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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: International | San Francisco | U.S. | Anti-War | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
It's Way Past Time To End Militarism
Americans Are The Most Knee-Jerk Reactionary People On Earth
I can’t remember now if it was elementary or Jr. High School, but Way Back In The Day I was sent home for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. There had been some incident in the Dirty South; a lynching, shooting, bombing, or incident of voter disenfranchisement or other discrimination, and I had had enough. Ordinarily, being sent home from school would usually mean “Wait until your Father gets home,” which meant I was in for corporal punishment.
Pops served in the U.S. Navy, and had a scar near his eye where a Japanese bullet had grazed him on Iwo Jima. He had also trained to be a policeman, but wasn’t hired due to his race. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get a whuppin’. Pops (actually my step-father) was a very light-skinned man from Baton Rouge. He definitely had PTSD, but managed to provide for my Mom, me and my sister in our series of flats in the Fillmore District of San Francisco. Normally decisive, I could tell he wasn’t as angry as I expected him to be. He asked for my explanation. I said something about “civil rights.” Having marched on Market Street some years earlier to support voting rights and/or protest another lynching, Pops conceded I had a point, one of the handful of times he admitted I was right. But having served in the military, he still believed I should respect the flag, despite his experiences in the South. I believe this is called Stockholm Syndrome. So instead of a flogging, my punishment was to stand at attention for an hour with a military salute.
It’s been rather amusing listening to people use racism to justify racism. The uproar over Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem has shown that this is not “America The Beautiful,” but rather “America The Ignorant.” My favorite line is “Well MY relatives didn’t own slaves.” Yeah, but your relatives discriminated against dark-skinned people, and taught you to do the same. And you and your relatives benefitted from the work of those slaves; the wealth of this nation is a direct result of their labor, suffering, and death. But is is not at all amusing to hear people say really stupid things like “he should respect the flag because of the people who died protecting it.”
First of all, the people who died protecting “the flag” did so in order for for people to be able to express themselves, not so that they would have to do what YOU think they should do. Numero Two-o, the military has been used by the Congressional/Industrial complex to kill MILLIONS of innocent people since Day 1, so don’t even go there about their “sacrifice.” Indeed, many, if not most of those who “died for our country” were coerced to do so; conscripted as young as 15 years of age, given a weapon, and pointed towards the “enemy.” For these poor souls I do have sympathy. The wild-eyed yahoos who couldn’t wait to actually kill someone? Not so much.
I guess what is most disturbing is that Kap’s protest is being used by the Reactionaries to further divide the nation, as well as to whip up militarism. Unthinking, unblinking, unquestioning Americans have been acquiescing to whatever aggression “our” government decides on: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Granada, Panama, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The School Of The Americas has trained death squads that have killed tens of thousands of mostly civilians all over Latin America, especially in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
As for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance and the song “God Bless America,” well, all those ceremonies are more than a little creepy. Having to stand and recite a meaningless pledge to a mythical “America” has obviously warped impressionable young minds; just look around you. God Bless America probably should be the National Anthem; at least it’s a plea for divine guidance, which is sorely needed in this country. But the Star Spangled Banner was written by a slave-owning attorney (!) who persecuted abolitionists in court. During the War of 1812, the Brits offered freedom to slaves (black and white) who fought against the renegade colonies.
Paul Brennan wrote: “During the War of 1812, the British promised freedom to any slave who would join them. Actually they promised more than just freedom, they promised a new life with free land grants in Canada. Thousands of slaves took the British up on the offer, and even helped Admiral Sir George Cockburn burn Washington D.C. And the British kept their word to the slaves, settling most in Nova Scotia. As for the revolting slaves who fell into the hands of the Americans– that's where Key's "the gloom of the grave" comes in.”
So…..no. It’s time for the “Star Spangled Banner” to be tossed on the scrapheap of history, along with slightly fascistic activities like pledging allegiance to…..anything. Someone singing or playing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games is all the patriotism we need. Most people in this country don’t know that modern police forces in the USA are descended from the “slave patrols,” and many police departments still follow those protocols. America’s ugly little secret is no secret if you are a minority. If you really want to show respect for your country, wake up and smell the cordite.
© Joseph Thomas
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