IS THERE A NEW PATRIOTISM? Robert B. Beauchamp September 19, 2001 As events unfold in the wake of the horrifying wound inflicted upon my Country by an amorphous group of terrorists, I watch this Nation's renewed demonstrations of patriotism with a mixture of exhilaration and skepticism. Who could help but be exhilarated by American flags flying from every possible anchor, by an end to political bickering and by the support our President is receiving from those who denigrated his every word and deed the day before the attack? Who could help but be exhilarated by the President's truly eloquent speech to the American people and a joint session of Congress? Why am I skeptical? I fear we have forgotten what made us great. Some would say we became civilized. Others would say that we lost our "pioneer" spirit. We replaced personal initiative and an objective sense of morality and justice with passivity, dependence on government and "tolerance," meaning a subjective sense of morality and justice. We became groups of victims rather than individuals who control our own destinies. During colonial years, ordinary citizens routinely set aside their daily lives, took up arms and joined their neighbors, risking life and limb in defense of themselves, their families and their communities from hostile attackers. During the American Revolution seven of my ancestors fought the British. Only one was a Continental Regular; six were militiamen: just neighbors standing and dying, shoulder to shoulder, in support of a great cause. The last foreign attack on American soil occurred during the War of 1812 (Hawaii gained Statehood in 1959). Again ordinary citizens shouldered their own weapons, ammunition and supplies and played a significant role in the defense of the Nation. During World War II, when almost every able-bodied male was fighting on foreign soil, citizens formed "homeguards" to defend against a perceived threat of invasion. Armed citizens were not deemed by government or fellow citizens to pose any danger and, indeed, were part of the American defense fabric. What changed since the last great war? In becoming "civilized" and "tolerant" we allowed the "politically correct" to pervert the very meaning of those words. We allowed the development and entrenchment of a cult of passivity. In our politically correct world, "civilized" individuals do not use force in defense of self or others. We rely on police officials who tell us not to resist criminals, "just give them what they want and leave the rest to the professionals." When schoolyard bullies prey on other children, they are to accept beatings without resistance and only later report the matter. A child who fights back is deemed no better than the aggressor and is punished identically. Children, we are told, must ignore the advice of their grandfathers: that a bully stops only when you stand your ground and give him a good pop. On that day the bully learns that injuries can be suffered as well as inflicted. During the years preceding September 11, 2001, this Nation suffered repeated acts of terrorism on our military overseas, our embassies, a naval warship and even an earlier bombing of the World Trade Center. We limited our responses to a few isolated, impotent missile strikes, misdirected both figuratively and literally. On September 11, 2001, we were reminded of the consequences such of passivity. A lesson we should have learned after World War II: that the consequences of passivity to acts of war (then called appeasement) are further acts of war. On one horrible day a coordinated and unprecedented act of war was committed against this Nation. The World Trade Center and a large portion of the Pentagon were utterly leveled by three hijacked American jumbo jets loaded with fuel and carrying innocent civilian passengers. In a period of about an hour, untold thousands of innocent civilians and three of this Nation's icons were incinerated. At the height of our outrage the President spoke passionately to a joint session of Congress and we learned that we are to have a new federal agency for "homeland defense." Earlier in the week the President called up tens of thousands of military reservists, also for "homeland defense." Yet as recently as 60 years ago ordinary citizens provided homeland defense. The United States Code still provides that every citizen over the age of 17 is a member of the unorganized militia. There is no talk now of forming the homeguards of the Second World War or of compulsory military service. In a recent interview, Senator John McCain stated his opposition to reinstating the draft. Among other things, he said that military service had become too specialized. He is not alone. Any attempt to reestablish the draft would die a quick and ugly death in part because it would mean that the children of the Million Mom March would be taught to shoot rifles and in part because most citizens of all ages are "too busy" to set aside their daily lives to stand shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors in defense of freedoms taken for granted in a world intent on their destruction. Though our neighborhoods and highways are awash in American flags, though the ruins of the once proud twin tours of the World Trade Center and our Pentagon continue to smolder, though we still feel the white-hot heat of incalculable outrage and unfathomable grief, we prefer, indeed we are conditioned, to leave it to the professionals. We talk about our military as if it were a professional sports franchise. We pound our chests, confident that our team is better than any other, but as individuals we are not willing to play the game ourselves. Even as our cheeks are still stained with tears, our voices of outrage are increasingly being challenged by the soothing and seductive voices of the cult of passivity. Madonna recently stopped a concert for a moment of prayer that this Nation would not retaliate for the atrocity inflicted on thousand of innocents who died unspeakably horrible deaths as they blithely began an ordinary workday. Other voices drone calmly and dispassionately that we must understand the root causes of international terrorism; indeed, that this Nation itself, by this or that foreign policy, caused these "justifiably enraged" criminals to kill and main thousands of us. They will discuss the quantity and quality of proof necessary to establish the guilt of those responsible, the necessity of due process and the dire consequences if we retaliate against an "innocent" as opposed to a guilty terrorist. The cult of passivity shields our eyes from the sights and sounds of this act of war inflicted on us. Our "children" will be protected from the trauma of the sight of the charred and severed bodies of our neighbors. Yet, when we retaliate we will see repetitive footage day and night of the bodies of our enemies and our own gallant troops. The cult of passivity will not then shield our children's eyes. They will wish us to see the consequences of war and reject it as an unacceptable option. They hope that we will have forgotten that the massacre of thousands of innocents on September 11, 2001, was a direct consequence of passivity. This is not how you galvanize Americans. Before we can be galvanized as a Nation, each of us must be reminded that the freedoms we enjoy are not accidental, that they were purchased with the blood and shared sacrifice of our forefathers who left the defense of those freedoms to each of us, not just to professional soldiers, however brave and committed. Benjamin Franklin, when asked what form our government had taken, replied: "a Republic, if you can keep it." John F. Kennedy echoed such sentiment: "Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily lives, and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom." My skepticism can become optimism, but only through a broad rejection of the cult of passivity and a reaffirmation of the principles upon which this great Nation was founded: that individuals control their own destinies. That is not the province of terrorists or governments. Individuals become victims by choice. Beyond this, we must abandon subjective morality to the extent it is used to justify passivity. There are objective evils that must be resisted. We must not allow the seductive voice of passivity to drown our outrage, our inherent sense that justice requires the perpetrators of unprecedented brutality to suffer unprecedented retaliation. It is possible. It did happen. Not 60 years ago during the last great war, but on September 11, 2001. On that terrible day we were reminded not solely of the consequences of passivity. That day we were also reminded that individuals can reject victimization and choose their own destinies. Passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, their aircraft hijacked and redirected toward Washington D.C., realized that they were about to become passengers on a missile directed at countless fellow Americans. The passengers reached back to an earlier time, stood shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors, and took back their dignity. They ignored every lesson taught by the cult of passivity. They refused to leave it to professionals, they refused to negotiate, discuss or compromise. They refused to concede to the demands of monsters. Instead, they fought back. They fought back for themselves and they fought back to save the lives of Americans they would never know. Rather than submit, they gave their lives so that anonymous Americans might live. Because these heroes refused to allow others to choose their destinies, Flight 93 crashed into a vacant field killing no one but the heroic passengers and their now vanquished captors. We must not let the seductive voices of passivity diminish the awe in which we hold these heroic souls: members of our Nation's unorganized militia who raised their hands in defiance, defeating brutality with brutality, for sometimes brutality is necessary in defending a Nation from a great evil. Even more importantly, we must not let the voices of passivity dampen that atavistic, visceral need in every American heart to believe, to hope, that each of us would overcome our fear and find the courage to defy both great evil and the voices that urge passivity: that we would perform as valiantly as those heroic passengers. For it is only if we retain such hope, can we, as a Nation, retain our newfound patriotism even as our grief fades. All rights reserved September 19, 2001 The Beauchamp Firm, a law corporation 1301 Dove Street, Suite 950 Newport Beach, California 92660Telephone: 949-660-0010 Telecopier: 949-660-0690 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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Created:September 22, 2001
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