Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Patriot Games

Jessica Quindel, University of California at Berkley, believes that “Patriotic songs may exclude and offend people because there are so many people who don’t agree with the songs.” Last Saturday, I anti-war protestors in West Lebanon, NH purporting that “Peace is Patriotic”. I thought that perhaps I was unfamiliar with this new use of the word, so I looked it up. Webster’s New Riverside Dictionary defines a patriot as “someone who loves and defends his or her country.” Both the protestors and Quindel are emboldening our enemies, the terrorists, by reinforcing their image of Americans as limp and afraid of the sight of blood. The dictionary defines “consciously and purposely acting to aid the enemies of one’s own country” as treason. It’s really just that simple. Before you shout “McCarthyism”, consider that history has proven McCarthy right - Russia released KGB documents naming the communist agents who had been working in the United States, many of whom were Americans recruited by KGB agents. History has also proven that the Viet Cong were funding and directing some leaders of the anti-war movement in America in the 60s. We also know now that the ‘allies’ who opposed military action in Iraq were paid to do so by Saddam Hussein.

Speaking of terrorists, Shirley McLaine had a solution which she pronounced within days of 9/11, “Melt their weapons, melt their hearts, melt their anger with love.” She wasn’t alone, either. Richard Gere suggested we view the terrorists “as a relative who’s dangerously sick and we have to give them medicine, and the medicine is love and compassion.” The rubble of the WTC was still smoking and bodies were still being unearthed when these comments were made. Sheryl Crow at least waited a couple of years before explaining the problem to us, “war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies.” The Nobel Peace Prize Crew has been waiting on Crow’s doorstep, but she’s “in a bar...drinking beer at noon” watching good people working.

Chevy Chase thinks, “sometimes socialism works...Cuba might prove that.” Steven Spielberg met Castro and thought it was “the eight most important hours of [his] life” and Naomi Campbell believes that Castro is “a source of inspiration to the world.” My father escaped from Castro’s revolution and I can tell you that only someone insulated by birth in a democracy could say such things. Like me, Andy Garcia is the child of Cuban escapees and feels his roots: “I obviously think about going back all the time, but it’s like asking a Jew to go visit Nazi Germany...I hope that one day democracy will exist and [Castro] will no longer be there.” Gloria Estefan is a Cuban emigre, the daughter of a political prisoner, and warns “Fidel has control over the money, over the people, he runs an oppressive and terrorist government.”

On the flipside, John Malkovich told Playboy, “America is crippled by fear. Twenty percent of the population is part of what’s known as the religious right and is crippled by the word ‘f**k’. Then there’s the Tipper Gore crowd. If Dr. Dre writes a song about bitches and whores, they don’t look for the genius in the work. America is a big, wild country where lots of bad things come to pass, and from the minute my children were born I was determined that they not grow up there.” Malkovich’s contributions to America (The Killing Fields, Empire of the Sun, Dangerous Liasons, The Sheltering Sky, Shadows and Fog, Beyond the Clouds, Being John Malkovich, and Shadow of the Vampire) no doubt, include some excellent acting, but consider the messages he promotes in these films. Johnny Depp commented on Columbine: “I mean, little kids going into school and shooting up their pals and killing people...I have a little girl who’s almost two years old. I don’t want her to grow up with that kind of thing in her brain.” However, Johnny had no qualms about making his ‘big break’ in Nightmare on Elm Street or returning in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and it was ok to expose everyone else’s kids to From Hell or Secret Window. “I think the US is terrifying and it saddens me,” Tom Cruise says, “You have only to look at the state of affairs in America. I do worry about my children. As a parent you are always concerned. I just want them to be in a place where they are going to be strong enough to be able to make the right choices.” Of course, Tom’s a paragon of responsibility in Risky Business and Cocktail and abhored the violence of Mission Impossible I and II. Robin Williams’ quote speaks for itself, “we’re raising a nation of overweight, unintelligent people.” He’s only outdone by Roman Polanski (convicted pedophile avoiding US extradition and prison in France), “Normal love isn’t interesting, I assure you it’s incredibly boring.”

Our intentions don’t matter nearly as much as our actions do. Many people want to be judged not by their performance, not by the end results of their actions, but by what they intended, what they meant to do or say. How would the anti-war protestors respond were I to punch one of them in the nose? Would they embrace me with love and understanding? I think not. Would they excuse my behavior or call the police? America’s a nation founded on principles. A small but loud group has made it their life’s work to reverse those principles. There are countries that embrace their views, but rather than emigrate to one, they twist the words of our founding documents, insert their own meanings, and subjugate the majority to the will of the minority. The patriot works from within the system to elicit change, the enemy works from within the society to subvert the system. Patriots may not like what the system is doing but still support it. Though I believe their statements are untrue, unfounded, and irresponsible, I would still defend the right of the anti-war protestors to protest.

John Dickinson attended the early Continental Congress. He represented Pennsylvania along with Ben Franklin. Dickinson spoke eloquently and fought hard against rebellion and independence. He believed separation was wrong and reconciliation was possible. When the Declaration was approved and came for signing, he could not in good conscience sign it. He did not go into the street with a placard declaring “Peace is Patriotic”, but rather left Congress to join the army. He did not join the Red Coats and fight to maintain English sovereignty. Despite believing the colonials would be defeated, he joined the Continental Army and fought for his country. THAT is patriotism.

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