Monday, November 14, 2011

I Swear my Unquestioning, Unthinking and Blind Allegiance

I went to the Chiefs-Broncos game this past Sunday and had a great time. During the day, however, I was struck by how many ways we are manipulated by the Empire in which we live. There are so many different ways we are either brainwashed by ritual, emotional manipulation, displays of power or group-think.

As at all public gatherings, we started with the National Anthem. Just think of how many times you have sung that song. It's a ritual meant to burn the anthem into our minds. Immediately after the the anthem, a Stealth Bomber flew over the stadium in order to remind us of the awesome power of our Empire. We then had a stadium card stunt in which "thank you veterans" was spelled out across the stadium in red, white and blue. There were many different soldiers celebrated during the game, causing the crowd to both applaud and cry. A pilot who flew missions over Iraq was introduced. Among all the applause, there was no mention of the international illegality of the US' preemptive strike on Iraq nor any mention of the Iraqi children who undoubtedly died as "collateral damage" during the air strikes. Of course, were I to even suggest that those two omitted realites get mentioned, I would've been called all kinds of terrible things.

While it was, obviously Veterans Day weekend, this isn't going to slow down anytime soon. During Thanksgiving football games, we'll be shown messages from soldiers posted overseas. Christmas commercials will show soldiers coming home to the surprise of their families. The Superbowl will highlight veterans as will Memorial Day, Independence Day, Patriot's Day. We're never too far away from another holiday in which Facebook will be full of posts about soldiers to whom we basically owe our very existence.

Before going on, I'd like to state that a couple of my closest friends are veterans. I'd like to validate the self-sacrifice of people who leave their families and put their lives on the line for a cause in which they believe.

But there is a reason that soldiers are almost always the ones who carry out the flag for the national anthems preceding sporting events, instead of firemen, teachers, Peace Corps Members, Red Cross aid workers; people who also put their lives on the line in service of their country. The reason these other national servants are omitted is simple; they are not actively expanding the economic interests of our Empire. All throughout history, Empires have relied upon their military might to funnel the world's resources into their own economy and the American Empire is no different.

So if the Empire can create an automatic emotional response of gratitude to the (mostly) good intentioned but misguided service men and women who carry out its wars of expansion, then the Empire is freed from teh need to be accountable for the waging of unjust wars.

If a person dares to even question the Iraq war, the common response will be "support our troops" or "freedom isn't free." We're a bunch of Pavlonian dogs. There is absolutely no room for a citizen of the Empire to critique the way government's military policies while still caring for our soldiers. It's either one extreme or another.

And that's not by accident.

The Empire knows what it is doing.

And it's nothing new to our history.

By now, most Americans know that Vietnam was our nation's most heinous atrocity of the 20th century (though likely not worse than the 19th century atrocities of the Indian Wars and the Mexican War). But the phrase "love it or leave it" started during that era in response to those calling for an end to that evil war.

I’m current reading a book entitled War Crimes and the American Conscience, which is an analysis of US war crimes during the Vietnam War (particularly the My Lai Massacre) in light of the principles of the Nuremburg Conference. This book is a collection of the notes from the 1970 Congressional Conference on War and National Responsibility.

“There is ample evidence that high officials in our government have participated fully in the practice of portraying the ‘other side’ as an aggregate of evil demons. This imagery has become so prominent and routine in official pronouncements and in the media that only people with some determination to think for themselves can resist adopting it as a matter of course. Among high officials, as among the general public, the dehumanization of ‘the enemy’ tends to spread, so that now those who dare to demonstrate against our Vietnam policy are called by the Vice President ‘parasites,’ ‘goats,’ and ‘creeps.’

The implications of public utterances like those of the Vice President are not far to seek. ‘I think,’ a nineteen year-old infantryman told a reporter, ‘someone ought to kill those long-haired, qeer bastards back in the world. Anyone who demonstrates against the war ought to be lined up and killed, just like any gook here.’ I know from personal experience that this is not an uncommon sentiment.” - Dr. Edward Opton, reprinted in War Crimes and the American Conscience from a 1970 issue of The New Republic.

The Iraqi war is my generation's Vietnam but to say Bush mislead his nation and broke international laws by invading Iraq is heard by many as "you hate America/ soldiers/ freedom/ etc." But would we be any less free if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Not likely. What is clear, however is that Vice President Dick Cheney's companies profited greatly from the Iraqi war.

While most of our nation's wars have been offensive rather than defensive, we are taught to see our military's actions as a "defense of freedom." While we may have the legal right to offer dissent, critiquing our nation's war is social suicide.

And it all starts with the National Anthem we'll sing this Friday night before the Trailblazer's playoff game.

"Hail Caesar! The Son of God, the Prince of Peace!" - citizens of the Roman Empire

"You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20:3


David Brush said...

The hidden religions of our world; power, sex, money, sports (yes I said sports), celebrity cults, consumerism, and many more all provide an undercurrent for our lives.

You can be part of an overt religion such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Non-Religious, etc. and still be every bit the adept of one of our hidden religions.

The trouble is most people never see this undercurrent, or realize how trapped they are in it. The entry barrier for the religion of greed is low.

Joe said...

So, you are not a fan of "1...2...3...4...somebody, anybody, start a war..." and "Make the world a better place, shoot an insurgent in the face?" That is the general idea I am getting. HA!
You crack me up with your whole "Rage against machine" thing. People in the military mostly see people with your point of view as the misguided ones. The world without superpowers pushing people around is like a playground without any order. I would rather have the US pushing people around in the world than any other country. So what if a few people gain financially from it? So what if there are a few questionable calls? Would you rather have Russia win the cold war and have them in our position? In a fallen and sinful world, this is the best option. By far. I do wish, though, that Christians showed a little less blind devotion to our country. As usual, good liberal post, you borderline Commie!

David Brush said...

This is hearsay, so take it or leave it, but a recent poll showed that there are more people in the United States in favor of communism than our current congress...

Joe, is not greed and oppression the same no matter what flag it flies under? You borderline fascist! :-)

Donnie Miller said...

Brush and Kumah, imagine finding you guys commenting on one of my blog posts about military violence. It's like the good-ol' days all over again.

Sorry I've been slow to respond, by the way.

Brush, how dare you suggest that something I love (sports) can be a tool of the empire to distract me from what's really important. Actually, Shane Claiborne wrote something that really convicts me, something along the lines of "If Chrsitians would spend less time following the games of the Empire, they could be more effective at living the Kingdom." Something like that.

I'm not exactly sure why I "rage against the machine." I'll admit that while I was writing that, I was surprised by the emotional intensity coming from me as I wrote. Maybe it's a need to be right when, in my opinion, so many people around me are wrong (not a positive character trait).
Or maybe it's like the end of "Horton Hears a Who", in which the tiny voices have to yell as loud as possible so they can actually be heard (a more noble reason). I'd like to give myself the benefit of the doubt...

I understand that people in the military see me as misguided, if they agreed, they'd leave the military. :)

I understand the idea of a powerful country policing the globe being a necessity, but I have some problems with that idea.
1) The US' military policy is only for it's own benefit; sometimes it helps other countries, often it hurts other countries (Vietnam, Korea, Afghani's who suffered from the US-trained Taliban). Though our military involvement is always couched in "freedom and "democracy" rhetoric. And we hear about soldier giving out k-rations, but not all the civilians who were killed in the preceding bombing.
2) We can no longer afford to police the globe. Our country is falling apart financially. Ironically, we're borrowing money from communist China to fund our wars for freedom and democracy.
3) I don't believe Christians should be killing for their nation, no matter the reason.

But hey, who says I'm right? :)

I've just started "Christian Ethics" by (can't recall author's name) and Stanley Hauwerwas (a pacifist) is explaining in the forward to the book the author's Niehburian view on military violence. Geez, that sounded like a Brush statement :)
Anyway, that Christian author would agree with what you're saying, Kumor.

Yeah, the US "won" the coldwar, but at what cost? To defeat our enemy, we became like our enemy (per Walter Wink). We gained a stronger central gov't, spent ourselves into oblivion on weapon and mistreated many nations who stood in our way. While the US treats most of it's citizens (excluding many poor and minorities) better than did Communist nations, we don't treat those who get in our way (i.e. Vietnam) much better.

But, I really do understand the "fallen world" argument. I really do. Maybe you're rubbing off on me :).
But aren't Christians supposed to live in a greater reality? I don't have the complete answer to that.

Finally, it's ironic to have someone who follows "Big Red" call someone else a commie. Hopefully, the good guys will prevail on Friday.

I watched that video. I saw that punchline coming about 10 seconds in. I have to say (Comme on dit en franciase), "touche."

And here's another powerful video.

leephelps said...

I love this conversation. And I love that you all still love each other.

Donnie Miller said...

Whatever Andy, David and Joe are my sworn enemies.