On Protest and Patriotism

By David Swanson

Charlottesville Daily Progress columnist Bryan McKenzie reported on our recent protest of Bush at Monticello that we had made our point of diminishing a citizen naturalization ceremony? We did? McKenzie had plenty of communication from protesters before and after the event, all of which made perfectly clear that we wanted to NOT do that, that we wanted in fact to counter Bush’s diminishment of the day and to communicate to the world that Americans oppose our president’s crimes at home and abroad. McKenzie can claim that diminishing someone’s day was what we in fact did and that having done so is more significant than all the days for the rest of their lives that Bush has ruined of the relatives of the people he’s killed and is going to continue to kill as long as we allow him, but McKenzie can’t claim that that’s what we intended to do.

And, in fact, the media coverage outside the country and the vast bulk of that within it communicated well that we were protesting Bush because he has committed impeachable offenses. We, in fact, succeeded in communicating to the world that many Americans do not support Bush’s crimes. We’ve had a ton of positive responses from around the world. We’ve even had positive responses from citizens who were naturalized and citizens who would have been naturalized if not for Bush’s presence. We also had a meeting Sunday evening of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice at which its members overwhelmingly expressed their strong disagreement with CCPJ’s decision not to support the July Fourth protest of Bush.

I appreciate McKenzie covering the protest, but he should at least get right what we were protesting, even if – like the rest of the media – he doesn’t develop it in any substantive way. I also appreciate him asking me to provide a statement on patriotism for him to use in Monday’s paper. He’s only able to include part of it, so I’d like to share the whole statement with you:

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I’m not a fan of patriotism, nationalism, racism, religion, or anything that does more to divide people into often antagonistic groups than the benefits seem to justify. I think we should be ashamed of our schools teaching children to stand like robots and swear obedience to a piece of cloth. I think we should be frightened of how easily a president can use that piece of cloth to cover the most hideous crimes and incite the most catastrophic wars of aggression. The flag that is imposed on some 150 nations around the world in some 1,000 military bases paid for with my tax dollars is not something I can bring myself to feel warm and fuzzy over. I prefer the Virginia flag. It is associated with no military, and it bears a motto that inherently counters the tendency of rulers to use flags in a fascist manner – that is to wave them at a populace as a toreador might wave one at a bull. On the other hand, probably the single greatest step toward instituting fair and responsible government on this earth was taken on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. I take no pride in it, because I played no role in it, but if we manage to preserve the democratic republic that was born that day for another generation, I will take great pride in that. The indictment that was published that day reads almost entirely as an indictment of the new King George III. Our ancestors gave their lives so that we might have the rights that George Bush is stripping us of almost unchallenged. For that I am deeply ashamed and frightened.

***

That was my statement. This much made it into the newspaper:

“I’m not a fan of patriotism, nationalism, racism, religion, or anything that does more to divide people into often antagonistic groups than the benefits seem to justify. I think we should be ashamed of our schools teaching children to stand like robots and swear obedience to a piece of cloth. I think we should be frightened of how easily a president can use that piece of cloth to cover the most hideous crimes and incite the most catastrophic wars of aggression. The flag that is imposed on some 150 nations around the world in some 1,000 military bases paid for with my tax dollars is not something I can bring myself to feel warm and fuzzy over. I prefer the Virginia flag. It is associated with no military, and it bears a motto that inherently counters the tendency of rulers to use flags in a fascist manner; that is to wave them at a populace as a toreador might wave one at a bull.”

While that part can stand alone, it can also elicit responses along the lines of “Why do you hate your country?” in a way that the whole statement could not have. In fact, I am sure it will.

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