L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 890, September 18, 2016
I Pledge Allegiance to the Fraud…
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Right-wing conservative Republicans frequently accuse their exact mirror-opposite counterparts on the Left of being more concerned with appearances than actualities.
This is absolutely true, as far as it goes—the silliest example is the preference liberals often express for concealed weapons-carry over open carry; if they can’t see it (shudder) they don’t have to think about it—but in the symbolism-over-substance department it’s damned hard to beat anybody anywhere to the right of Hubert Horatio Humphrey (look him up—he was my generation’s live-action equivalent of Porky Pig—except I think he wore trousers with his sportscoat and bow- tie) for sheer, hysterical foaming-at-the-mouth fury when the subject happens to be something like burning the American flag.
“That’s the symbol of American liberty, boy!” they gibber. “Thousands of American heroes made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve your freedom to disrespect that flag!”
Well, not exactly. If that’s not just empty bloviation, Nowhere Man, then answer me a question or three. Exactly which American’s freedom was in danger when the claim was made—by William Randolph Hearst, the only American newspaper publisher more unscrupulous than Joseph Pulizter, that it was Spanish operatives who blew up the battleship U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, igniting the Spanish-American War.
And what American liberty was threatened by the actions of Kaiser Wilhelm of World War I fame? Willy was a cousin or a nephew or something of England’s Queen Victoria, and thought he was defending the sovereignty of neighboring Serbia which the Allies (including us, eventually) were threatening because a single Serbian individual had been ballistically impolite to the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria during a parade in Sarajevo.
Ultimately, thousands of young Americans would die unspeakably horrible deaths in the mud- and blood- and poison gas-filled trenches of Europe, or live out their lives with war-shattered bodies and minds, to defend the Yankovistic right of England and France to be stupid. It almost makes me glad that my grandpa, Lester Neil Smith the First died in Waco, Texas of the Spanish Influenza, tending to his sick Army buddies, before he could be sent overseas. And, speaking of Army buddies, I’ll bet almost any German today would give his privates to get rid of that idiot Angela Merkel and get good old Willy back.
And while we’re on the subject, exactly what American freedom was at stake in Korea in 1950? (The same question could be asked about World War II, but would take another essay to answer properly.) How about Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? We know now about the Gulf of Tonkin; is there anybody who believes that 9/l1 was anything other than a put-up job? To me, that red, white, and blue bit of fabric will always be the banner flying from the antenna masts of the tanks that murdered the men, women, and children of the Branch Davidian Church.
But, as usual, I have digressed. This essay was supposed to be about the superficial appearances that most conservatives would die (or kill you) to preserve. Lately, it’s been hilarious watching and listening to various right-wing pundits blowing their ideological gaskets because an athlete has refused to assume the traditionally obeisant position whenever some country-western barfly warbles the National Anthem at the beginning of a ball game. Instead, he will “take a knee” or kneel, which is even more hilarious.
This primarily because, indisputably, far too many police officers have far too much power, which they employ far too often to suppress the freedom of those whose involuntary contributions pay their bloated salaries. It’s a truth that not even the fine men and women of Blue Bloods can get around. Secondarily, because most of the victims—in song and legend, at least —are black, and so are most of the protestors. Naturally, if the pundits had just ignored the whole thing, the practice would have faded and died within a week. But no, the numb-nuts had to erupt and spray gobbets of saliva on their microphones so that, before you knew it, even junior high school athletes would start imitating their overpaid idols.
But here’s the truly funny part: that anthem, called “The Star-Spangled Banner”, was written in the heat of a battle during the War of 1812, an imperialistic enterprise, according to libertarian thinker and teacher Robert LeFevre, intended to bestow the blessings of the American Revolution on Canadians—whether they wanted them or not. Unfortunately for their would-be liberators, most of the Canadians in the area that we intended to invade, were former Americans, Tories we had kicked out ignominiously after first stealing their land and burning their houses. This time they were rude enough to fight back. So much for “the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” The Brits were even kind enough to burn our nation’s capital, but we stupidly rebuilt it.
This whole anthem-flap reminds me strongly of the heat and light generated by conservatives around the Pledge of Allegiance. Every single morning of the week, for many years in the public indoctrination system, this Baby Boomer and his myriad inmates were required to assume the ritual position in classrooms or outdoor assemblies around the flagpole, and recite an officially-approved incantation, promising our undying devotion to the State.
What do you suppose the average “patriot” would think if he or she were shown that this nasty collectivist vow—intended to rub cruel defeat in the faces of Southerners who had lost the War between the States, and imposed on the intellectually defenseless children of a supposedly individualistic society—were written by a preacher who was fired from his position for preaching the evils of capitalism instead of the Gospel, an activist whose closest friend (and cousin, the Bernie Sanders of his day) was famous for writing the socialist tract Looking Backward? (When I began The Probability Broach in 1977, the only promise I made to myself was that it would be better written than that.)
Symbolism over substance, always symbolism over substance: the motto and ardent creed of Republicans and Democrats alike. And now, in adopting a copper statue I call “The Hollow Woman” as their national logo. the members of the Libertarian Party have joined them.
And thus freedom died, choking on its own vomit.
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