That's the title of Kurt Vonnegut's last book (2005). But it could be the title of Professor Brian Tamanaha's post at Balkinization yesterday, Blood on the Hands of the State:
The State emerges as a primary villain in both histories [recent books by Jonathan Glover and Martin van Creveld]. Whether in the name of some ideology, or some image of national purity or dominance, or in the name of religion, or simply to plunder, states have time and again massacred their own people, or conscripted their own people and flung them at others to kill and be killed. The number of human lives extinguished by states, and in the name of states, well exceeds a hundred million.
Learn this history and you will see the price patriotism exacts. For many reasons, I feel fortunate to have been born in the United States, but I don’t love my country. It has no love for any of us. A cold, manipulative, object of affection, the state fans patriotism, then asks those who love it deeply to prove their love by dying or sacrificing their limbs for it.
As you might expect, boys and girls, the post precipitated a flurry of comments. One of Spot's favorite was this one:
You are mistakenly coflating love of country (patriotism) with love of the government which rules the country (usually partisanism for the faction in power). America has never been about worship of the state. Rather, American patriotism has traditionally been about the worship of freedom, which is the absence of the state.
"Bart" is apparently unaware that this "coflation" [sic] is precisely the tactic used and encouraged by the gummints and "factions in power" to commit these many atrocities.
Samuel L. Clemens, one of the more sage writers of a century ago, tried to educate people on this distinction: "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it."
Then we have today's Rethuglican party, who are doing their damnedest to muddy the waters and to make the "coflation" (see here for one such instance). "Watch what you do ... what you say", "you're either with us or you're with the enemy", and all.... But "Bart" is the biggest Dubya-sucking sycophant around. If there's anyone around here that is "cofuzed", it would be "Bart", but I don't think he is. I suspect he's simply dishonest.
Some of you will remember Bart DePalma from an earlier post of Spot's about Balkinization. Lay the invective aside for a moment, boys and girls--you don't have to if you don't want to--and see the kernel of truth in what Arne says. That's what all the "Support the Troops" hoopla is really all about. As if people opposed to the war were unconcerned about the safety of our service personnel. Outrageous. Slanderous.
It was Sinclair Lewis, who must have been a genuine odd duck growing up in Saulk Center, Minnesota, who said "If fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross."
And speaking of Kurt Vonnegut, how did he feel about how things were going as he came to the end of his life? Here's a quote from A Man Without a Country, beginning on page 86:
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry —who stand unopposed.
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanized our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class. Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed that there were weapons of mass destruction there.
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the First World War. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the Second World War and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.
What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?
Spot says that young people are perhaps lucky to get what he sincerely hopes is the worst president of their lifetimes out of the way so early. It will be up to you, boys and girls, to be sure that you don't elect another one like him.