Nationalism, Militarism, Patriotism, Government, and a Social Market Economy

The United States faces a crisis of conscience in the coming years. Our turn toward isolationist policies lacking any consideration for global impact places us in a precarious position. We lost much of our international influence by exchanging it for almost total dependence on overwhelming military superiority.

While the ability to defend oneself is critical, the use of such strength as a bludgeon against both allies and enemies to bend to our will is a near-sighted policy. The rallying cry of the “patriot” is often the first step towards disaster.

We are smarter than that.

This confluence of “isms” in the US culminated with the election of Donald Trump and a sharp turn away from what this country once represented; strength wielded with compassion. While labels can only go so far in defining individuals and policies, they are generally used in a derogatory way or, when meant as a positive attribute, often absent a full understanding of their meaning.

It is important to know what one is promoting before embracing a myth.

Nationalism: identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. (Oxford Dictionary definition)

Militarism: the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. (Oxford Dictionary definition)

Patriotism: the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. (Oxford Dictionary definition)

64 Best Patriotism Quotes And Sayings Of All Time

Former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and Medal of Honor recipient for Gallantry during the Battle of Tarawa in World War II, General David Monroe Shoup, had this to say about such philosophies.

“The battle successes and heroic exploits of America’s fine young fighting men have added to the military’s traditions which extol service, bravery, and sacrifice, and so it has somehow become unpatriotic to question our military strategy and tactics or the motives of military leaders.”

He went on to say about the growing American involvement in Vietnam,

 “militarism in America is in full bloom and promises a future of vigorous self-pollination — unless the blight of Vietnam reveals that militarism is more a poisonous weed than a glorious blossom.”

One can easily see how those prescient words were both correct about our involvement in Vietnam (which Shoup opposed) and about our situation today.

The most mystifying thing about it is how a man like Mr. Trump, who avoided the draft, ridiculed those who serve, and denigrated those who died in the service of their country, became the poster child for all three, nationalism, militarism, and patriotism.

While each has a place in building and securing a nation, they also pose a danger when left uncontrolled by reason, rational policies, and compassion for our global society.

It is time for Americans to take a long, hard look at themselves before they lockstep off a cliff singing God Bless America in pursuit of a greatness that is a sham.

Then there are labels like socialism which are often thrown out as a threat to our capitalist system. A more thorough examination of the American form of government, one which reveals the true genius of the founding fathers, shows our government and economy are not pure capitalism.

Much of our success came from governmental intervention into the excesses of capitalism. Labor laws, workplace safety laws, collective bargaining, product liability, antitrust laws, all had a negative impact on profits for the higher purpose of protecting workers, consumers, and the environment.

The words “collective” bargaining itself carries socialist tendencies since it levels the playing field between the wealthy business owners and those whose labor makes the companies successful.

Social Security, Unemployment benefits, Disability benefits all provide support derived from the profits of a capitalist economy which otherwise would have been denied.

Our economy, like it or not, is a blend of capitalism and socialism. And Democratic Socialism–a philosophy that seeks to balance the downsides of a free market economy with fair treatment of labor–is not opposed to capitalism. It opposes excesses and provides a balance.

Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary and other sources describe it.

A social market economy is a free-market or mixed-market capitalist system, sometimes classified as a coordinated market economy, where government intervention in price formation is kept to a minimum, but the state provides significant services in areas such as social security, health care, unemployment benefits and the recognition of labor rights through national collective bargaining arrangements.

The social market economy refrains from attempts to plan and guide production, the workforce, or sales, but it does support planned efforts to influence the economy through the organic means of a comprehensive economic policy coupled with flexible adaptation to market studies. Combining monetary, credit, trade, tax, customs, investment and social policies as well as other measures, this type of economic policy aims to create an economy that serves the welfare and needs of the entire population, thereby fulfilling its ultimate goal (http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/docpage.cfm?docpage_id=3415)

The fact is there are many countries who enjoy higher standards of living, better educational opportunities, better access to medical care, lower infant mortality (which relates to access to health care), and other benefits through social democratic reforms.

Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand are just a few examples.

The American Experiment, an appropriate analogy since experiments adjust to new evidence, faces a critical moment. Do we revert to the harshness of a government that turns a blind eye to abuse of labor? Do we ignore the health needs of Americans because of pressures from those who place profits over people? Do we let the paroxysms of nationalism and militarisms mask the true nature of the American soul? Do we ignore the scientific evidence of climate change for the sake of profiteering from the demise of our world?

It is time for Americans to take a long, hard look at themselves before they lockstep off a cliff singing God Bless America in pursuit of a greatness that is a sham.

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When in the Course of Human Events…

When did America become a country of people who say “we can’t?”

When did America become a country where our children… our children… cannot afford the medicine we invented?

When did America become the country where we shake our heads at gun violence, wring our hands, and say there’s nothing we can do?

When did America become the country incapable of separating the needy and desperate from those who seek to take advantage?

When did America become the country that runs away from a challenge?

When did America become the country that once put a man on the moon, at the cost of the lives of several willing American heroes, yet is now afraid of risk?

When did America become the country hiding behind the most powerful military in the world instead of projecting that power to protect those who need us?

When did America become the country of people who only listen to others with whom they agree?

When did America become the country where the value of the media is questioned but random, inarticulate social media postings are taken as the truth?

When did America become the country of people whose idea of analyzing a problem consists of Google searches and Facebook polls?

When did America become the country of people who do not have even a basic concept of the separation of powers or the process behind our government?

When did America become the country that hands the power of government over to the highest bidder?

When did America become the country that is a shadow of it’s former self?

And, most importantly, when will America return to the path of greatness tempered by wise and merciful justice?

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Follow Your Dreams

Americans used to be dreamers. But we did more than just dream, we acted.

We dreamed of building a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. And did it.

We dreamed of a railway across the entire country. And did it.

We dreamed of a GI bill to offer some compensation for the sacrifice of World War II. And did it.

We dreamed of building the most advanced scientific research center in the world. And did it.

spaceWe dreamed of going to the moon. And did it.

We dreamed many things once thought impossible and turned them into a reality.

To borrow, and alter a bit, the line from Anne Hathaway’s lyrics in I Dreamed a Dream,

“We dreamed a dream in times gone by…”

It would seem now we no longer dream of things we can accomplish but instead retreat into fear from things we don’t understand and the winds of change.  Like it or not, this is a global community in which we play an important, but not exclusively dominant, role.

Instead of focusing our efforts on what we can do, we focus on what we fear we cannot do. This mantra of making America great again misses the point of what American greatness is. It is our willingness to lead by example, not protect ourselves at all costs. To take risks for the greater good, not insulate ourselves from failure.

We used to be the country that learned from mistakes and turned them into success.

George Bernard Shaw wrote several apropos lines. “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.“ I wonder what historians will say about this time in America. Will it reflect the best in us or the worst?

Shaw also wrote, “You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?”

I agree.

Why not find a way to offer a path to citizenship for innocent individuals who wish to do nothing more than embrace what for many is the only country they’ve ever known?

Why not find a way ensure every single American has access to the best healthcare in the world without the threat of financial ruin?

Why not pursue every available diplomatic solution to international problems before resorting to a military option?

Why not pursue green energy and reduce the undeniable impact of human activity on Climate Change? Even the Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis when he was an active duty Marine recognized the threat to national security Climate change posed. He begged for an alternative to his armored forces being tethered to their fuel supply, primarily for strategic purposes of course, but coupled with the Defense Department’s long-held recognition of the threat of Climate Change.

If spending twenty-five billion dollars of American taxpayer money on a wall (with no contributions from Mexico as promised) makes you feel better, then have at it. I think it may be a wall ultimately proven ineffective.

I think, given the expertise and competence within the criminal justice system, the experience and input from the border states who’ve lived with the problem, and some rigid deportation enforcement for illegal aliens who commit crimes, the same amount of money could be spent in more efficient ways.

We Americans are dreamers.  Those of us lucky enough to be born here often forget the fortunes of birth. Those who dream to come here, or remain here, may see things in a much different light.

But let me be clear about one thing, a path to citizenship reflects the best American has to offer.  It is not unconditional. Commision of a crime, no matter how trivial it may be perceived, should negatively affect your chances. Serious crimes negate it entirely.

Break the law, leave the country, or we will show you the way out if you refuse.

The promise of America remains a bright beacon. One we should strive to preserve. We all have a responsibility to that promise.

In the words of Robert Frost,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

 

Frost may have been talking about death, but these promises are our daily efforts to fight for what we believe in and against those who would seek to return America to darker times of racial divide and isolationism. To live a life in pursuit of one’s ideals is a life well-lived.

The night of the President’s State of the Union, the line I remember most is this.

“Politicians may be judged by the promises they make, America is judged by the promises we keep.” Here’s a hint, he didn’t say it.

Once again we as a country have reached a point where the torch must be passed to a new generation. New ideas, new dreams, new goals, not some foggy clouded memories of former greatness. America doesn’t need to be great again; we never stopped being great in the first place.

A former Vice President once said his father told him that this country was so big, so strong, so resilient that no President could ever do permanent harm.  Let’s hope he was right.