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(DV) Petersen: Imagine No Countries







Imagine No Countries
by Kim Petersen
August 29, 2005

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Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism... Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.


-- Emma Goldman


Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for.


-- John Lennon, Imagine


Most progressives would probably agree that in many contexts “blind, unquestioning faith” in a president or other person is “foolish and obsequious.” In this respect, Ken Sanders was right on in his recent article “Love Your Country? Demand Impeachment.” [1] Sanders considered such faith to be “contrary to the fundamental principles of this country, as set forth in the Constitution.” Sanders instead advocated patriotism, which he defined as demanding “truth and honesty.” To be brutally honest, “this country” that Sanders loves is an occupied, ethnically cleansed, annexed, conquered, or illegitimately purchased landmass referred to by the colonialists as the United States of America. A landmass birthed so inauspiciously might give pause to professions of love by many self-designated liberals or progressives.


The landmass of the United States of America is a betrayal of the rights of first settlement and represents the theft and occupation of the territory from its Original Peoples. So, historically, it is difficult to grasp “the promise” of what such a landmass “stands for”; certainly, it is a demonstration that military might can translate to territorial expansion through genocide.


That the name “America” derives from a turn-of-the-fifteenth-century Italian explorer is an abject and enduring insult to the Original Peoples who might well confess to being “positively un-American.”


Sanders took aim at the oath of political office, which he correctly stated is not to the president but rather to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Progressives might also give pause to sycophancy for political-legal parchments.


The vaunted Declaration of Independence of 1776, which preceded the 1783 constitution, rings promisingly enough in its early stanzas, as when it declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [the latter of which was replaced by “property” in the Constitution].” But then it devolved into contradiction, referring to one group of people as “merciless Indian Savages.”


It was an early parchment issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, Inter Caetera, which granted Catholic Church sanction to the racist European conquest of other non-Christian lands. The Euro-centric church ordered its envoys “to instruct the [Original Peoples] in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.”


Whether or not US Senator Theodore Freilinghuysen was aware of the succession of prejudice-embodying parchments is unclear. Nonetheless, in 1830, he was led to muse on how it is that “one of the prerogatives of the white man [is] that he may disregard the dictates of moral principles when an Indian is concerned.” [2]


Before patriotism may rise to the fore, if ever it should, the injustices of the state must be recognized and addressed. How can injustices flourish in a state whose constitution promulgates supposedly redeeming principles? One might wonder about the interpretation of principle in the Constitution, as with the Supreme Court decision that the Fourteenth Amendment, designed to protect the rights of African-Americans, also protected the rights of corporations, giving them the rights of persons.


Sanders held that it is up to the people “to defend the Constitution and the principles it embodies against its domestic enemies.” Sanders averred such because of his love for country, love for the Constitution on which this country is founded, and love for “the principles and the promise embodied in the Constitution.” Sanders does focus on the principles in the Constitution, but a constitution does not reify these principles.


Sanders also called on Members of Congress regardless of party affiliation to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush, “a dire domestic enemy of the Constitution.” There is no argument form this corner on that matter. But this very argument symbolizes the imperfection of the parchment: it does not always protect principles and rights, as some people believe that it should. A constitution itself does not guide society. The people in it and the principles that they embody guide a society. A constitution only has validity insofar as it also embodies the principles held by a majority in a society and even then the societally held principles may be questionable.


Since the Constitution supposedly represents the principles embodied by a group of people, it is relevant to examine the so-called “founding fathers” who produced this particular parchment. Scholar Noam Chomsky stated that, with the partial exception of Thomas Jefferson, “all of the Founding Fathers hated democracy.” [3] The “founding fathers” were a group of wealthy, white men who gathered together and determined the contents of the Constitution. Whose interests would be paramount in such a document seems readily surmisable. As the main framer of the Constitution James Madison emphatically pointed out, the whole system was designed “to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority.”


Historian Howard Zinn described the Constitution as functioning within the American system, to ensure enough broad-based support to serve elite interests and act as a buffer against African Americans, the Original Peoples, and the very poor whites. This enables “the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law -- all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity.” [4]


Sanders maintained that a “patriot places the country, as embodied by the Constitution, above any individual.” So he asks readers: “Are you willing to be a patriot?” For all progressives, the answer should be a resounding no. First, although love of country can be in itself harmless, the notion that one should be bound to a delimited geography is specious indoctrination that can lead to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Humanity must acknowledge the inalienable rights and equality of all men and women on the planet regardless of borders. To prioritize this principle to a geographic entity is absurd.


People should also acknowledge the inalienable rights and equality of all men and women regardless of constitutional parchments. Why should one’s principles be dictated by the decisions of one group of humans rendered on a document? To the extent that freedom of thought and expression is encouraged and held, people must be permitted and encouraged in a free society to consider, discover, and decide which principles they hold to be valid and true.


Socialist writer George Bernard Shaw once stated, “You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.” That foolish term patriotism should be disdained in the progressivist lexicon as well as the specific geophilia it spawns. Similarly, the idolatrous worship of documents that do not originate from the people should cease. It is, after all, through patriotism and its institutions that the state indoctrinates the people into the system designed to legitimize the state and its actions.


People must conscientiously formulate and abide by their own principles. Just imagine what the world might be like then.


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at:

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[1] Ken Sanders, “Love Your Country? Demand Impeachment,” Dissident Voice, 24 August 2005.


[2] Quoted in Stuart L. Udall, The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West (Island Press, 2002), 28.


[3] Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (New Press, 2002) Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (eds.), 315.


[4] Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present (Perennial Classics, 1980, 1999), 99.

Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen

* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Two with B.J. Sabri
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part One with B.J. Sabri
* Darwinian Survival of the Fittest Meets Wal-Mart and Hiroshima
* Making Sense of Terrorism
* The Message from the London Bombings
* Face to Face with the Absurd
* The Counterrevolution: Capitalism’s Ugly Head in China
* Damage Control Over the Downing Street Memo
* Rivaling Pax Americana
* Angels of Death
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* Fueling Imperialism: It’s the Crude, Dude
* Progressivism and Free Speech for All
* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 4
* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 3
* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 2
* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part One
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* The Rationale of Suicide Bombing
* Gauging the Worth of US Troops in Neocon Eyes
* A Sporting Revolution: The Parecon Hockey League
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* Progressive Efflux
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* Chomsky and the Hopelessness of Lesser Evilism