Independence from Nationalism

A Response to Bill Moyers: Waking from the Patriot’s Dream to the Bliss of Global Reality

By Sam Husseini

When I was in high school in New York City, shortly after Ronald Reagan became president, they began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over the intercom system during third period. As it happened, third period for me was Mr. Dubno’s Social Studies class.

And we talked about why the sudden mandate to have the Pledge of Allegiance — some kid said Reagan had ordered it. No, it was more subtle we agreed, the "mood of the country" had changed. But Mr. Dubno told us standing and saying the Pledge was voluntary, at least for the students — he was required. And when that became clear, virtually no one did it.

Except me.

Everyday, I would stand, often alone or with one or two other people who would occationally join — and Mr. Dubno — while everyone else sat. I’d stand, place my right hand over my heart and recite the Pledge. Over and over again.

I don’t think I was doing it to impress Mr. Dubno. As someone who had been rooting for Jimmy Carter, I was surprised to learn he was for some guy named Barry Commoner who was for things like communities developing local energy sources — whatever that meant. Unlike virtually everyone else in class, I wasn’t born in the U.S.; I had a name "even funnier" than the one I have now — Osama Farid Husseini — and had encountered my share of racism, including from other teachers.

Like the flag waving immigrant rallies of the last few years, I think I was try to show that I was ok. I’d even tried to make my "difference" an asset — the previous semester just before the election, I made and wore a button: "Don’t be a Khomeini, Vote like Husseini — Carter for President." (As I think on it, I think on alternate days my friend Serge Nehama would stand, his parents were from Greece.)

And I remember the day Carter lost to Reagan — a couple of friends and I were at a pizzeria near school when it dawned on me what had happened — that the country had taken a severe turn for the worse and we’d live with the consequences for decades to come.

Not that I idealized Carter.

One reason for that was Bill Moyers. I frankly don’t remember much of the substance, just the emotional sense that he was a sane voice. I have a vague memory of him trying to do a program — was it with a Soviet at the height of the Cold War? — and chastising the Carter administration for hindering it, perhaps they stopped a visa. He ended a commentary with the refrain that we have to "Remember who we are." That the people of the U.S. were better than what the government was doing.

And Moyers is still saying that. At the recent National Conference on Media Reform, his speech, "We Just Might Rekindle the Patriot’s Dream" echoed what he said in the 1970s. Indeed, it’s title was echoing Arlo Guthrie’s call of even more decades before. Always tiring to rekindle the Patriot’s Dream.

Why?

I think we need to wake from the patriotic slumber. We need to stir and open our eyes to the reality of the world. In all its aspects. From the sickening economic gaps. To the cultures we need to understand — not for some pragmatic reasons, but simply to be fuller human beings. Enrich ourselves with those cultures before they are overwhelmed by mind-numbing Western commercialism. Saving them and ourselves.

Instead of embracing the world, "progressive forces" in the U.S. constantly seem to be touting their patriotic credentials — and they are constantly losing.

In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, part of what was needed was more dialogue with the rest of the world. Instead the "progressive response" was to set up something called Air America. In 2004, the National Conference on Media Reform was begun. Global voices, global dialogue, were at best an afterthought. At the 2007 conference, Rev. Jesse Jackson made xenophobic comments about China and the Mideast, to the deafening cheers of the audience.

And in 2004, the Keynote speech at the Democratic Convention by a certain Senator had as its refrain we are one country — not one world.

The "God and Country" rhetoric from some quarters should be viewed as hollow. Truly religious people bow before no man or nation. But even "spiritual progressives" in the U.S. make no serious, sustained attempt to question the precept of nationalism. Rather, they argue that we should be a "caring nation."

It’s left to Bush and his cohorts to make false — and therefore necessarily vague — claims about wanting "democratic globalism." They get to pretend to be the idealists, the globalists. "War critics" talk about the Iraq war not being the "U.S.’s fight," that the Iraqis have "failed to stand up," that bombs that "explode in Iraq are felt by the lack of resources in the U.S." It takes real nationalistic blinders to utter such statements.

The great irony is that over the last ten years, progressive forces in the U.S. have been most ascendant when they have embraced global forces: The World Trade Organization meetings in 1999 — the "Battle of Seattle" and the February 15, 2003 global protests that caused the New York Times to write that the peace movement was the "second superpower."

And yet, those successes are not built upon. Why?

Do "progressives" in the U.S. identify more with Dick Cheney than with an African or and Iraqi child? Do people in the U.S. fear becoming close to the rest of the world, putting their lives and struggles along side those of people from other countries? And putting aside their nationalist privilege?

Do we prefer the patriot’s dream to the reality of embracing the world?

Nothing I’m saying should be at all controversial. There are great minds and we ignore them.

Albert Einstein was declared Time magazine’s "Man of the Century," but how many people — other than physicists — actually listen to his ideas? "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. … Is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression." The essay that comes from is not even freely available on the web, remarkably given all the garbage that is. There is a cultural collapse, the ideas that matter most are most obscured.

We call this thing you’re probably reading me on the World Wide Web — but how much of it is really global? For the most part, at least in the U.S. — it’s used inside the country.

Or consider Moyer’s own landmark interview with Joseph Campbell:

Moyers: Don’t you think modern Americans have rejected the ancient idea of nature as a divinity because it would have kept us from achieving dominance over nature? How can you cut down trees and uproot the land and turn the rivers into real estate without killing God? … Scientists are beginning to talk quite openly about the Gaia principle.

Campbell: There you are, the whole planet as an organism.

M: Mother Earth. Will new myths come from this image?

C: Well, something might. … And the only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet, not the city, not these people, but the planet, and everybody on it. That’s my main thought for what the future myth is going to be. …

M: So you suggest that from this begins the new myth of our time?

C: Yes, this is the ground of what the myth is to be. It’s already here: the eye of reason, not of my nationality; the eye of reason, not of my religious community; the eye of reason, not of my linguistic community. Do you see? And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group. When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with.

M: No one embodies that ethic to me more clearly in the works you have collected than Chief Seattle.

C: Chief Seattle was one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order. In about 1852, the United States Government inquired about buying the tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States, and Chief Seattle wrote a marvelous letter in reply. His letter expresses the moral, really, of our whole discussion.

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. …"

We need to stop reciting the same Pledge.

We need to wake from the Patriot’s Dream. It obscures history — slavery of blacks, slaughter of native Americans, colonialism. We need to see the other dreams of the world and awake to the bliss of our Global Reality.

– Sam Husseini’s writings are at: www.husseini.org. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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