TCS Daily

Howard's End

By Lee Harris - April 22, 2003 12:00 AM

Professor Howard Zinn, who has spent his life endlessly re-cycling all the discreditable information he can find about his country, had decided to lecture us on what true patriotism is; and, not surprisingly, he informs us that it is not at all what we might think it is.

It is love of country, he tells us, and not love of the government of that country.

But what exactly counts as one's country? Does it mean the physical terrain: the valleys and the mountaintops, and the great sweeping plains?

Obviously not, because one might love these things so much that one wished them to be unspoiled by human habitations; or, indeed, by human beings at all. But would you call a man a patriot who wished to eliminate his fellow citizens from the landscape in which they had been raised? Certainly not, and it is hard to imagine that even Professor Zinn could be guilty of harboring such a genocidal vision.

But if Mr. Zinn's love of country means something more than love of the physical terrain, what is this something more? Is it the people who live here?

Well, yes and no. He loves us for what we are, but not for what we do-much as God is said to love us, and often our mothers as well. And this is because every time the American people actually go and try to do something collectively, we get it all wrong.

Hence when our soldiers are off stupidly obeying the orders of greedy plutocrats and power-hungry imperialists to kill innocent men, women, and children in distant and harmless lands, Professor Zinn still manages to be able to mourn them when they are killed-despite the obvious fact that, by Professor Zinn's own standards, they only got what was coming to them.

And didn't they? If our soldiers are fighting an imperialist war to seize the natural resource of other people, isn't it simply self-defense to kill as many of them as possible? Is it not just to kill those who are trying to kill you in an unjust war?

Yes, of course it is. But Professor Zinn isn't quite willing to go that far. Nor, conveniently for the Professor, does he need to.

He can mourn for our dead soldiers because, you see, they really didn't know what they were doing. They were dupes. Dupes of those wicked men who sent them into battle for their own selfish purposes.

And this is the secret to Professor Zinn's patriotism. He can love us because we are all equally dupes of these same wicked men. It is only our wicked leaders that he hates-those wicked leaders who somehow managed to outwit and manipulate us at every turn, in that process which Zinn's fellow patriot Noam Chomsky has called "the manufacture of consent."

Yes, the good Professor loves the people of America because he is convinced that if we weren't such fools, we would listen to him and would be guided by his great wisdom and humanity.

But, alas, it seems that we continue, generation after generation, to persist in remaining fools-a fact that the Professor has amply documented in his history of the United States. We go on fighting wars for our masters, and killing the exotic innocents in order to plunder them of their wealth.

But Professor Zinn is patient-and just as he permits no new fact to ever call into question the pre-ordained historical schema he had imposed upon historical reality, so too he will persist in being patriotic in his own unique way, teaching our children to despise the values that their parents have been duped and brainwashed into accepting as their own, and taking the side of our enemies when they try to kill us, and mourning for our soldiers even when they are justly slaughtered while trying to further the ambitions of wicked men who have played them as patsies.

And if such a patriotic vision doesn't stir your blood, what kind of American are you?

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