill. And while you may believe that soldiers died so that Laura Kaminker could be free to express this "disrespectful" opinion....

(a) we've only had one civilizational war in which we might have faced an existential threat in Canada. MIGHT. And that was not the first world war that spawned the poppy, but the second.

(b) those soldiers -- on both sides -- did not just die, as if some pandemic swept through. No...they were murdered, as often as not by their own incompetent superiors as by any "enemy".  Witness this poem

(c) and they CERTAINLY didn't die for "freedom". They died following (sometimes contravening, but mostly following) orders. Orders given by bloodthirsty generals eager for a little glory, many of them willing to trade any number of lives not their own for it.

If I sound like a pacifist, that's because I am one. I won't completely shy away from war--if it is in fact a civilizational conflict, one where a totalitarian ideology, be it religious or statist, is seeking my subjugation, I will pull out all the stops and fight like a cornered rat. But that scenario--which is used to describe every least conflict--in reality describes a tiny, tiny subset of wars.

The point being. You may disagree with Kaminker's view. And mine. You may SERIOUSLY disagree with it. But she comes by it honestly and holds it sincerely.

I have a dear friend named Kate whose attitude towards all things martial is even more explicitly hostile than is Kaminker's, and I will tell you right now without breaking confidence that Kate's lived experience brought her to her beliefs--and that that lived experience would be respected by anyone hearing a fraction of it.

Shunning a poppy does not make you un-Canadian. There are hawks and doves in Canada and each is entitled to their view. Not to mention the views of the indigenous peoples whose land you're standing on right now. The whole notion of Canadian patriotism tends to rub the First Nations the wrong way, and it's hard to blame them when so many of them don't even have safe drinkable water, you know?


Enforced patriotism is so very, very Soviet.

So now an NFL player and his team can be fined if he dares to kneel during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

I haven't touched this controversy. I'm about to.

You don't have to stand for the national anthem in either the United States or in Canada--in America, you "should", but in Canada, there's absolutely nothing stating a requirement. And that's as it should be.

Is it respectful to stand? Arguably, yes--the anthem is in place of the country itself. But there's a hell of a lot going on in the United States especially right now that is hard to respect, especially if you're a person of colour. (And lest you get all smug in your Canuckedness, our racism up here is every bit as virulent. We have our own n-word, judging by how nastily the word "native" is often enunciated. Again--no safe drinking water on many reservations and no plans to fix that, even after DECADES; the residential school travesty; the missing and the murdered and the apathy towards same. WE ARE NO BETTER.) Kneeling during the anthem is a simple gesture to show you recognize all is not well in your country.

And yes, NFL and NBA players are paid a king's ransom to play a game. Evidently this means they're supposed to shut up and be happy about their families, their friends, and all the people in their community being at risk of being shot dead for the hideous crime of being black.

Nope, sorry, I didn't get that memo.

One of my favourite Presidents said that

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

(Theodore Roosevelt)

I think he'd have nary a qualm to extend that to the country. You can't fight for a better future if you're not even allowed to protest conditions in the present. That, of course, is the whole idea.  Some people back in the shadows don't want a 'better' future, let alone people 'fighting' for one. They're pretty damned happy with the way things are.

"People gotta change the way things are"!

Let me tell you something about patriotism, per George Carlin again... "Pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own. Not for something that happens by accident of birth." He goes on to say "be happy, don't be proud".

I'm happy to be Canadian. Right now I'm VERY happy NOT to be American. But proud? No. There are things the country I call home does exceptionally well; there are other things it emphatically does not. None of it signifies--I'll be proud to do my little bit the create the next greatest version of the greatest vision I ever had of this place, and of myself, but my being here is a happy happenstance, nothing more.

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