Patriotism - something I can't grasp

I just listened to the Sheer Intelligence interview on Truthdig about "The Great Con of American Patriotism" and it struck me that probably no German of my age, born 1948, could have ever felt the same way as both, Ron Kovic or Danny Sjursen, did. Because we were the kids of the bad guys and we actually thought to join the German military service (Bundeswehr) is something that would be neither honorable nor even reasonable. Everyone I knew among friends, schoolmates and extended family fought to be recognized as Conscientious Objectors and at that time most of them were granted that status.

Later on, I guess, it changed, because it was not mandatory anymore to serve at least a year and a half or a year in the German Bundeswehr. So, whoever went into the military, did it voluntarily. I have never talked to anyone who did that. I have lost track and guts feelings where we stand today on those issues, as I didn't live through the eighties to 2016 in Germany. Most of my student colleagues marched in Berlin against the Vietnam War in the late sixties. For some there were some risks involved doing so.

Here is the interview with the trancript from truthdig:
The Great Con of American Patriotism

One is Ron Kovic. The movie “Born on the Fourth of July” was made about hi Tom Cruise immortalized him in that film; he also, it was based on his own book. And he wrote the script with Oliver Stone, that was nominated for the Academy Award. And probably the best war movie that we’ve ever had; maybe “All Quiet on the Western Front” in an earlier period, but certainly the best. And Ron has, of course, remained active. And he wrote a book about veterans protesting against medical cuts and everything, and the sit-in at then-Sen. Alan Cranston’s office, called “Hurricane Street,” that is out now. And the other guest I’m bringing in—so Ron was the sergeant; the sergeant now is going to meet the major. And the major is Danny Sjursen. Readers of Truthdig know him well, because he’s writing a history; for a lot of publications he’s also writing a lot of columns. And, amazingly enough, he’s been writing these columns about the military, about Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has been in combat, leading troops for 10 years. And he is a graduate of West Point; he’s, as I said before, a major, active-duty major. And we can talk a little bit about how he purchased the freedom to be able to write so critically. But as we do this recording, we’re on the 29th of January; in three days, Major Danny Sjursen is going to be out of the military. And what is that, for the first time in 18-and-a-half years.

While listening to it, I imagined Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders would chime in and give their opinion and asked questions to Kovic and Sjursen. Because here on C99p folks voiced quite some different view points on Gabbard's and Sander's anti-war and foreign policy positions. Their truthfulness or trustworthiness or silence were either questioned, doubted or defended and supported.

I will cop out here, because I feel as a German I would probably not be welcomed to say something about both Kovic's and Sjursen's explanations of their own experiences, activities and activism in and after the wars they were in.

So, forgive me, if I am not saying anything. I still would like to know what you think. I said a couple of days ago, I would vote for Sanders and Gabbard and also mentioned once, why I trust Gabbards "anti-war" rhetoric more than many here, who distrust her. And I feel somewhat supported by what one of the interviewees said and somewhat not convinced the other interviewee stated. If that is cowardly, so be it, but I don't want to hurt or upset or incite people's feelings unnecessarily. That's all.

It is a sad thing, no matter how you look at it.

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WindDancer13's picture

As a human being, you are entitled to think, feel and express your thoughts. You have a unique experience with a different view from those who sit in their caves alone with their own thoughts.

Anyway, personally, I would like to see a Bernie/Tulsi ticket for 2020. It would be kind of the best of two worlds. Sanders is heavily invested in domestic issues, while Gabbard has a good sense of our foreign affairs needs. Add to that the people who would be appointed to various positions that reflect the stands of these two and we have a good start to coming back from the brink.

As for the article you posted, I have not read a lot of it yet because I got distracted looking up the difference between patriotism and nationalism. I am not sure that I am any better informed than when I started looking as they both appear to be a form of tribalism; although, one tends to be labeled good and the other bad.

I am of the opinion though that most people do not go into the military for either any more. They sign up for economic reasons. They get a guaranteed income, health care, housing subsidies and a retirement plan. That cannot be said of most careers nowadays.

All they have to do it return is give up their humanity.

Well, back to your article...

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.--Aristotle
If there is no struggle there is no progress.--Frederick Douglass

mimi's picture

@WindDancer13 @WindDancer13
just listen to the sound file within the truthdig article, I didn't read the transcript, because word by word it's sometimes a little tiring.

I remember people explaining the difference between nationalism and patriotism, which didn't have an impact on me as to the differences being stated for being real. I guess being patriotic means you are proud of your country's culture and the heritage/legacy of your country's history over the centuries.

So, I ask myself, am I proud about Goethe, Beethoven more than about Shakespeare, Kafka, Dostojewski, Marcel Proust, Camus or Sartre? I don't think so, I don't care about from which country they came from and what heroic or horrific wars they were involved with. I just do understand Goethe better than Shakespeare's language (in its translated German version), because I have a mother language. If I read Shakespeare in English, I have no feelings or understanding of the beauty of Shakespeare's English language which I would have, if English were my mother language.

There is a connection between having a mother language and the feeling of belonging to a 'home'. Yet millions of people have neither anymore, neither a real mother language, nor a home. The migration started too early, their adaptation to different cultures and languages at a time they had no foundation for being rooted in either a mother language, or a home country. Now add to this that lots of people have not a clear racial belonging other than the one they declare themselves to belong to or the one their dna hunting proofs make them believe to be.

I also don't get the whole 'kneeling' business. Those who do kneel while reciting the pledge of allegiance, do they risk their jobs, membership in sport clubs, or risk their lives?

I understand that the parents want to be proud of having raised their kids right, ie to express their opposition to racial discrimination, so I would just let it go as a human desire most parents would have. Yet I ask myself in how far the camera and online exposure these parents and their kids get might be a stronger incentive than for example the prospect of a secure paycheck for enlistening in the military.

As for the goodies the recruiters of the military promise the kids to get them enlisted, most of them don't get them unless they accept to stay for longer than their contracts are, ie up to the time they would get their retirement plan's payments, accept the VA's categorization of what kind of disabilities their soldiers might have or not. Not all soldiers do agree with them.

Ok, now you got me talking and I don't like it much. Sorry.

I agree there is nothing funny about peace and love...(thank you to janis b and her great comment)

Nothing for Ungood.

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WindDancer13's picture

@mimi

Podcasts are hard for me to follow, but the written word is not. Although, I also generally like videos. When just listening though, my mind tends to wander.

Well said! Many philosophers have advised "All things in moderation." Patriotism as pride for one's country's cultural achievements/heritage/legacy is quite acceptable if it stopped there. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). I think we are seeing this in many countries right now including, but especially, the US.

Mother language: I highly recommend S. I. Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action:

The original version of this book, Language in Action, published in 1941, was in many respects a response to the dangers of propaganda, especially as exemplified in Adolf Hitler's success in persuading millions to share his maniacal and destructive views. It was the writer's conviction then, as it remains now, that everyone needs to have a habitually critical attitude towards language — his own as well as that of others — both for the sake of his personal well-being and for his adequate functioning as a citizen. Hitler is gone, but if the majority of our fellow-citizens are more susceptible to the slogans of fear and race hatred than to those of peaceful accommodation and mutual respect among human beings, our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue. (Preface p. ix)

( Downloadable copy can be borrowed at https://archive.org/search.php?query=language%20in%20thought%20and%20action)

He covers the differences of thought processes established by one's native tongue. The original was written in 1939 and rewritten in 1949. Just as a matter of interest, Hayakawa served as a US senator from California from 1977 to 1983.

The negative reactions to "taking the knee" is a very good example of patriotism gone wrong. It is kind of interesting that many of the same people ignore the fact that in church and elsewhere, genuflecting is a sign of respect. And, yes, to your question: they do risk a lot in the current nationalism fervor.

Yes, most people signing up for the military now miss the fine print. They also miss the many struggles veteran's are dealing with to get what is owed to them by the contract(s) they signed.

Do not be sorry. Your post was full of wonderful thoughts, and I for one am glad you shared them.

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.--Aristotle
If there is no struggle there is no progress.--Frederick Douglass

Raggedy Ann's picture

patriotism in first grade. I Pledge Allegiance to the flag... I remember my third grade teacher holding the presidential election in our classroom the same day as the election. Kennedy won, both times. Early indoctrination. I remember my fourth grade teacher teaching us the domino theory. I believed it until I was a teenager and joined protests of Vietnam.

I don’t know, mimi. I think it’s because we’re a new nation. We haven’t found our footing because we’re losing our shit after only 240+ years of existence.

In losing our shit, I mean it only took 240+ years for the oligarchs to reign without shame. Ha! There’s a mantra:
REIGN WITHOUT SHAME
that’s our government. Who can be patriotic to that?

I, too, listened to that interview today in the wee morning hours in New Mexico. I understood the indoctrination.

I work at our flagship university and I watch the ROTC students, always in uniform, around campus. I read on the front page of our website
UNM IS A MILITARY FRIENDLY UNIVERSITY
or some such crap. It sickens me because I am on to their game and these young folks are not. It’s how they get to go to school. Indoctrination. It begins early.

Look at all of the hoopla around Koepernik (sp-using my phone) - take a knee??? Horrors!!! Indoctrination.

Hope that helps.

Cheers! DrinksPleasantry

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Women are human beings, not prey.
(I forgot where I read it although it might have been in The Intercept)

snoopydawg's picture

@Raggedy Ann

IMG_3197.JPG

Liam Holmes and his Cub Scout Pack had been invited to recite the pledge at a city council meeting at City Hall in Durham, North Carolina on Monday. After a discussion with his father about professional athletes who have taken a knee in recent years to protest police brutality and the police shootings of unarmed black Americans, Holmes decided to stage his own demonstration.

"What I did was took a knee against racial discrimination, which is basically [when] people are mean to other people of different colors," Holmes told CBS 17, an affiliate station in Durham.

Link

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

Raggedy Ann's picture

@snoopydawg
I had read the article and watched the video earlier yesterday. The young man was a bit disappointed no one saw him, but we've all gotten to witness his brave action.

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Women are human beings, not prey.
(I forgot where I read it although it might have been in The Intercept)

polkageist's picture

Dr. Johnson, one of the literary lights of 18th century English literature, said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." I don't think that can be improved upon. Every day our leaders prove it over and over.

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Greed is not a virtue.
Socialism: the radical idea of sharing.

WindDancer13's picture

Ron Kovic:

I love my country, but my best way of showing my patriotism today is to tell the truth, and to continue to write, and to continue to tell what really happened, and what it really means to be wounded. What it really means physically and psychologically. You know, we have 20, what do we have, 22 Iraq and Afghan veterans a day committing suicide, and the suicide rate among Vietnam veterans still to this day is very high. So to tell the truth, continue to write the truth, that’s what patriotism is.

I tend to agree with one caveat: One person's truth may not be the same as the next person's. Look at history books.

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.--Aristotle
If there is no struggle there is no progress.--Frederick Douglass

janis b's picture

One question that came to mind was, how come some parents did whatever they could to discourage or prevent the possibility of their child serving in the military, while others encouraged it? My guess (from an American perspective) is that it had a lot to do with where their personal roots were, and with their desire for their children to have as much opportunity as possible. You truly have a very different perspective than American teenagers of the 60s and 70s because of your heimat and history. I appreciate your respect and sensitivity toward stating any conclusions, and opening up the discussion. I think the value is in the questioning you feel and reflect, and how it may be understood.

I think I understand a little bit about your gut feelings regarding one of the interviewees.
Danny served 18 years in the military and for only two years has expressed his opposition to war. Ron was paralysed after 5 years in the service, while Danny was unharmed physically. Ron has proven himself over 50 years of activism against war. I guess only time will tell whether Danny can achieve an equal sense of maturity, humility and voice. Danny said he enlisted because he wanted his life to stand for something, and wanted his family and friends to be proud of him. It would be unfair to underestimate the significance of that motivation, as a teenager especially.

Thank you for this interview. It was fascinating. I end up wondering, “where is peace, love and understanding. Without it we can end up sabotaging ourselves.

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mimi's picture

@janis b
but then there are so many unknown knowns and intended consequences and just plain 'tough luck' to all of it. If I go back into my own family history (which is almost impossible) I think there was everything in it. I got some glimpses of it, not more than a sentence from most of them, but enough. The rest I understood through my son. Sadly so.

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janis b's picture

@mimi

I send you and your son, and your sister too well wishes.

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earthling1's picture

serving a year and a half in the German military back then as mandatory.
But did you have all the rights of a citizen of Germany?
An issue never spoken of about the 60s era Draft was the profound violation of our government holding us 18 year olds as legally children, unable to enter into contracts, obtain credit, consume tobacco or alcohol, but most important, to vote.
Essentially, America was arming and sending children to war, a clear violation of International law.
Many of my freinds and classmates felt the same outrage of not being able to have a voice in the leaders who want to put us in harms way, against our choice.
Many of us were not so much against the war as we were against the Draft.
The British had a word for it, which escapes me for the moment, where they hijacked sailors on the high seas and forced them to serve, sometimes for years.
While some of my peers chose to flee to Canada, others enrolled in college to avoid being drafted. While I was found a prime candidate, I "lost" the lottery and was not drafted.
My war years were spent in school and working and protesting the war to bring my brother home from there.
Just another facet of a difficult time in America.

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WindDancer13's picture

@earthling1

is the word. Although, I doubt the one's in the press gang were impressed.

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.--Aristotle
If there is no struggle there is no progress.--Frederick Douglass

mimi's picture

@earthling1
I always need to make sure, I understand a comment correctly and that my comments get understood correctly for what I tried to say. From translated Wikipages:

1. In Germany the mandatory military service (German word: 'Wehrpflicht' = English word 'Conscription' according to the translation of the Wikipedia page Conscription in Germany)
ended on July 1rst, 2011. It started way back in 1956.
2. Mandatory military service could draft any German male citizen between the age of 18 to 45 by default.
Military service
"Draftees who did not state that they were conscientious objectors and did not request service in the civil protection were by default drafted into military service (Wehrdienst) in the Bundeswehr (German federal defense forces)."
3. Conscientious objection:
"The German "Basic Law" requires that conscientious objection be possible,[5] therefore draftees were allowed to perform civilian service (Zivildienst or Wehrersatzdienst). The conscientious objection had to be declared in a personal letter to the local draft office (Kreiswehrersatzamt), with an appendix outlining one's moral objections. The draft office then sent this appendix to the Bundesamt für den Zivildienst (Federal Office for Civilian Service) for approval or denial. From 1983, the denial of a conscientious objection claim was quite rare, previously, the objector had to defend the validity of his claim in front of a committee at the Draft Office itself. These must have been directed against war and military service in general, without regard tthe circumstances, and, if they had been finally rejected (which was then a common occurrence), the only legal recourse was to challenge the decision in administrative court.

Those who objected had to perform civilian service, lasting for six months, during which they may have found employment with a civilian institution that renders a public service, such as a kindergarten, hospital, rehabilitation center or assisted living facility for the elderly. Alternative service could be more convenient than military service since the draftee could continue living at home rather than in military barracks."

At what age were Germans allowed to vote and have full legal rights as adults (age of majority)? From translated Wikipedia pages:

The principles for election in the Federal Republic of Germany (since 1949) are listed in the Basic Law, details of the election determined by the Federal Electoral Law.
1945: The age limit for the right to vote is raised from 20 to 21 years.
1972: The age limit for the right to vote is lowered from 21 to 18. [4]
1974: The age of majority, and thus the age limit for the right to vote, is also reduced to 18 years (effective from 1 January 1975). [5]
1995: In Lower Saxony, the voting age for local elections is reduced to 16. Other states followed. [6]
2009: Bremen reduces the voting age for state elections to 16 years. [7] In 2011 followed Brandenburg, 2013 Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.

This means that between 1956 to 1972/75 males were drafted at an age of 18 by default without having the age of majority or the right to vote. After 1975 that ended.

The draft issue for Americans especially during the mid sixties to early seventies,I believe, must have been very different from what Germans experienced. First, I am not sure, if American draftees had it easy to demand conscientious objector status being granted. Second, the draftees knew they would be sent into the war theater in Vietnam, knew they had to kill by the order of their commanders, ie the commander in chief at the very end of the chain of command.

German draftees were by law not even allowed to be used for anything but defense activities and not be ordered to participate in war activities outside Germany.

That is why I believe that Germans who demonstrated in Germany against the Vietnam war in Berlin in the late sixties and early seventies, did so for reasons of the morality to engage in that war. The draft for them was not the issue, but it was a big issue for the Americans during the Vietnam war. I would not have wanted to live in the US as an American at that time for fear of being drafted in a war I knew couldn't understand for what it was fought for.

I come from the German experience and perspective to the issue of the draft. I prefer a draft by default and strong rights to request conscientious objector status, together with a legally anchored status in the basic law to use the draftees only for defensive military purposes.

My feeling is that since 2011 in Germany the volunteer military army has lead to more 'american style' recruiting methods, ie the military has to 'convince young folks' that serving in the military is honorable to get their quota of needed recruits. They needed to be the con artists that the article mentioned, talking about honorable, heroic, courageous services. That may be so, but mostly is not, when the volunteers were sent to fight outside their own country for non-defensive purposes.

I am against any recruitment methods for getting volunteers to sign the contracts. I rather would see everyone drafted by default and then allow them to be conscientious objectors. At least then all the darn bamboozling and advertisemen to trigger the wishes of young adults "to be somebody" and draw them into the trap of having to kill, would not any more necessary.

Don't know if this helps. And thanks for your comment. I am against con artists, especially if they are professional artists.

PS Forgot to explain the situation for Germans living abroad, or non-German citizens living and working in Germany. Another time it's tiring and annoying. And the laws changed in that regard as well. Who knows what they come up with next.

Good NIght from here.
Sigh.

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earthling1's picture

@mimi
I had forgotten the constraints put upon Germany regarding your military activities after the second world war. Much like Japan, only defensive activites were allowed and the military was strictly controlled and definitely muted.

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mimi's picture

@earthling1
I gave was not wrong, but also not completely right, apparently. I watch these days lots of documentaries on German TV, and catch up on a lot of historical stuff of the last 80 years of German history. I would have never seen those in the US. I think they are quite good using lots of original video footage, which might have come to light only during the last decade or so. There must have been something like total dissenters, and they were punished and not granted conscientious objector status. Have to search for it. I am confused, because there is too much I try to read and miss or be mislead by.

Sorry for that.

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