What I have heard all too frequently from various individuals is sharp
accusations that because their political opponents disagree with them on
the need for foreign military entanglements, they were “unpatriotic,
un-American, evil doers deserving contempt.”
The original American
patriots were those individuals brave enough to resist with force the
oppressive power of King George. I accept the definition of patriotism
as that effort to resist oppressive state power. The true patriot is
motivated by a sense of responsibility, and out of self interest – for
himself, his family, and the future of his country – to resist
government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means
obedience to the state.
Resistance need not be
violent, but the civil disobedience that might be required involves
confrontation with the state and invites possible imprisonment.
revolutions against tyranny have been every bit as successful as those
involving military confrontation. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. achieved great political successes by practicing non-violence,
yet they themselves suffered physically at the hands of the state.
But whether the
resistance against government tyrants is non-violent or physically
violent, the effort to overthrow state oppression qualifies as true
True patriotism today has
gotten a bad name – at least from the government and the press. Those
who now challenge the unconstitutional methods of imposing an income tax
on us, or force us to use a monetary system designed to serve the rich
at the expense of the poor, are routinely condemned. These American
patriots are sadly looked down upon by many. They are never praised as
champions of liberty as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have been.
Liberals, who withhold
their taxes as a protest against war, are vilified as well – especially
by conservative statists.
Unquestioned loyalty to
the state is especially demanded in times of war. Lack of support for a
war policy is said to be unpatriotic. Arguments against a particular
policy that endorses a war once it’s started, are always said to be
endangering the troops in the field. This, they blatantly claim, is
unpatriotic and all dissent must stop. Yet it is dissent from government
policies that defines the true patriot and champion of liberty.
It is conveniently
ignored that the only authentic way to best support the troops is to
keep them out of dangerous, undeclared, no-win wars that are politically
inspired. Sending troops off to war for reasons that are not truly
related to national security – and for that matter may even damage our
security – is hardly a way to “patriotically” support the troops.
Who are the true patriots:
those who conform or those who protest against wars without purpose? How
can it be said that blind support for war, no matter how misdirected the
policy, is the duty of the patriot?
Randolph Bourne said that
“war is the health of the state.” With war, he argued, the state thrives.
Those who believe in the powerful state see war as an opportunity. Those
who mistrust the people and the market for solving problems have no
trouble promoting a “war psychology” to justify the expansive role of
This includes the role
the federal government plays in our personal lives as well as in all our
economic transactions. And certainly the neo-conservative belief that we
have a moral obligation to spread American values worldwide, through
force, justifies the conditions of war in order to rally support at home
for the heavy hand of government. It is through this policy, it should
surprise no one, that our liberties are undermined, the economy becomes
overextended, and our involvement worldwide becomes prohibitive.
Out of fear of being
labeled unpatriotic, most citizens become compliant and accept the
argument that some loss of liberty is required to fight the war in order
to remain safe. This is a bad trade-off in my estimation, especially
when done in the name of patriotism.
Loyalty to the state and
to autocratic leaders is substituted for true patriotism – that is, a
willingness to challenge the state and defend the country, the people,
and the culture. The more difficult the times, the stronger the
admonition becomes that the leaders be not criticized.
Because the crisis
atmosphere of war supports the growth of the state, any problem invites
an answer by declaring “war” – even on social and economic issues. This
elicits patriotism in support of various government solutions while
enhancing the power of the state. Faith in government coercion and a
lack of understanding of how free societies operate, encourages big
government liberals and big government conservatives to manufacture a
war psychology to demand political loyalty for domestic policy just as
is required in foreign affairs. The long term cost in dollars spent and
liberties lost is neglected as immediate needs are emphasized.
It is for this reason
that we have multiple perpetual wars going on simultaneously. Thus the
war on drugs, against gun ownership, poverty, illiteracy, and terrorism,
as well as our foreign military entanglements, are endless.
All this effort promotes
the growth of statism at the expense of liberty. A government designed
for a free society should do the opposite: prevent the growth of statism
and preserve liberty. Once a war of any sort is declared, the message is
sent out not to object or you will be declared unpatriotic. Yet, we must
not forget that the true patriot is the one who protests in spite of the
consequences, condemnation or ostracism, or even imprisonment that may
Non-violent protesters of
the tax code are frequently imprisoned – whether they are protesting the
code’s unconstitutionality or the war that the tax revenues are funding.
Resisters to the military
draft, or even to selective service registration, are threatened and
imprisoned for challenging this threat to liberty.
Statism depends on the
idea that the government owns us and citizens must obey. Confiscating
the fruits of our labor through the income tax is crucial to the health
of the state. The draft, or even the mere existence of the selective
service, emphasizes that we will march off to war at the state’s
pleasure. A free society rejects all notions of involuntary servitude
whether by draft or the confiscation of the fruits of our labor through
the personal income tax.
A more sophisticated and
less well known technique for enhancing the state is the manipulation
and transfer of wealth through the fiat monetary system operated by the
secretive Federal Reserve. Protestors against this unconstitutional
system of paper money are considered unpatriotic criminals and at times
are imprisoned for their beliefs. The fact that, according to the
Constitution, only gold and silver are legal tender and paper money is
outlawed, matters little. The principle of patriotism is turned on its
Whether it’s with regard
to the defense of welfare spending at home, confiscatory income tax, an
immoral monetary system, or support for a war fought under false
pretense without a legal declaration, the defenders of liberty and the
Constitution are portrayed as unpatriotic while those who support these
programs are seen as the patriots. If there’s a “war” going on,
supporting the state’s efforts to win the war is expected at all costs.
The real problem is that
those who love the state too often advocate policies that lead to
military action. At home they are quite willing to produce a crisis
atmosphere and claim a war is needed to solve the problem. Under these
conditions the people are more willing to bear the burden of paying for
the war, and to carelessly sacrifice liberties which they are told is
The last six years have
been quite beneficial to the “health of the state,” which comes at the
expense of personal liberty. Every enhanced unconstitutional power of
the state can only be achieved at the expense of individual liberty.
Even though every war in
which we have been engaged civil liberties have suffered, some have been
restored after the war ended, but never completely. This has resulted in
a steady erosion of our liberties over the past 200 years. Our
government was originally designed to protect our liberties, but it has
now instead become the usurper of those liberties.
We currently live in the
most difficult of times for guarding against an expanding central
government with a steady erosion of our freedoms.
We are continually being
reminded that “9/11 has changed everything.” Unfortunately, the policy
that needed most to be changed – that is our policy of foreign
interventionism – has only been expanded. There is no pretense any
longer that a policy of humility in foreign affairs, without being the
world’s policeman and engaging in nation building, is worthy of
consideration. We now live in a post 9/11 America where our government
is going to make us safe no matter what it takes. We’re expected to grin
and bear it and adjust to every loss of our liberties in the name of
patriotism and security.
Though the majority of
Americans initially welcomed this declared effort to make us safe, and
were willing to sacrifice for the cause, more and more Americans are now
becoming concerned about civil liberties being needlessly and
dangerously sacrificed. The problem is that the Iraq war continues to
drag on and a real danger of its spreading exists. There’s no evidence
that a truce will soon be signed in Iraq , or in the war on terror or
drugs. Victory is not even definable. If Congress is incapable of
declaring an official war, it’s impossible to know when it will end. We
have been fully forewarned that the world conflict in which we’re now
engaged will last a long, long time.