Nationalism and flags as a weapon
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When I arrived home today my wife told me she had received an email from her aunt that she wanted me to read. I read it, and here is my reaction to it. I forwarded it to my friend Sam with some comments. You will find the original message first, and my forwarded comments to Sam later.

Original message (names have been removed)

"Broken Bow, Oklahoma School officials remove "God Bless America" signs
from schools in fear that someone might be offended.

"Channel 12 News in Long Island, New York, orders flags removed from the
newsroom and red, white, and blue ribbons removed from the lapels of
reporters. Why? Management did not want to appear biased and felt that our
nations flag might give the appearance that "they lean one way or another".

"Berkeley, California bans U.S. Flags from being displayed on city fire
trucks because they didn't want to offend anyone in the community.

"In an "act of tolerance" the head of the public library a Florida Gulf
Coast University ordered all "Proud to be an American" signs removed so as
to not offend international students.  I, for one, am quite disturbed by
these actions of so-called American citizens; and I am tired of this nation
worrying about whether or not we are offending some individual or their culture.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, we have experienced a surge in 
patriotism by the majority of Americans.

However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled in New York and 
Washington D.C. when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about
the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.  I am not against 
immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better
life by coming to America. In fact, our country's population is almost entirely 
comprised of descendants of immigrants; however, there are a few things that
those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some native 
Americans, need to understand.  First of all, it is not our responsibility
to continually try not to offend you in any way. This idea of America being a 
multi-cultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our 
national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society,
our own language, and our own lifestyle.

This culture, called the "American Way" has been developed over centuries
of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have
sought freedom.  Our forefathers fought, bled, and died at places such as 
Bunker Hill, Antietam, San Juan, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, We
speak  English, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other 
language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society - learn our  

"In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some off-the-wall,
Christian, Right Wing, political slogan - it is our national motto. It is
engraved in stone in the House of Representatives in our Capitol and it is
printed on our currency. We adopted this motto because Christian men and
women, on Christian principles, founded this nation; and this is clearly
documented throughout our history.

If it is appropriate for our motto to be inscribed in the halls of our
highest level of Government, then it is certainly appropriate to display it
on the walls of our schools.  God is in our pledge, our National Anthem,
nearly every patriotic song, and in our founding documents. We honor His birth, 
death, and resurrection as holidays, and we turn to Him in prayer in times
of crisis. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the 
world as your new home, because God is part of our culture and we are proud
to have Him.  

We are proud of our heritage and those who have so honorably defended our
freedoms. We celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and
Flag Day. We have parades, picnics, and barbecues where we proudly wave our 
flag.  As an American, I have the right to wave my flag, sing my national 
anthem, quote my national motto, and cite my pledge whenever and wherever I 
If the Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you 
should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.  The
American culture is our way of life, our heritage, and we are proud of it.  
We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't
care how you did things where you came from.  We are Americans, like it or not,
this is our country, our land, and our lifestyle.  Our First Amendment gives 
every citizen the right to express his opinion about our government, culture, 
or society, and we will allow you every opportunity to do so.  But once you are
done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national 
motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one
other great American freedom, the right to leave.  If you agree, pass this onto
other Americans!! It is time to take a stand!!  

My comments when I forwarded it to my friend Sam.

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 20:13:43 -0500 (CDT)
From: Jesus Ortega
To: Sam Moreno
Subject: [Fwd: [Fwd: FW: This is America]] (fwd)


This is precisely why all this flag waving I see gives me the shivers.  I
understand that most Americans are not like this, and I also understand that
the flag stands for many good things.  Yet, when you unleash nationalistic
daemons the whole thing gets out of control.  You almost inmediately get
people who spread this type of things under the banner of "patriotism",
and as soon as anyone dares to disagree with them you're automatically
excluded like a traitor, like someone who should leave the country or,
perhaps, even deported.

I know this may sound harsh, but if it does is because I remember this
type of speech from when I was a child.  It's the same discourse I heard
from Franco's supporters.  Here is how it usually goes, and this email
I'm forwarding is actually a very good example of it.

First, everybody rallies around the flag as a symbol of national unity.
This sounds mildly moderate and even normal in situations like the one
we live after the attacks on September 11th.  The only problem is that
the flag means a lot of different things to different people, with the
worrisome effect that those who understand it in a negative way can now
use it to disguise their authoritarian ideas.  Where you could previously
criticize them openly for what they were (authoritarian ideas), now you
are not truly free to do this anymore for criticizing them amounts to an
act of betrayal.  After all, they're protected behind the flag and if you
criticize them you are also criticizing the American flag.  How dare you?
I know, I know, the flag means a lot of things to different people but
the more tense the situation becomes the less willing people are to listen
to little details and the more willing they are to use big brushstrokes.

Second, the flag, "nationalism" and "patriotism" become weapons to use
against others who don't agree with the flag wavers.  We're not all
Americans united under one flag anymore, but rather the "vast majority"
of Americans (i.e., the "good ones", the "true Americans") united under
the flag, and "the other ones", the ones who don't agree with me, the
ones who therefore cannot be considered American no matter where they
have been born, the ones who should leave the country, the ones who should
even be deported if necessary.  These "other ones" become the enemy within.

Third, "nationalism" and "patriotism", now that they have become more or
less successful and are widespread, can be used for a given political or
philosophical agenda.  At this point, the USA is not a broad and tolerant
concept anymore, and it becomes the land where only English can be spoken,
where only those who believe in the Christian God can live and work, where
only those who agree with the literal interpretation of the Founding Fathers
can rest, etc.  By then, the whole slippery slope down to intolerance and
some form of authoritarianism has been achieved.

This is what worries me so much about this situation.  Again, I understand
that most Americans are not like that but a little voice inside my head
keeps repeating:  "... yet".  After all, I've seen it before.  When you
get a good mass of people all riled up with nationalistic chants the end
result cannot be good.  Politics is extremely dangerous, as dangerous as
fire, and you want to make sure that when you play with it you're using
your brains and not your guts.

You know, quite a few years ago Leslie asked me how is it possible that
Nazism could have happened in Germany, or Fascism in Italy, Portugal and
Spain.  She also mentioned how quite a few people over here believe that
it would never happen here in the USA because Americans love freedom too
much.  My answer was that everybody loves freedom, and thinking that
Americans love freedom more than any other people in the world is quite
presumptuous.  I also added that I was convinced if the Americans had to
go through the same situation the Germans went through in the 1920s and
1930s there is a good chance they'd also end up in the same dark cave.
Besides, once there is some sort of authoritarian Government in place
most people prefer not to resist.  They have their families to think
about.  Now, reading this message, I see the horrible face of intolerant
Fascism showing up right behind those flags that are waving everywhere
these days.  No, I'm not saying it _is_ those flags, but I _am_ saying
it is lurking behind _some_ of those flags.  And it does scares me.

Jesus Ortega