Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Zinn Masters

Now that the skies are silent.

Consider this .

It is so well spoken.

Read it and compare it with this.

Put away the flags
By Howard Zinn
Pittsburg Tribune-Review
Sunday, July 3, 2005

"We would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols on Independence Day -- its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism -- that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder -- one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking -- cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on -- have been useful to those in power and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours -- huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction -- what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession" (Psalm 2:8).

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our "Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence." After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: "We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country."
It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President William McKinley put it, "to civilize and Christianize" the Filipinos.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: "The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order and of peace and happiness."

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are no different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government's lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or are blinded, it is for "liberty," for "democracy"?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The killing of 3,000 people on Sept. 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail last year that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race and not to any one nation. "

To the Earthfamily.

Howard Zinn is the author of "A People's History of the United States."

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece IS well spoken. It is important for us to see where all this "In the name of God" started - that our Nationalism, that may have been innocent flag waving in the beginning, is leading us down a very dark path.

Zinn is a patriot and a treasure.

Thanks for bringing this piece to the light.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the first time last night, I watched the fireworks with sadness and a certain trepidation for this country.

As the World's premier military spender, we have indeed become the empire.

Our Founding Fathers warned us about standing armies, as did Eisonhower.

We have gone astray.

The path to national sanity is not well marked and it is very overgrown with the weeds and vines of our collective hubris.

6:39 AM  
Blogger glycotech said...

Yes, Hubris is the word that comes to mind most often these days.
If the United States does something, then by definition is is right and correct and approved by God.
This is why when Howard Dean opposed the War with Iraq, the news commentators unanimously dismissed him as a crank, out of touch.
The United States was founded and blessed with a Constitution that supported diverse points of view, but we seem to be giving it away very quickly.

7:58 AM  
Blogger glycotech said...

Yes, Hubris is the word that comes to mind most often these days.
If the United States does something, then by definition is is right and correct and approved by God.
This is why when Howard Dean opposed the War with Iraq, the news commentators unanimously dismissed him as a crank, out of touch.
Now, too too late, the press is coming around and wanting to know when the darn thing will be over.
It was supposed to take six hours or six days. six months at most.
tragic.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

"God, Gold, and Glory"

Cortez had the padre read the Biblical verse to the Atztecs or whom ever and they would say, "Huh?" and the army would attack to save their souls.

The Swiss are all memebrs of their army and have their kit and arms in their bomb shelters. I visited my kin there and my cousin showed me his anti tank gun and the box of shells in the bomb shelter. They have all sorts of secret bases in the alps.

I guess I am an arrogant nationalist or at the least and arrogant statetist.. Texas seems to give me a good feeling no matter what those dopes do in Austin.

Zinn is right. However nationalism, tribalism clanism, familism and so on are very difficult to deal with. Wars are fought for all manner of reasons. They usually have nothing to do with civilizing but to do with money. WWII was money. Keep those nasty orientals from expanding into the oil fields of Sumatra. Keep them out of Manchuria and China. And the same for the Germans, they wanted oil too.

Didn't Jefferson want a Northwest Passage? And he sent Lewis and Clarke to find one. The U.S. bought Alaska and got Oregon and Washington and wanted more. So they attacked Mexico and got more. California was a part of that. Zorro helped the Americans get it in the movies. John C. Fremont, Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, and all those footnotes to history tore through the west pillaging and having a great adventure. It was all about money. Sam Colt invented the six shooter to help them out.

9:49 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

I did not intend to write about this again, but Zinn's writing is particularly clear and precise here.

It is worth the uncomfort.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading this, I will never be able to watch the TV without seeing the blizzard of nationalistic imagery that we as citizens are bombarded with every moment.

thanks, I think.

12:30 PM  

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