The Myths Of Patriotism & Heroism

Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 8/14/04


‘They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety

deserve neither liberty nor safety.’- Benjamin Franklin


  Since 9/11 there have been all sorts of justifications for the star chamber mentality & duplicity of the Bush Administration. Most often they are boiled down into a canard like, ‘In this post-9/11 era all previous models for dealing with war & civil liberties have to be tossed out.’ This assumes that Moslems are fundamentally different from other humans. It is said that their jihadism is implacable. Tell that to early Christian Crusaders or the Ottoman Empire, both of which beat back Islamic Imperialism. Try to tell that to World War 2 vets who took the worst that the kamikazes tossed their way & still triumphed.

  The real problem is not that the Fundamentalist Islamic is bad- it is, of course- rather that the Fundamentalist Christian Conservative response to it is so blindered & fey.

  The worst example of this is the Patriot Act- a Draconian bill that was rushed into law less than 2 months after 9/11. Of the many Fascistic measures it supports the worst is probably that the government can now legally seize individuals, enter their homes, etc. without showing probable cause or evidence to a judge (Sections 213 & 216) & getting written permission to do so. Now, all they need do is inform a judge they’re gonna do it. This is known as mere court ‘certification’. The most troubling part of the Patriot Act is that none of its legislative nor intelligence expansions could have been shown to have stopped 9/11 because our prior laws & defense systems were adequate. We now know that President Bush & Co. knew that a 9/11 scale event was in the offing. They just arrogantly ignored it.

  Instead, what the Patriot Act does is sort of act as an unfounded No Child Left Behind-like Big Brother mandate that will burden local governments down with unnecessary bureaucracy- therefore taxing the populace more for less effective services. Hey- isn’t this all antithetical to stated Conservative causes? Must be, because over 300 local municipalities have now enacted anti-Patriot Act laws, & among the most vigorous opponents of the act are Conservatives. So, what then, is Bush?

 Oh, I forgot- he’s a hero, right? Just like all the people who died on 9/11. I ask, how in the hell is anyone a hero for simply dying while going about their own business? Yes, it can be argued that the folks on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania were heroes because they stopped terrorists from crashing that plane into another national building. Only 1 thing is wrong with that conclusion. There’s no evidence to back up the claim. Why that plane crashed is still unknown. Don’t get me wrong- what happened to the 9/11 folk was horrible, but horrible death does not equal heroism. Heroism is running into a burning orphanage- risking your life or station without any real need to do so. It is making a stand against great odds. Being burned to death in a plane or crushed by a falling skyscraper does not qualify. Then, again, over the last few decades the term hero has been bastardized all out of proportion- heroes now include people who write PC novels, senile Presidents who lived in the lap of luxury & bore no burdens in life, & pedophilic pop stars. Why? Beats me. By that logic I guess the 9/11 victims are more deserving of the sobriquet. But I have a higher threshold.

  The latest ‘hero’ to crop up is former NFL star Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals. A couple years ago, after 9/11, he famously turned down a $3.5 million contract so he could go serve his country. On the face of it it looked like the ultimate John Wayne patriotic thing. But while it may have been on the face of it a Good John Wayne move, it also entailed all the worst that John Wayne represented. A few months ago, on 4/22/04, Tillman was declared KIA in Afghanistan. Immediately he was lauded as a hero. Why? Simply doing your duty is not heroic. Oh, wait- he volunteered. Must be a hero. Even better- he wasn’t just a grunt, but an elite Army Ranger. These are the types that seek out the most dangerous assignments. These are the Rambo-types who want to kill & play hero. To them war is the ultimate video game where you can ‘be all that you can be’. Jingoism is great, ain’t it?

  You see, Tillman was not in the army to help his family out of debt, but to show that Americans have the biggest balls of any nation. & to give up millions to play Terminator on the Subcontinent? In my nabe he’d be called a jackass, not a hero. This was not an average guy lining up after Pearl Harbor, or the Cuban Missile Crisis, but a suburban WASP jock who found that the only thing more macho & brutal than the NFL would be war, itself. You know the type- we all do. Tillman was the big dumb bully jock we all knew in high school. He’d use & abuse the cheerleaders so eager to line up to fellate him & then still so lacking in self-esteem he’d pick on the fat kid or the small fry, to boot. Meanwhile, the rest of us would just mutter under our breath, ‘I hope that so & so gets his some day.’ Then, what happens? The so & so actually does get his karmic comeuppance by being friendly fired upon by another big dumb bully jock & he’s no longer a so & so, but a hero. That he was, in truth, a deluded so & so, I guess, mitigates my anger at his beatification, yet what of the beatifiers?

  Many people have gone out of their way to state that Iraq is not like Vietnam, yet every day that passes makes the comparison more & more valid- especially since, unlike Afghanistan, there was no real reason for our entry, save to line Halliburton’s pockets. You know that your Presidency is in trouble when the Far Left turns out to have been 100% right about the war in Iraq all along. At least LBJ, when confronted with the facts, decided not to seek re-election. Bush is too deluded- nay, heroic- to let a little thing like the truth deter him. Many folk like me gave Bush the benefit of the doubt when he said Iraq had WMD.

  Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice- well, you know the rest, & I’m too heroic to be fooled twice. Apparently, so was Tillman’s brother Rich Tillman, who lashed out at the Conservative Right’s deification of his brother’s senseless death, & tying it in with some Modern Crusade. Quoth Rich Tillman: Pat isn’t with God. He’s fuckin’ dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead!

  Even were he a true hero or patriot the terms have been so bastardized that they are irrelevant- Tillman may have better earned his heroism by being incested by a relative- they’re heroes, too, y’know. At least, then, his brother would sleep better. But, religiots know the power of myths & labeling. Without it they would not be able to recruit dullards like the 9/11 suicide bombers nor the Pat Tillmans of the world to do their dirty work for them. &, for what reward? To dance naked with virgins in Heaven or be called a hero or patriot? I think I deserve to be called a hero, too. I’m gonna finish this essay & take a shit. What? How is that heroic? What- contending against constipation is not a trial these days?

  Maybe you’re right. I’m no hero. But, if I shit really well, can I still dance naked with the virgins?

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