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The Meaning of Patriotism

August 1, 2100 - I read in an online Boston paper today that doctors at a major Boston hospital are now reporting that 18% of children under the age of three who come to the hospital are malnourished or painfully thin. Heaven knows the Tea Party's plans to End Debt in Our Time should do them a world of good.

The Japanese offer us both an example upon which to model our own behavior, and an inspiration. Their government's calls for conservation have been met with a determination to do even more than what the government has asked. Conservation is necessary, of course, because of the shortage of electricity caused by nuclear reactors, not only at Fukushima, but in many places throughout the country, having been turned off (only 17 out of 54 remain operational). Few countries do better than the Japanese in living by the code "all for one, one for all."

This proclivity is furthered by daily power supply reports, broadcast along with the weather forecast each morning. The heat this summer has been nearly as awful as our own, yet the Japanese do not even permit themselves the luxury of a tiny desk fan. Indeed, doing for oneself what cannot be done for others is, at some companies, taken into consideration when someone is being evaluated for a promotion. The Japanese say they're doing all this for Japan, "so it can't be helped."

Do Americans even remember the meaning of the word patriotism? We bellyache about paying our taxes, off-year elections draw limited participation, public service positions frequently go unfilled, and there are dismally few today who understand that "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" was an eloquent call to service. (For many who came of age during that more idealistic time, it meant joining the Peace Corps.)

Today, General Electric - a major recipient of government largesse, as one of the defense department's primary vendors - pays no taxes, and doesn't even blink when admitting it. They have lots of corporate company. Our banks, along with the central banks of other developed nations, continue to offer derivatives for sale. Yes, the very same banks that nearly brought down our economy three years ago, with these very same instruments. Meanwhile, Charles and David Koch - whose own brother, William, refers to their business tactics as organized crime - further their own interests by funding quasi-governmental groups like ALEC (a Republican organization that exists for the purpose of lobbyists and legislators writing pro-business legislation together in such a way that it is more likely to be passed) to write business-friendly legislation, and for the election of Tea Party Republicans (actually, a new third party), who then vote the legislation into law. "All for one" may be tried and true, but "if money can't buy it, it ain't worth havin'" is a lot catchier.

Allow me to conclude by drawing your attention to a true patriot, Tim DeChristopher. DeChristopher protested an illegal public lands auction initiated by the Bush administration by bidding on land for which he had no money to pay. (Those bidding purchased the right to drill for oil on the land.) The auction has since been deemed illegal by the Obama administration's Bureau of Land Management, but that has not stopped the state of Utah from putting DeChristopher on trial, and sentencing him to two years in jail.


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