Friday, May 20, 2005

Americanism without Jingoism

The entire Tom Paine article that Bill Moyers wrote is quite long, but well worth the read for anyone concerned about the deplorable state of today's media apparatus. I don't know Mr. Moyers that well, only from his PBS show NOW. Though from what I read in his article, all of his remarks seem quite on the mark. Moyers' view of patriotism and the flag especially struck me as something I would say if I had better eloquence:
“I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.

Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.

So what's this doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration's patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's little red book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread.

But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.

So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash.) I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”

Here are some of the arguments I generated on LiveJournal after posting an abridged version of Moyers' full article.

Until my next post, wear that flag with pride

... next to the "Pro-Soldier, Anti-War" button, of course.


At 8:12 PM GMT-5, Blogger budjesmuhyawkar said...

I just read the speach with this quote that you posted. It was given to me by a friend. "Bill Moyers' speech to the National Conference for Media Reform. Aparently you can also listen to the speech. I did not realize the extent to which public broadcasting is beeing used to bamboozle the public. (By the way, Have you seen the Spike Lee movie "Bamboozled"?) It is a sad day when the public is paying for something that is growing closer and closer to be like FOX and the other conglomerates. I thought it interesting how Moyer compared this dilemna with the novel by George Orwell, title 1984. Anyway, thanks for posting this Prisoner. I am pleased with your research.


At 8:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger the prisoner said...

Moyers is a strong, active voice in journalism. I don't know how you can dismiss the truth in what he says about our current media outlets.

It's not PBS becoming Fox News I'm worried about; it's the Fox News standard of investigation being applied to other media outlets.

Have you ever noticed how often Fox begins with "Sources claim" or "According to the media at large"? The lack of investigation in modern journalism is apalling.


At 9:08 AM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever noticed how Bill Moyers also propagates his own lies, smearing minority religious groups with complete lies? I can't believe you hold this man up as a moral paragon. His careless and false, bigoted and hateful attribution of false quotes to others are, in fact, not just unAmerican, but uncivil and possibly unlawful.

I may even agree with some of the stuff in this speech, but to hold Bill Moyers up as some moral force, some reasonable, conscientious voice of peace in the world is really quite wrong. He is, in fact, anti-American in his elitist and careless fearmongering.

Please, please, please pick another speaker to make this point. Moyers isn't it!


At 10:37 AM GMT-5, Blogger the prisoner said...

I can't believe you hold this man up as a moral paragon.

I don't. But maybe that is the difference that makes me an independent and not a Democrat or Republican. I make up my own mind with the understanding that everyone is flawed and it is the message that ultimately counts.

Honestly, I don't know Mr. Moyers beyond his journalism comments in the article I quoted.

However, I welcome you to cite sources of him "smearing minority religious groups with complete lies" and how he is "unAmerican, but uncivil and possibly unlawful". The last thing I want to do is present a quote from a man and glorify him. Let's see the good and the bad


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