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WHOSE LAND IS IT ANYWAY? by Sam Smith (Editor, Progressive Review)

WHY do so many need the Viagra of violence to demonstrate love for their land? Where was this love when NAFTA and the World Trade Organization were being forced down our throats? Where was it as corporations raped our waters and forests and infected our crops on behalf of their genetically modified ambitions? Where was it when the Clinton administration let its campaign contributors sell supercomputers and other vital technology to China? Where was it when Congress and the President repeatedly performed legislative end runs around the Bill of Rights? Where was it when Strobe Talbott and Vaclav Havel, speaking for a rising class of world leaders, ridiculed the nation-state as an anachronism? Where was it when the young took to the streets to defend old American values against a new world order? And where was this love of America during the long "war" on drugs as a growing number of politicians, police, and financial institutions deserted to the drug lords?

Your editor [Sam Smith] has addressed such matters periodically over the past decade, often with loneliness because by the 1990s to even speak of country and place with affection was deemed nostalgic naiveté. It now feels odd to this Vietnam era vet, whose great-great-great fought with his four brothers in the Revolution and whose parents both lost brothers in war, to be lectured on patriotism by those who until the morning of September 11 had evinced so little interest in loyalty to any larger entity than themselves and their careers.

I have yet to hear any American suggest that those responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should not be brought to account and punished, yet you would not guess this from the instant patriots. There are a large number of options for dealing with the crisis, from taking the guilty parties down to the stationhouse and booking them to starting World War III. While each of these options is debatable, they are not remotely connected to the question of national loyalty. If this were not so, then President Bush himself should be impeached for having wavered from an initial grand design targeting sixty allegedly guilty nations to now apparently being willing to settle for a few Seals knocking off the malefactors in their caves.

The sudden rise in patriotic self-branding is not entirely a reaction to the tragic events. It has also been the direct result of intense government and corporate propaganda capitalizing on these events and on a long-cultivated fan culture in which Americans have been reduced to being spectators rather than participants in their government as well as in their sports. We have been taught to cheer rather than act, to wear logos rather than think, and to consume rather than control and influence. At a moment calling for the most rational vision and thought, our leaders - from the White House to CNN - have instead chosen to turn this tragedy into a Super Bowl of national affairs in which our only assignment as Americans is to choose the right team and cheer it on. This is a dirty business that does a huge disservice to the country they purport to honor.

Remember: these are the people who, in the months before September, were assuring us that our future lay in giving up our national independence for the greater good of a corporate-dominated global culture, who arrested our young people who dared suggest this was not right, and who ridiculed anyone who spoke with feeling of the need to protect America's sovereignty on behalf of its workers, its environment, and its civil liberties.

These people have further failed us by creating a world so filled with hatred for our land. They have failed us by not protecting us against the consequences. They have failed us by selling out our interests to the highest multinational bidder. And now they fail us again, by presuming that they know how best to love this land and imputing disloyalty to those who doubt them. They are in no position to say who is a good American.

-- Sam Smith