JR'S Free Thought Pages
On National Anthems, Loyalty Oaths and other patriotic drivel
Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons. – Bertrand Russell
If you were a terrorist wouldn’t you be the biggest flag waver and the most patriotic person in the room?
Blind allegiance is stupid and a stupid Nation that enables the Power Hungry will never change.
Eleventh Commandment: thou shalt possess no view not endorsed by Big Brother
National Anthems, God Save the Queen, Flag Waving and other Mindless Patriotic War Mongering
By Johnny Reb
A few thoughts on the matter
I’ve never felt comfortable with singing the national anthem, mindlessly parroting pledges of allegiance and other mantras designed to keep the hoi polloi docile and pliable in order to serve those in positions of privilege and power. It’s been extremely useful throughout history especially in times of wars that are invariably started by the rich and powerful and fought by the working classes.
As a youngster I never fully understood my discomfort with these tedious rituals. Now I surely do and my aversion to such inanities is stronger than ever. I saw the fundamental contradiction between being required to recite the Lord’s Prayer, listen to the boring Bible readings and singing Oh Canada while claiming to be a “free country” way back in grade school. To observe people follow lock step like androids singing national anthems, thanking God for their contingent biological accident or uttering pledges of acquiescence to some power structure is a creepy experience. When I joined the boy scouts as an 11 or 12 year old at the urging of a school chum, I lasted only two weeks. The silly embarrassing oaths to serving God, the state and the Queen I found loathsome and demeaning but at the time could not fully understand exactly why I did. But now I understand only too well. The level of indoctrination in so-called democratic societies is daunting. Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti have written extensively about indoctrination and mind control within democratic societies and their analyses and arguments for why it is so pervasive are very compelling. As a case in point, recall the conspiracy of lies and deceptions surrounding the prelude to the War in Iraq by the US government and its lap dog partner the corporate media.
Guy de Maupassant was right that “patriotism is the egg from which wars are hatched.” And so was Leo Tolstoy who described patriotism as "the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers".
My response to National Anthems such as the banal mindless Oh Canada (regardless of whether it’s sung in English, Polish, Hindi, Swahili or Pig Latin, it’s pathetic) is that it ought to be tossed in the trash heap with all other anachronistic nationalistic egoism, conceit and sword and flag waving rubbish from our primitive war mongering past. But wealthy Conservatives and their political pals, Red Necks, love this horse crap so the idiocy continues! However, wealthy conservative elites would never in a million years put on a uniform and actually fight in a war – that’s a privilege reserved for the credulous docile ignorant working classes – it always has been - with the exception of Red Necks - you know who I mean, those deluded Republican and Conservative voting working class beer swilling morons with the rifle rack in the pickup truck and mindless bumper sticker displaying dumb vacuous slogans like “Support Our Troops.” They’re invariably submissive to power and rigid moral codes - and suspicious of ambiguity, tolerance, intellectuals and free thought. Along with conservative elites, they just adore the monarchy, the George W Bush patriot act, pledge of allegiance, rigid inflexible moralizing codes like the Ten Commandments, law and order at all costs, singing of the national anthem at sporting events (why is that?) and demeaning rituals such as swearing on the Bible and placing your right hand on that book of fairy tales and demeaning moral atrocities during testimony in court.
The lyrics to those nationalistic militaristic hymns called “national anthems” are so disgraceful – has anyone taken the time to write them down and actually read them carefully for their content? “Oh Canada, We stand on guard for Thee, God Save our Land” – PUHLEEZE GIVE ME A BREAK! - How nauseating, how childish, how egotistical, how inane, how morally depraved – they sound like random passages from the violence, persecution, murder, moral atrocities and mayhem of the Old Testament. If you read that gruesome book called The Holy Babble from cover to cover, you’ll be converted to atheism faster than reading Bertrand Russell or Richard Dawkins. Not only are the lyrics to our national anthem banal, they sound like they’ve been composed by either George W Bush or a seven year old recalcitrant autistic child with ADD. No thinking person who values freedom can handle much of that sort of mindless reverence for counterfeit authority and patriotic obedience . Singing songs about love of country and the conservative elites who own and control it is devious indoctrination and subtle submission of the worst sort. Back when I was in junior high school I couldn’t really express in any systematic way why I hated such rubbish but now I know only too well. Their purpose is primarily to keep the hoi polloi docile and pliable in order to serve those in positions of privilege and power. It’s been extremely useful throughout history especially in times of wars that are invariably started by the rich and powerful, enthusiastically supported by organized religion, but fought and died for by the working classes.
I was so relieved when they took the dreary Bible readings and Lord’s Prayer out of the morning classroom ritual. They serve the same mind controlling purpose as national anthems and displaying the flag. As I have said, when I was a youngster I never fully understood my discomfort with these tedious rituals. Now I surely do and my aversion to such inanities is stronger than ever. It wasn’t difficult to recognize the fundamental contradiction between being required to recite the Lord’s Prayer, listen to the boring Bible readings and singing Oh Canada while claiming to be a “free country” even during the naiveté of my high school years. By the way does anyone understand the purpose of National Anthems before sporting events? Huh? I could suggest a few reasons for the ritual but I leave it the reader to figure that conundrum out. To observe people following lock step like androids singing national anthems, thanking God for their contingent biological accident or uttering pledges of acquiescence to some power structure is a creepy experience. It’s also frightening. When I joined the boy scouts as an 11 or 12 year old at the urging of a school chum, I lasted only two weeks. The silly embarrassing oaths to serving God, the state and the Queen I found loathsome and demeaning but at the time could not fully understand exactly why I did. But now of course I understand only too well. It serves the same purpose as the school system and church – mind control. The level of indoctrination and patriotic bullshit in so-called democratic societies is daunting.
But in spite of our aversion to authority or anything representative of it, my fellow atheist and school buddy (we gave up on the con game called religion one morning on our long walk to school) and I decided that putting on a military uniform might attract girls. Not a wise decision! Somehow I did manage to endure two or three days of the Army Cadets (I loathed all that insufferable marching and saluting pretentious dolts with room temperature IQs and personalities of speed bumps). Moreover, someone should have informed me that you can’t tell a Staff Sergeant (with the IQ of a turd) to “eat my shorts”. However, I did manage to suffer a few weeks of the Boy Scouts (Man was that monotonous drudgery!). That lasted until I couldn’t bear any longer the god fearing troop leaders insistence on having us mindlessly sing “God Save the Queen” and “Oh Canada” at every session (“we stand on guard for thee” – who’s the cretin that came up with that soggy sycophantic line?). That was mind-numbing, sheer torment and an assault on the intellect of a chimp – and I’ll repeat myself: for as long as I can remember I’ve always been ill at ease joining in unison singing national anthems and other drivel associated with duty, obedience and emotion as substitutes for independent thought and action - which in this case invariably implies dutifully killing people and getting killed for God, Queen and Country for no good reason. Of course the not so subtle messages in those songs were directed only to the working classes, not the wealthy conservative elites who owned the country, controlled the government, started the wars and wouldn’t be caught dead in military garb. Chicken hawk assholes like Stephen Harper, George Bush and Dick Cheney would never put on a uniform and put themselves in harm’s way. Paying taxes and going to war is for the “little people” as multi-billionaire “Queen of Mean” slumlord Leona Helmsley called the working classes.
My near death experience
Back in the mid-sixties when I was in my early twenties my future wife and I went to visit her parents so I could meet them for the first time. They lived on the Sechelt Peninsula and at the time logging was the primary economic activity. The first night upon my arrival I went to the Canadian Legion with my future brother in law who was, you guessed it – a logger. When the evening of drinking was over and the place was about to be shut down, “God Save the Queen “came blaring out of the speakers. Everyone stood up like robots except little old iconoclast me. Several extremely inebriated rednecks told me to stand up but I refused, claiming that I didn’t believe in either God or the Queen. I suppose I’m still alive because my brother in law was Popeye and came to my defense. I now try to be a little more diplomatic in the autumn of my life, but detest such pathetic hogwash more than ever. But these mechanisms obviously work because when the conservative assholes who run the government want a new war so they can do a little profiteering, they just snap their fingers and the docile sheep in the working classes line up to become cannon fodder in another rich man’s war.
“God Save the Queen” is the most ridiculous song ever written and Oh Canada is a close second. “Oh Canada we stand on guard for thee. God save our land” Have you ever heard anything so incredibly STUPID? It’s an insult to the intellect of a chimp. Why not sing “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath?– it makes as much sense.
Consider Matthew 7:15-23 from the Sermon on the Mount: (one of the very precious few gems of wisdom in the Holy Babble)
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Jesus, if he arrived on the scene today, would be deemed an anarchist by our right wing plutocrats who presently hold power. He would likely be arrested for sedition or civil disobedience – maybe even labeled a “terrorist”. It’s my view that anarchism is the purest form of genuine democracy. Mention the word anarchism to a million people and you would be lucky to find a hundred that would understand the genuine true concept, a concept that has been distorted and defamed by those in positions of power for centuries.
Check out Carlin on this issue:
Below are two recent articles germane to my discussion that I gleaned from the internet, articles that would be verboten in our corporate controlled right wing media:
Loyalty Oaths Fail the Test of Democracy
by Geoffrey R. Stone
Last week, the state of California avoided a possible constitutional confrontation over its requirement that all public employees sign an oath affirming that they will “support and defend” the United States and California constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
A mathematics teacher named Marianne Kearney-Brown, who is a Quaker and a pacifist, declined to sign the oath because she felt that it might later be construed as committing her to take up arms to defend the nation, which would violate her religious beliefs. The state finessed the situation by agreeing that the oath would not be interpreted in that manner.
But the real question is why California requires public employees to sign an anachronistic and relatively meaningless loyalty oath at all.
Certainly, a truly disloyal employee could pose risks to the government. She might (if she were doing something other than teaching remedial math) disclose secret information to an enemy, destroy important government files, make decisions intended to harm the public interest and recruit other employees to engage in subversive activities.
But just how does a loyalty oath guard against such dangers? After all, anyone who is truly disloyal will simply take the oath falsely. No dangerous subversive will be deterred by the requirement of an oath.
The origins of the California loyalty oath, which all state, city, county, public school, community college and public university employees are required to sign, can be found in the McCarthy era. It was added to the state Constitution in 1952 and was designed, like so many other legal measures of that sorrowful era, not to protect the nation against real subversion but to frighten, intimidate and punish individual citizens for exercising their constitutional right to question and criticize the government.
Worse yet, it was designed to punish them for having exercised those rights decades earlier. In the 1930s, during the Depression, many Americans on urban bread lines and devastated farms had asked hard questions about the need for economic and political reform. Among the many organizations to which they turned was the Communist Party, which was then a legal political party that regularly ran candidates for public office.
By the end of World War II, with the beginning of the Cold War, most Americans who still had ties to the Communist Party or to organizations with connections to it quickly severed them. But by then it was too late. The most infamous question of the next two decades — “Are you now or have you ever been … ?” — had entered the American lexicon.
Political leaders such as Sens. Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy quickly seized on the opportunity to leverage fear to their political advantage. As Americans worried about the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and accusations of Soviet espionage spread throughout the nation, right-wing ideologues launched a campaign charging that thousands of communists had secretly infiltrated the government, the military, the unions, the schools and the media.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce demanded concerted action to drive subversives out of these and other positions of influence. Francis Cardinal Spellman warned that communists were “digging deep inroads into our nation” and “trying to grind into dust the blessed freedoms for which our sons have fought, sacrificed and died.”
President Harry Truman charged that such “scaremongers” had “created such a wave of fear and uncertainty that … people are growing frightened — and frightened people don’t protest.”
But McCarthy persisted. “I say one communist in a defense plant is one communist too many,” he said in 1952. “One communist on the faculty of one university is one communist too many.”
Within a few years, a plague of loyalty oaths had spread across the nation. By 1956, 42 states, including California, and more than 2,000 county or city governments had enacted loyalty oaths for public employees.
As Truman had warned, a cancer of fear had swept the nation.
The very concept of “loyalty” is painfully elusive. It is defined entirely by a state of mind. Does it mean “my country, right or wrong”? Can a citizen oppose government policies — including a war — and still be “loyal”? Can a citizen be a pacifist and still be “loyal”?
Loyalty oaths reverse the essential relationship between the citizen and the state in a democratic society. As the framers of our Constitution understood, the citizens of a self-governing society must be free to think and talk openly and critically about issues of governance.
In a regime of loyalty oaths, it is the government that defines which thoughts and which ideas are permitted. Dissenting views and nonconforming views are deemed “disloyal.” The very existence of such oaths reflects an utter lack of confidence in the American people. Nothing so dangerously corrupts the integrity of a democracy as a lack of faith in its own citizens.
Loyalty oaths serve no legitimate function. The government can and should investigate and punish unlawful conduct. But it should not attempt to intimidate U.S. citizens who express “disloyal” beliefs.
It is time for California to recognize that its requirement that public employees swear an oath of fealty to their government is a relic of shameful past and, quite simply, un-American.
Geoffrey R. Stone is a professor of law at the University of Chicago.
The smaller the mind,
Quaker Teacher Fired For Changing Loyalty Oath
by Nanette Asimov
Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.
“I don’t think it was fair at all,” said Kearney-Brown. “All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don’t care if I meant it, and it didn’t seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn’t matter. Nothing.”
A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified it each time.
She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo high schools.
Each time, when asked to “swear (or affirm)” that she would “support and defend” the U.S. and state Constitutions “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote “nonviolently” in front of the word “support,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.” All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said.
The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said.
But Cal State East Bay wouldn’t, and she was fired on Thursday.
Modifying the oath “is very clearly not permissible,” the university’s attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. “It’s an unfortunate situation. If she’d just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment.”
Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that “as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values.” For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don’t have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.
Kearney-Brown said she could not sign an oath that, to her, suggested she was agreeing to take up arms in defense of the country.
“I honor the Constitution, and I support the Constitution,” she said. “But I want it on record that I defend it nonviolently.”
The trouble began Jan. 17, a little more than a week after she started teaching at the Hayward campus. Filling out her paperwork, she drew an asterisk on the oath next to the word “defend.” She wrote: “As long as it doesn’t require violence.”
The secretary showed the amended oath to a supervisor, who said it was unacceptable, Kearney-Brown recalled.
Shortly after receiving her first paycheck, Kearney-Brown was told to come back and sign the oath.
This time, Kearney-Brown inserted “nonviolently,” crossed out “swear,” and circled “affirm.”
That’s when the university sought legal advice.
“Based on the advice of counsel, we cannot permit attachments or addenda that are incompatible and inconsistent with the oath,” the campus’ human resources manager, JoAnne Hill, wrote to Kearney-Brown.
She cited a 1968 case called Smith vs. County Engineer of San Diego. In that suit, a state appellate court ruled that a man being considered for public employment could not amend the oath to declare: his “supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ Whom Almighty God has appointed ruler of Nations, and expressing my dissent from the failure of the Constitution to recognize Christ and to acknowledge the Divine institution of civil government.”
The court called it “a gratuitous injection of the applicant’s religious beliefs into the governmental process.”
But Hill said Kearney-Brown could sign the oath and add a separate note to her personal file that expressed her views.
Kearney-Brown declined. “To me it just wasn’t the same. I take the oath seriously, and if I’m going to sign it, I’m going to do it nonviolently.”
Then came the warning.
“Please understand that this issue needs to be resolved no later than Friday, Feb. 22, 2008, or you will not be allowed to continue to work for the university,” Hill wrote.
The deadline was then extended to Wednesday and she was fired on Thursday.
“I was kind of stunned,” said Kearney-Brown, who is pursuing her master’s degree in math to earn the credentials to do exactly the job she is being fired from.
“I was born to do this,” she said. “I teach developmental math, the lowest level. The kids who are conditionally accepted to the university. Give me the kids who hate math - that’s what I want.”