Nationalism Scares me & Put Away The Flags by Howard Zinn

Nationalism is a scary thing. I mean take a look at WW1 whenever nationalism is at an all time high something dies whether within the boundaries of  whatever country it is happening in or outside their borders. I’ve never been one for sentimentality, or celebration (I am not curmudgeonly at all). I’m not trying top be a kill-joy or a buzzkill but as a citizen of the USA and a denizen of the world I cant help but reflect on the times, the historical significance of where we are as a nation and as a global society. This little ditty by Howard Zinn got me thinking and while I know thinking is frowned upon I thought I would share it with you. I figured if you read this much so far and are continuing to read it doesn’t have to worry about the usual negativity that comes from talking about serious things on a day off 


Put Away The Flags by Howard Zinn

zinn-protestOn 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.

flag-fireworksWhen 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”?

H21One 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 Sept. 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.



      • Yeah I’m back man. Just been lying low. Trying to keep my house in order. Been too angry to write. So much to try to make sense in this world but little hope that things will improve. But at least I still have my health and a job eh? Haaaaa… I’ve managed to follow most of my favorite blogs in the meantime and reblogging those that I feel are relevant to the social commentary of today. Maybe one day I’ll reach my Zen and be able to post a coherent blog without all of this malice I’m feeling. Or maybe I should just let it flow and say “eff it all”. Who knows….


      • A lot of time I feel like that to be honest, a lot of time I have all this vitriol and pent up stuff. It’s hard to be a sane person and not look out at the world and not feel disgust. it seems like being an optimist is draining and too difficult these days especially when you cannot rely on people to be honest or say things as they are or exercise compassion. I dunno man It’s kind of tough time man. I hope every thing else is good with you though aside from that?



    • yeah it seems like it can be a potent accelerant that can turn a small fire into a raging forest fire. I have always appreciate and learned a lot from Howard Zinn. He changed me views on history and how I approach my own history and the history of the nation.I read Peoples History of the US for the first time in High school and since that time was hooked


      • I had never even heard of the book back when I was in high school! It’s such a unique book because it’s the only U.S. history book that truly tells the history through ordinary peoples’ point of view instead of focusing on Presidents and high government officials.


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