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from http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2410.htm Nationalism's Bloody Claws By: Lisa Walsh Thomas - 03/25/03 War is always personal. The outrageousness of the act almost demands that we bring it close and personal. A long, long time ago, my father was a naval flight instructor to RAF pilots training for World War II in the United States. I was an infant and knew nothing. But several years later, soaring alone with him through less complicated skies in his small plane designed for a daredevil taking on the telephone wires of East Texas, he would tell me about those romantic days as a young, trusting military officer, proud of his dress whites and the smiles of admiring young ladies, still able to lift his head to the wind, eyes stinging, and tell me in a choked voice of taking off from an aircraft carrier at sea on Christmas eve, once heading for Honolulu to the music of "I'll Be Home for Christmas," knowing that I, his firstborn, would have to do without him for the holidays. We cried and laughed and sang and loved our country up there, lost in the clouds and the vast majesty of space. I was positive he had saved the world from evil, even though he himself never saw combat and never made such a heroic claim. For a time I used his parachute bag to carry my books to and from parochial school, where I could stand in my Girl Scout uniform and hear the music about bombs bursting in the air and feel my eyes moist over. Like any other good Catholic girl, I loved God, country, father, mother, and apple pie in that order. What authority told me, I believed. For years I was still up there in the clouds, singing "Anchors Away." War, if fought by the United States of America, was just by definition, fought always to defend freedom and to bring better lives to people. Such war was fought by a people who valued liberty and justice more than did the other peoples of the world. Our people were pure, the purest on earth. My father believed it, so I believed it. He never read people like historian Gabriel Kolko, whose book, "The Politics of War," explains that "the American economic war aim was to save capitalism at home and abroad." He didn't know that in April, 1944, one State Department official of our country recorded: "As you know, we've got to plan on enormously increased production in this country after the war, and the American domestic market can't absorb all that production indefinitely. There won't be any question about our needing greatly increased foreign markets." We never talked about the way World War II gave us dominant influence in Saudi Arabia. What did we, even my well-educated father, know of the lands of wild desert warriors? We were sloshing through the oil even then, while waving the U.S. flag high. Far below our little airplane in the clouds, on the dirt that covers the real world, men whose eyes had once filmed over at these patriotic songs were banding together under the camaraderie of nationalism, a little like that my father and I shared up in the skies. A bit later I would think that we, unlike them, were guileless, blameless. Much later I would finally learn there is no safety in a claim of innocence. I would conclude that at every moment of human history, the seeds of genocide are being watered by nationalism. Down on that dirt-covered real world, black people were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains that my father and I could use. Our nationalism was white nationalism. The "others" had black nationalism. That was a salient distinction of U.S. culture, and if it wasn't genocide to the core, deathless perhaps but genocide nevertheless, it longed to be. Genocide, I would learn, side by side with my father, was something a bit different from Treblinka or Wounded Knee. Genocide was the destruction of buffalo herds to rid the nation of troublesome native Americans. In the end, nationalism requires types of genocide in order to keep its pure identity. Genocide consists, according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, of various tendrils, one of which is actions that break the cultural backs of a people, such as the destruction of great runs of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Lynching black people had been murder. Refusing to allow them into mainstream public schools was genocide. And accepting even the latter was to participate in genocide. This division between those who accept and those who refuse is the fuel of the hatred that arises from nationalism. I never grasped this division, this constant quest for a pure nationalism, until the day John F. Kennedy was killed. At my alma mater, Ole Miss, the forced acceptance of James Meredith as the first black to ever enter the hallowed halls, under the protection of the National Guard, was to many the work of President Kennedy. On the day the president was killed, crowds of people gathered outside near the student union. I watched from an upstairs window, where I was sharing a tuna sandwich with a professor friend (we really do remember such details). The cry went up. From part of the crowd it was a cheer: Kennedy was dead. From the other part, it was a dirge: Kennedy was dead. Somehow, in those horrible moments, as were so many people across our nation, I was changed irrevocably, knowing I could never again return to the heaven of my father's plane in the sky where all Americans were of one nationalism and everything about it was good and beautiful and just. Below me were two nationalisms. One carried the confederate flag and would have endorsed the expelling, if not the killing, of Mr. Meredith in order to keep the culture pure. The other carried the traditional American flag, saddened lovers of a civil rights president who had envisioned a new, united culture. Either side, given fangs, could be dangerous. I don't believe nationalism permits the kind of uniting sought by John F. Kennedy or his brother, Bobby. I believe it comes from a darker, more rigid hollow of the soul and that it is one of the most self-oriented reactions ever seen in humans. God should favor the football players of my high school over their contenders from your high school for one reason only: It's my school and therefore better. Today, a vast number of Americans are waving their flags. They fly huge ones from their front porches and tattered, pathetic ones from their car windows. Discount stores have to replenish their supply daily; cheap, made-in-China pieces of cloth for which an Iraqi child may be destined to die by fire. Girls in ponytails decorate their hair with flag-bordered bands. Men wear flag pins in their lapels, like lemmings. Flags are on everything from beach towels to kids' comforters. Mall photographers offer flag backgrounds so that even a photographed two-year old can give proof that his parent is patriotic. They are thusly identified. Their nationalism rises to prove their patriotism. Wear a flag and kill an Iraqi and to hell with anyone who asks them from what country came the bulk of the 9–11 terrorists. "It don't matter. They fooled with Amurka." Ask someone you once looked up to about the value of the oil that will eventually come our way and when he says, "You and I don't know—we may really need that oil," take a look in his lapel. Good chance you'll spot a U.S. flag. If you are fortunate enough to make him read documentation by Hans Blix that not one shred of evidence was found to show the existence of weapons of mass destruction, there's a chance you'll hear, "Don't matter. If they did have them, they'd use them." The surge is on. And in a country with a tendency to love the "good ole boy" over the intelligencia or the artist, this kind of surge can swell frighteningly. There are people of that ilk who would kill people of my kind. One of the greatest anomalies of our nation is its adulation for ignorance. College professors are suspect, while people who spout the line about loving God and country are admired, regardless of whether or not they can give any reason for bombing innocent people. Ask them if their God would approve and they remember that Jesus said something about coming with a sword. Sometimes they seem to be confused about where Jesus was from, as if they need to find out whether it was Georgia or Connecticut or Wyoming. They know only that he had a sword and that they have a throne awaiting them if they do as they are told and that the sooner Armageddon begins, the sooner they get that vertical ride in Rapture, right to the top. Because I write from the left, oppose Mr. Bush, and provide sometimes-disturbing info of wrongs committed in our names by the nation so many are certain is God's chosen nation, I receive a tremendous amount of hate mail. This is typical, quoted literally: "just remember president bush is in there because God set him there.just sit back don't criticize the president and watch what unfold in this war.are you ready to meet your MAKER." One human being wrote that to me, another human being, both of us living in the same country. The grammar is typical of most, the tone less angry, but the message is—in truth—very frightening. Am I ready to meet my maker? No, I don't think this particular note is meant as a threat (some are). I think it is meant as a revelation believed in by a vast majority of born-again religious fanatics, the core constituency of a man who claims born-again infallibility himself, even while being on the opposite side from almost every mainstream religious leader in the country. I believe the writer of this note is talking about Rapture, the religious conviction that to accompany the coming Armageddon, angels will blow their trumpets and all those of this man's faith will be lifted bodily from where they stand or sit to be taken up into the physical heavens to be with their God before he hurls down devastating fires, body-shattering screams, unfathomable pain and killing power on the rest of the world. According to expectations, he will outdo both Hiroshima and Mr. Bush's "Shock and Awe." I've seen the bumper stickers: Beware of empty vehicle in the event of rapture. People make fun of the Islamic sometimes-belief that a man dying in the service of Allah will have 72 virgins to himself up in heaven. While trying to be respectful, I must confess to seeing that image as a rather silly one (72 does strike me as more than any man could handle), but no more extreme than George Bush being lifted straight through the roof of the White House, sans teleprompter, bible, and $2,000 suit. Rapture would be funny if it were not now a driving force to glorify Armageddon. Just as extremists on the Islamic side believe in a reward for a suicide bombing, extremists on the Christian side believe in a reward for killing whomever their government tells them to kill. The difference in the two groups is negligible. And the rapture people support almost to a person the belief that you support this nation, the one with God on its side, and that you support it without question because Mr. Bush is "a man of God." They got here by the comfort of not having to think, by the ease of always following and choosing the "best" according to whether or not they are a part of it. When I read my hate mail, I realize that we are not just fighting angry people. We are fighting extreme ignorance, extreme greed for a good investment in the afterlife, fed from the roots by a nationalism that has no room for outsiders. I've been there, through childish assumption, and I cringe for my young years. I'm not ignorant about Christianity, having been raised and schooled by devout but learned people, but when I see what the neo-Christians have done to a religion where Jesus advised his followers to leave behind their worldly goods and love all men, I cringe for us all. They are wound together, like the colors on a rattlesnake. Nationalism, I now know, has the potential for the most heinous acts of history. In our time, it is the blind devotion to ignorance and a cushy throne in the sky that serves as its claws. And when a people let themselves be so misled as to be taken over by those propelled by greed and ambition, there is no way to ever scrape the claws free of the blood that they gather while "just following orders." I heard only yesterday of the perfect banner: "There is not a flag anywhere large enough to cover the dead we are leaving in the wake of what Bush is doing." The blood will keep flowing and will soak into the sand and the saturation, eventually, of our planet will be in our own hands. There is no small plane sailing through pure skies, dipping down to scoop us up and give us safe harbor. We're on our own. Lisa Walsh Thomas is a former journalist, sixties activist, poet and contributing political writer to Liberal Slant, Practical Radical, Online Journal, and www.AmericaHeldHostile.com She has a column, "The Raven's Nest" at: http://practicalradical.net/raven.html and is the founder of "Mad Grandparents. email@example.com ===== "our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency. always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it." -- general douglas macarthur, 1957 __________________________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Platinum - Watch CBS' NCAA March Madness, live on your desktop! http://platinum.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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