Thursday, May 05, 2005

Patriotism

I caution you now that this is a political post. Don't bother flaming me for my ideas, as this is a free country and like anyone else, I'm surely entitled to my opinion. If you can handle it, read on, but get yourself settled in because it's a long one.

I'm no sociologist. There is more than one day I wish I'd at least taken a class in it in college though -- something about Social Problems and Deviance. The next best thing I have is a brother who is a sociology professor, so occasionally I get to ask him a question, and soon we're off to the races about his ideas vs. mine.

I did, however, take a class by the brilliant Professor Jon Bridgeman in college, called "War and Society". In it, we discussed both the technology of war, and how it morphed from rocks and sticks to the nuclear bomb, as well as what a sense of nationalism us Americans achieved in the short time between "The War to End All Wars", aka World War I and World War II.

In the days post 9/11, when American flags were in short supply, I put a small flag on my car along with most everyone else. The sense of unity following 9/11 was amazing, as our national conciousness was raised to a level never before seen in my lifetime, certainly, and probably not since Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.

It didn't take 6 months for me to take down that flag, and to resume flying my flag outside my house only on national holidays. And I think you probably can guess why.

At some point, in my opinion, the wheels came off the bus -- the bus that was asking "who did this?" and turned into something entirely different -- one that said "We're going to find someone's ass to kick for this."

But it went further than that. Initially, it was thought that The Man Responsible was Osama bin Laden, and that surely he must be in Afghanistan. I think most everyone was on the bandwagon that said we should go there and hunt him down.

Then, amazingly, there was a shift. I honestly think George Bush, seeing that all he had to do was pull out the short but dramatic footage of the planes crashing into the towers to get what he was after, decided for some reason (and I still don't know what it is) that we needed to invade Iraq.

I remember with some clarity being in the 8th grade when the hostages in Iran were taken. I remember the footage of them being led as the Islamic militants chanted in the background. Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, were our buddies at the time.

So what changed? And more importantly, why are we allowing ourselves to continue to be led around like sheep to slaughter?

I am an American citizen, one who up until now has been proud to be one. As I approach another trip to Europe this fall, I can't help but wonder what people will say to me, and how I'll possibly answer.

I am sickened by this war, and I believe I am not alone. I am also sickened by the sense that my saying so I am somehow unpatriotic, or worse, "Anti-American". I do not understand why people aren't marching in the streets against this war, and I don't understand why the prison scandal at Abu Graib and the holding and "questioning" (if ever there was an understatement, there it is) of foreigners at Guantanamo Bay is not causing people to question what the hell we have become.

The Germans in World War II Europe kept silent as masses of people were killed in Hitler's Final Solution. I know we're not committing genocide (shit, I guess I have to say "I hope not") but in reality, our silence is simply complicity, and for that even I hang my head in shame.

There. I said it.

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