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
rbb@beauchampfirm.com ocbizlaw@aol.com

What do you think?  Email me at albert@albertlowe.com with your questions or comments.


usflag.gif - 12532 Bytes

Created:September 22, 2001
Last updated:
The article is ©2001 to Robert B. Beauchamp. All rights reserved.
The layout of this page is ©2001 Albert Lowe. All rights reserved.
Designed and maintained by A.L. Computing