Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sept. 13: A note on patriotism as promised - with just a bit about Syria

Leaders of both Democrats and Republicans want to block Russia from delivering weapons to Syria. Assad and Syria need these weapons to save the country from ISIS. But the U.S. and Saudi are themselves fighting ISIS – or so they say. So why should they refuse weapons supplies from Russia for the Syrian government to fight ISIS?

Is it because the U.S. intends to openly go to war against Assad or ISIS or both to add what is left of Syria to the American Empire? It could be. Both parties have been making statements that sound like that.

It would be insane to do so. The American military record for the past 65 years has been dismal. But American hysteria and greed have been insane for many years now. It's possible they could destroy Syria, even possible that ISIS would join it in destroying Syria. (If that sounds silly, remember that al Quaeda had its origins as an American ally fighting Russians in Afghanistan decades ago. And it served the U.S. more recently when the U.S. created the 'rebel' army in Syria.) But the loss of life and the cost in money, just as in Iraq and Afghnistan, would be so high as to make the war – to put it gently – unproductive.

As it is, Syria has lost half its population as refugees, so many that the Syrian nation is quite likely to simply disappear – whatever is done. Pieces would then be picked up by friendly neighbours like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. And then millions more would flee to add to the chaos that is brewing in Europe.

American policy in the Middle East is a disaster in the fullest sense of that word. A Syrian society no longer exists – and I see no way that benefits us. But this is going to go on no matter who wins the U.S. presidency. American capitalists have decided that. And that takes us back to the insanity of greed and power.

And, as this goes on, we may well be watching the breakup of the European Union. This isn't just spectacular videos of drowned children, of shoeless people tramping along European railways, carrying all they own. The impact on Europe is going to be tremendous, and will change the political, economic and cultural face of that continent – at who knows what cost in violence and suffering.

But don't worry. It won't much affect us. Canada and the U.S. won't let many in here. No. We'll give millions in aid – most of which will end up in the pockets of the billionaires we contract to deliver it.

And that takes us to yesterday's story of remembrance day for 9/11.
New Yorkers gathered to remember those who died on that day when aircraft crashed into the World Trade towers and the Pentagon in Washington. One can understand the grief. 3,000 thousand innocent Americans died that day. I have no doubt that many of our churches in Canada will have a prayer for them on Sunday.

(For myself, on 9/11 I remember a statement George Bush made when he got the news - “I felt as if I had been dealt a straight flush.” Wasn't that an odd thing to say on such an occasion? Think about it. Why did he say that?)

Americans daily visit the memorial to Americans who died in Vietnam. On Nov. 11, we will remember, among others, those who died in Afghanistan and Korea – and in the Boer War – none of which had anything to do with us. And perhaps we will think of our pilots in Iraq – though not of the civilians they have killed.

Why, on these occasions, do we think only of those who died on “our” side? Most people who die in a war are not evil. Often, they aren't even a threat to us. And, in most modern wars, those who have been killed have been civilians – men, women, children – just like most of us. Why don't we mourn the Boers we killed in South Africa? The millions killed all over the world by the U.S.? By Britain?

We mourn our airmen and the British civilians who died in the Battle of Britain. Why don't we mourn the much greater number of civilians killed by American bombers in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq…..? Why don't we mourn the quarter million or so civilians who were slaughtered (to please Canadian mining companies, among others) in Guatemala?

When is our day of mourning for the tens of millions of Africans who died in transit in the slave trade? When do we mourn the deaths of millions of native peoples of the Americas who were murdered by our ancestors?

I'll even stick my neck out a little, and ask why we don't mourn the millions of German and Japanese civilians we bombed.

The answer, I think, is patriotism. We're taught it in school, even in a simple way like standing up for the national anthem. And we just love patriotic songs that tell us that God likes us...

O Canada, glorious… God save our gracious queen...make her victorious….does that star spangled banner still wave o'er the land of the free? (a land which had a huge slave population when that was written)...God bless America. (yep. Don't waste none them blessin's on injuns er Muslims….)

I was taught early that I should be proud to be a Canadian. Damned if I know why. I mean, I was just born here. It's not something I chose or passed a test for. In fact, if my ancestors stayed put, I could have been born in Scotland to rebel against the Queen – or in France to kill the people of Indo-China before the U.S. took over the job.

Why should we feel proud just because we happen to be born here? What is this patriotism stuff all about?

What it's about is……. racism. We are, so we think, racially superior to people who were not born here. That's why, for most of our history, our immigration policies have been heavily racist. Blacks were allowed in only as slaves (with much fewer as refugees). And they could not mingle with us proud and white Canadians. The couldn't get any but menial jobs. They had to live in ghettos. In Montreal, a police chief, while visiting the Gaspe, dropped in on the parents of one of his officers. He was infuriated to see that the father was black. The new policeman was fired as soon as the chief got back.

Chinese were allowed in only because they were cheap labour for the railways. When the railways no longer needed them, they were forced into “Chinatowns”, slum districts. They, too, could not get jobs, and commonly had to make their homes into sweatshops for their families, taking in laundry.

In world war one – and even into world war two – the Canadian military refused to accept volunteers who were black or Asian. In fact, many groups were excluded. For evidence of that, take a look at military group photos from that period.

Jews in Canada were heavily discriminated against. And this was true not only among working class Canadians, but up to the highest levels among the wealthy, among academics, in the churches, and up to the highest levels of government. Canadians and Americans up to world war two and even after were as anti-semitic as Hitler was.

Patriotism encourages a belief that we are a superior people, and special in the eyes of God. In the U.S., this revealed itself in the gospel of Manifest Destiny – the nineteenth and twentieth century belief that it was God's will for the U.S. to conquer the Americas. Today, that same message has the name of American Exceptionalism.

The British Empire was the same. That's why we call on God to send her victorious. The British believed they were a superior people who had a right to slaughter and loot all over the world. For proof of that, I met many an arrogant twit in the British colonial service in Hong Kong who had nothing but contempt for the people under his control. They were not just different. They were inferior to him, racially inferior. And he preferred to socialize only at the Fleet Club, where 'racially inferior' people were accepted only as waiters.

There's good film that touches on that. It's “The World of Suzie Wong”. (Why would a Chinese woman have 'Suzie' for her first name? In Hong Kong, for much of its history, the teachers were usually English – so they gave the children English first names.)

Racist patriotism is what make imperial conquest possible. Americans could murder people by the millions in Vietnam because they were 'racially inferior'. Both Canada and the U.S. are products of this sort of British patriotism. We have inherited British racial superiority. That's why Harper has done nothing whatever for native peoples. And that's why we aren't forcing him to do anything.

Deep down, and usually not very deep down, we are racists. But we call it patriotism.

One would have thought that Christianity would raise us above that. But the reality is that our churches commonly rank patriotism much higher than “loving thy neighbour”.

And that's why we're very selective about whose deaths we mourn. And that's why I don't take these days of selective mourning very seriously.

As a footnote, it's now almost universally recognized that climate change is happening, and it's happening quickly. And we know what is causing it.

So why are we now spending trillions of dollars to kill and why are we creating hordes of refugees so that billionaires will be able to pump ever more oil for decades to come?

It must be that it's not just the billionaires who are insane.


  1. "I felt as if I had been dealt a straight flush."

    Could I get the source of that quote? I googled 'I felt as if I had been dealt a straight flush.', 'George Bush I felt as if I had been dealt a straight flush.', and George Bush quote I felt as if I had been dealt a straight flush.' and it didn't come up. Are you paraphrasing?

    1. I tried to google it, too - with no luck. I can't remember the source. It was many years ago - fairly close to the event. And I was watching him as I listened. I've many times thought it since then. ( Could it have been the film - documentary style - that criticized him after 9/11.
      I feel quite sure of the words. It left a deep impression on me. The reference, of course, was that it gave him his excuse to attack Iraq - an attack that had been planned back in the 1990s. It appeared through google shortly before Bush's election. It was prepared by right wing hawks, including Jeb Bush and Dick Cheney - and appeared as Project for the New American Century.
      Cheney, of course, was the real president through Bush's two terms.

  2. The billionaires certainly don't understand their insanity. Nor do most of us lesser mortals understand our own. But insanity it is.

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