July 7, 2009 by J. Madson
This started out as a comment in a blog post on why mormonism is so tied to american patriotism. One commenter, who runs a fine blog btw, Chris H. labeled himself as “just a political philosopher who finds America-is-so-great-rhetoric vomit worthy.” Well my comment got longer and longer so I though I should post it here. This is my meager offering on why I find American Patriotism or what passes for patriotism lately in the United States vomit worthy.
The problem with the America-is-so-great rhetoric is what it often leads to. It takes a certain humility which is in stark contrast to over-bearing american patriotism in order to repent.
America may have great things about it, as do most nations, but it also has many things for which we should collectively be ashamed and repent. Unfortunately, MLK Jr. statement that we are the “greatest purveyor of violence” in the world still remains true. We take up the treasures and wealth of the world and use it to buy up armies, both through enlistment and more recently in our massive use of military contractors (more than half of the personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan), while wealth and power elects tyrants all the while false religious leaders swear allegiance to money, nation, and power first and God last if ever. For so many of God’s children is it truly an exaggeration to suggest that our nation reigns with blood and horror on the earth!
Let us not forget that we lead the world in creating weapons of war that we both sell throughout the world and use ourselves or through proxies to bring about massive human casualties and loss of life. Our “defense” budget is the largest in human history and equals that of the next 15 closest nations combined. Our country was founded in war and violence, grown on the backs of slaves, our territory expanded with the genocide of this land’s native populations, and yet we still have not repented while we continue to engage in the type of american exceptionalism that allows us to use labels like enhanced interrogation for our own actions but call it torture when another nation, not us, does it. What judgment should a nation be worthy of that offends the little children like when Bush Sr. destroyed the water treatment plant after the first gulf war leading to UN estimates of 500,000 children’s deaths? Should a millstone be hung around our nation’s collective neck? What of the thousands of civilian deaths we still cause around the world, perhaps even this very minute in distant lands such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan? How red does the red of the American Flag truly bleed? How many fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons have we sacrificed upon our pagan altars in obedience to our idolatrous god, America?
Why are mormons so damn patriotic? In short, I think we are patriotic as mormons because for all our attestations of Christianity and fulness of the gospel we still, like most people, engage in tribalistic, us versus them, thinking. This type of thinking pervades every thing we do including the very manor in which we read our history and the scriptures. This is why we can take phrases like the “land of promise” and equate it to our national government while conveniently ignoring both the numerous other nations which probably fit the geography better as well as the curse which accompanies said promise. This is why we take prophecies and relate them to a very specific American context and assume prophecy is not just a statement on the future but an endorsement of our actions. The 12th article faith then becomes simply a way to cover our sins and our tribalism. A war indulgence much like those given in the medieval times. Be of good cheer because so long as the 12th article of faith is around you get a pass no matter how vile your nations commands may be.
If our past has taught us anything, its to not make waves. So in lieu of extermination orders, vengeance oaths, and a tenuous relationship with the USA we have went all in to prove we aint so strange. You can trust us mormons. We are good patriots willing to spill blood for our nation. So on the 24th with a certain irony, we celebrate the expulsion of mormons from the USA by raising flags. When the nation goes to war, Utah polls nearly always as the most hawkish, most eager to shed support violence abroad. It often goes so far as to become a form of idolatry and blasphemy like when our former president proclaimed America “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcomes it not.”
George Orwell once wrote
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side … The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them
This is why I have to agree with Chris H. that its vomit worthy.