For some, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
For others, it means dissent against a government's abuse of the people's rights.
I have never met a politician in Washington or any American, for that matter,
who chose to be called unpatriotic. Nor have I met anyone who did not believe
he wholeheartedly supported our troops, wherever they may be.
What I have heard all too frequently from various individuals are sharp accusations
that, because their political opponents disagree with them on the need for foreign
military entanglements, they were unpatriotic, un-American evildoers deserving
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.
Peaceful, nonviolent 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 nonviolence, and
yet they suffered physically at the hands of the state. But whether the resistance
against government tyrants is nonviolent or physically violent, the effort to
overthrow state oppression qualifies as true patriotism.
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 have been.
Liberals, who withhold their taxes as a protest against war, are vilified
as well, especially by conservatives. 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 is 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 a war, no matter
how misdirected the policy, is the duty of a 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 the state. This includes the role the Federal Government plays in our
lives, as well as in our economic transactions.
Certainly, the neoconservative 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 prohibited. Out
of fear of being labeled unpatriotic, most of the 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 comes 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, the war against gun ownership,
the war against poverty, the war against illiteracy, the war against 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 may result.
Nonviolent 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.
Protesters 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 outlawed matters little. The principle of patriotism is turned on
its head. Whether it's with regard to the defense of welfare spending at home,
confiscatory income tax, or 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 is a war going on, supporting the state's effort to win the war is
expected at all costs, no dissent. 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 necessary.
The last 6 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 in every war in which we have been engaged civil liberties have suffered,
some have been restored after the war ended, but never completely. That 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
policemen 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 are 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 the declared effort to
make us safe, and we are willing to sacrifice for the cause, more and more Americans
are now becoming concerned about civil liberties being needlessly and dangerously
The problem is that the Iraq war continues to drag on, and a real danger of
it spreading exists. There is no evidence that a truce will soon be signed in
Iraq or in the war on terror or the war on drugs. Victory is not even definable.
If Congress is incapable of declaring an official war, it is impossible to know
when it will end. We have been fully forewarned that the world conflict in which
we are now engaged will last a long, long time.
The war mentality and the pervasive fear of an unidentified enemy allows for
a steady erosion of our liberties, and, with this, our respect for self-reliance
and confidence is lost. Just think of the self-sacrifice and the humiliation
we go through at the airport screening process on a routine basis. Though there
is no scientific evidence of any likelihood of liquids and gels being mixed
on an airplane to make a bomb, billions of dollars are wasted throwing away
toothpaste and hair spray, and searching old women in wheelchairs.
Our enemies say boo, and we jump, we panic, and then we punish ourselves.
We are worse than a child being afraid of the dark. But in a way, the fear of
indefinable terrorism is based on our inability to admit the truth about why
there is a desire by a small number of angry radical Islamists to kill Americans.
It is certainly not because they are jealous of our wealth and freedoms.
We fail to realize that the extremists, willing to sacrifice their own lives
to kill their enemies, do so out of a sense of weakness and desperation over
real and perceived attacks on their way of life, their religion, their country,
and their natural resources. Without the conventional diplomatic or military
means to retaliate against these attacks, and an unwillingness of their own
government to address the issue, they resort to the desperation tactic of suicide
terrorism. Their anger toward their own governments, which they believe are
coconspirators with the American Government, is equal to or greater than that
directed toward us.
These errors in judgment in understanding the motive of the enemy and the
constant fear that is generated have brought us to this crisis where our civil
liberties and privacy are being steadily eroded in the name of preserving national
We may be the economic and the military giant of the world, but the effort
to stop this war on our liberties here at home in the name of patriotism is
The erosion of our personal liberties started long before 9/11, but 9/11 accelerated
the process. There are many things that motivate those who pursue this course,
both well-intentioned and malevolent, but it would not happen if the people
remained vigilant, understood the importance of individual rights, and were
unpersuaded that a need for security justifies the sacrifice for liberty, even
if it is just now and then.
The true patriot challenges the state when the state embarks on enhancing
its power at the expense of the individual. Without a better understanding and
a greater determination to rein in the state, the rights of Americans that resulted
from the revolutionary break from the British and the writing of the Constitution
The record since September 11th is dismal. Respect for liberty has rapidly
deteriorated. Many of the new laws passed after 9/11 had, in fact, been proposed
long before that attack. The political atmosphere after that attack simply made
it more possible to pass such legislation. The fear generated by 9/11 became
an opportunity for those seeking to promote the power of the state domestically,
just as it served to falsely justify the long-planned invasion of Iraq.
The war mentality was generated by the Iraq war in combination with the constant
drumbeat of fear at home. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who is now likely residing
in Pakistan, our supposed ally, are ignored, as our troops fight and die in
Iraq and are made easier targets for the terrorists in their backyard. While
our leaders constantly use the mess we created to further justify the erosion
of our constitutional rights here at home, we forget about our own borders and
support the inexorable move toward global government, hardly a good plan for
The accelerated attacks on liberty started quickly after 9/11. Within weeks,
the PATRIOT Act was overwhelmingly passed by Congress. Though the final version
was unavailable up to a few hours before the vote, no Member had sufficient
time to study it. Political fear of not doing something, even something harmful,
drove the Members of Congress to not question the contents, and just voted for
it. A little less freedom for a little more perceived safety was considered
a fair trade-off, and the majority of Americans applauded.
The PATRIOT Act, though, severely eroded the system of checks and balances
by giving the government the power to spy on law-abiding citizens without judicial
supervision. The several provisions that undermine the liberties of all Americans
include sneak-and-peek searches, a broadened and more vague definition of domestic
terrorism, allowing the FBI access to library and bookstore records without
search warrants or probable cause, easier FBI initiation of wiretaps and searches,
as well as roving wiretaps, easier access to information on American citizens'
use of the Internet, and easier access to e-mail and financial records of all
The attack on privacy has not relented over the past 6 years. The Military
Commissions Act is a particularly egregious piece of legislation and, if not
repealed, will change America for the worse as the powers unconstitutionally
granted to the executive branch are used and abused. This act grants excessive
authority to use secretive military commissions outside of places where active
hostilities are going on. The Military Commissions Act permits torture, arbitrary
detention of American citizens as unlawful enemy combatants at the full discretion
of the President and without the right of habeas corpus, and warrantless searches
by the NSA. It also gives to the President the power to imprison individuals
based on secret testimony.
Since 9/11, Presidential signing statements designating portions of legislation
that the President does not intend to follow, though not legal under the Constitution,
have enormously multiplied. Unconstitutional Executive Orders are numerous and
mischievous and need to be curtailed.
Extraordinary rendition to secret prisons around the world have been widely
engaged in, though obviously extralegal.
A growing concern in the post-9/11 environment is the Federal Government's
list of potential terrorists based on secret evidence. Mistakes are made, and
sometimes it is virtually impossible to get one's name removed even though the
accused is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.
A national ID card is now in the process of being implemented. It is called
the REAL ID card, and it is tied to our Social Security numbers and our State
driver's license. If REAL ID is not stopped, it will become a national driver's
license ID for all Americans. We will be required to carry our papers.
Some of the least-noticed and least-discussed changes in the law were the
changes made to the Insurrection Act of 1807 and to posse comitatus by the Defense
Authorization Act of 2007. These changes pose a threat to the survival of our
Republic by giving the President the power to declare martial law for as little
reason as to restore public order. The 1807 act severely restricted the President
in his use of the military within the United States borders, and the Posse Comitatus
Act of 1878 strengthened these restrictions with strict oversight by Congress.
The new law allows the President to circumvent the restrictions of both laws.
The Insurrection Act has now become the "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore
Public Order Act.'' This is hardly a title that suggests that the authors cared
about or understood the nature of a constitutional Republic.
Now, martial law can be declared not just for insurrection, but also for natural
disasters, public health reasons, terrorist attacks or incidents, or for the
vague reason called "other conditions.'' The President can call up the
National Guard without congressional approval or the Governors' approval, and
even send these State Guard troops into other States.
The American Republic is in remnant status. The stage is set for our country
eventually devolving into a military dictatorship, and few seem to care. These
precedent-setting changes in the law are extremely dangerous and will change
American jurisprudence forever if not revised. The beneficial results of our
revolt against the King's abuses are about to be eliminated, and few Members
of Congress and few Americans are aware of the seriousness of the situation.
Complacency and fear drive our legislation without any serious objection by
our elected leaders. Sadly, though, those few who do object to this self-evident
trend away from personal liberty and empire-building overseas are portrayed
as unpatriotic and uncaring.
Though welfare and socialism always fails, opponents of them are said to lack
compassion. Though opposition to totally unnecessary war should be the only
moral position, the rhetoric is twisted to claim that patriots who oppose the
war are not supporting the troops. The cliché "Support the Troops'' is
incessantly used as a substitute for the unacceptable notion of supporting the
policy, no matter how flawed it may be.
Unsound policy can never help the troops. Keeping the troops out of harm's
way and out of wars unrelated to our national security is the only real way
of protecting the troops. With this understanding, just who can claim the title
Before the war in the Middle East spreads and becomes a world conflict for
which we will be held responsible, or the liberties of all Americans become
so suppressed we can no longer resist, much has to be done. Time is short, but
our course of action should be clear. Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional
usurpation of our rights is required. Each of us must choose which course of
action we should take: education, conventional political action, or even peaceful
civil disobedience to bring about necessary changes.
But let it not be said that we did nothing. Let not those who love the power
of the welfare/warfare state label the dissenters of authoritarianism as unpatriotic
or uncaring. Patriotism is more closely linked to dissent than it is to conformity
and a blind desire for safety and security. Understanding the magnificent rewards
of a free society makes us unbashful in its promotion, fully realizing that
maximum wealth is created and the greatest chance for peace comes from a society
respectful of individual liberty.