Self-deception started early

Howard Zinn’s July 4 Wisdom Stands the Test of Time

By Howard Zinn, July 4, 2017

 

 

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism—that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder—one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

These ways of thinking—cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on— have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours—huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction—what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early.

When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession.”

When the English set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women and children, the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: “It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day.”

On the eve of the Mexican War, an American journalist declared it our “Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence.” After the invasion of Mexico began, The New York Herald announced: “We believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country.”

It was always supposedly for benign purposes that our country went to war.

 


 

We invaded Cuba in 1898 to liberate the Cubans, and went to war in the Philippines shortly after, as President McKinley put it, “to civilize and Christianize” the Filipino people.

As our armies were committing massacres in the Philippines (at least 600,000 Filipinos died in a few years of conflict), Elihu Root, our secretary of war, was saying: “The American soldier is different from all other soldiers of all other countries since the war began. He is the advance guard of liberty and justice, of law and order, and of peace and happiness.”

We see in Iraq that our soldiers are not different. They have, perhaps against their better nature, killed thousands of Iraq civilians. And some soldiers have shown themselves capable of brutality, of torture.

Yet they are victims, too, of our government’s lies.

How many times have we heard President Bush tell the troops that if they die, if they return without arms or legs, or blinded, it is for “liberty,” for “democracy”?

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on September 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And nationalism is given a special virulence when it is said to be blessed by Providence. Today we have a president, invading two countries in four years, who announced on the campaign trail in 2004 that God speaks through him.

We need to refute the idea that our nation is different from, morally superior to, the other imperial powers of world history.

We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation.

 

http://progressive.org/dispatches/howard-zinn-s-july-4-wisdom-stands-test-time/

Portrait of Howard Zinn by Robert Shetterly. https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/howard-zinn

Related Posts

It hurts to write this sentence Behind the use of drones is a complacent belief that murdering Muslims is always justifiable By Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Sunday 28 April 2013   ...
When I was there It was better to live in Iraq under Saddam By Chris Maume, Thursday 12 June 2014   News that Islamic extremists have conquered Mosul took ...
In your name If By Arkansas Times' "The Observer" (David Koon), June 14, 2018   If you can, cast your mind back to when you were very young and recall ...
We expect people to die. The destruction of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul is another example of the 'culturecide' we've become so used to By Robert Fisk, Thursday 29 June 2017 ...
Resurrection The Crucifixion of Tomas Young By Chris Hedges, Mar 10, 2013   I flew to Kansas City last week to see Tomas Young. Young was paralyzed in ...
The full measure of its guilt Just a little over 15 years ago, one day after September 11, 2001, Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder...
The parallels to Hitler’s Germany are abunda... Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Iraq crisis By Al Staggs, The Baptist Standard, March 3, 2003   Note:  The following commentary was first pub...
The truth is, nothing much has changed The Iraq War Was My Fault By Wes Magruder, March 23, 2013   I remember what it felt like ten years ago this week. The dread had been ...
The harvest to come Dear editor, Have you heard a distant clanging in the middle of the night?  It’s the sound of the dark lord himself, Darth Cheney, thumping his bio...
The harvest to come #2 Dear editor, Have you been hearing a hollow clanging in the middle of the night? Faint, but growing louder in that gathering twilight before the fi...

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2017/07/05/self-deception-started-early/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.