Of Super-Patriots and War Fever

W.J. Astore

This week a good friend sent me the image below from Mad Magazine.

super patriot

Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Senator J.W. Fulbright’s book, “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine” (1970) and came across this footnote on page 57:

“Promotion of the display of the National Flag is one of the Navy’s service-wide public affairs projects.  It is laudable enough if it remains unconnected with the current campaign of superpatriots that equates the display of flag decals on automobile windows with love of country and unlimited support for the war in Vietnam.”

And then I came across a photograph by Diane Arbus, “Boy with a Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade, NYC, 1967.”

arbus

It’s a fascinating photo.  “Support Our Boys” is now rendered as “Support Our Troops.”  Also, today’s flags are a lot bigger.  The “Bomb Hanoi” pin speaks for itself.

All of this got me thinking about how “super” patriotism is linked to fanatical support for war, which draws from hatred of “the other,” whether that “other” is foreigners or various alleged enemies within (like those “liberals” and “pacifists” mentioned in the Mad Magazine cartoon).

As the Trump administration appears to promise more wars in the future (consider Mike Pence’s recent bellicose speech at West Point), perhaps in Venezuela or Iran, we need to be on guard against this idea that supporting wars is patriotic.  Indeed, the opposite is usually true.  “I’m already against the next war” is a good rule of thumb to live by.

How did “super” patriotism become synonymous with blanket support for destructive wars?  One thing is certain: it’s nothing new in America.

5 thoughts on “Of Super-Patriots and War Fever

  1. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “this is the best damn country in the world and I don’t need to KNOW about nowhere else.”

    The delicious irony is that “super-patriots” hate everything that MADE the US what it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, their most vocal opponents, whom one might be tempted to call “anti-patriots,” merely serve to validate their existence. It was one of the Cuomo brothers (I can’t be bothered to look up which one) who said, in response to the MAGA slogan, “America was never that great to begin with.” You dirty, dirty smear merchant, pour more petrol on that fire, why don’t you?

    Here’s another one, which I find irritating to the core: “the United States of America must always be seen as a shining beacon of what it means to be God-blessed!” My response is “what, at the expense of everywhere else? You have to keep the rest of the world down and have them look at you with envy? Is that because you can’t make a decent car, refrigerator, or mobile phone, but you certainly know how to bomb everyone else back into the Stone Age?”

    Then again, going back to the “best damn country” attitude, I think some of these people think that the US rules the world already. However, they view ruling as lying on a bed of weeds, pulling them out by the root, one by one, before they get strangled. It’s poetic and beautifully Machiavellian, but you get no rest if you do that.

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    1. When you’re barely scraping by in the USA, it’s reassuring to think you’re nevertheless part of the winning team — that the US is the best country in the world, or that we have the finest military in all of history.

      Go Team USA! We’re #1! But who’s the “we,” exactly?

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  2. every intelligent, free-thinking person in the american zeitgeist must now understand that they have been kissed by kismet because they still have the latitude and openmindedness to become global nomads whose cantus firmus should be to embrace rather than destroy ‘the other’. if americans resist their right to question their military’s seigneury over their tax dollars, they are doomed to both a bankruptcy of their federal coffers as well as a metaphorical bankruptcy of spirit.

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