Column written. 10/31/01


By Mumia Abu-Jamal

One of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.
-- Aldous Huxley, British Writer [1894-1963]

In times of government and media-declared war, elite pressures combine to compel people to express or reflect one's patriotism.

The question immediately arises: what *is* patriotism? Love of country? Love of one's people? Or, blind, yielding obedience to government dictates? Is it the supine surrender of one's will to that of those in political power? Or is it the conviction that one must speak truth to power -- yea, even unpopular, unheralded truth?

Questions such as these are not easily answered, for there is no one, single response. They are answered individually, in the silence of the soul. How one answers depends where one is in national life, or where one comes from.

An American citizen, elected to a high place of Congress, dares to refuse to surrender her political independence to the nation's chief executive, urging caution as she casts a lone vote. She is threatened with death, not from foreign terrorists, but from domestic ones!

A nationally known broadcaster announces that he is at the disposal of his Commander-in-Chief, "just tell me where to go, Mr. President, and I'm there" (or words to that effect), tears welling up over his stage make-up.

Consider, shall we say, these two extremes of public behavior. Which is more, well, patriotic?

One retains her political independence, saying, in effect, "I was not elected to surrender my powers to legislate to the executive, but to represent my constituency, and the principle of separation of powers, without which, democracy is illusory."

The other publicly surrenders, saying, in effect, "I will not pretend to objectivity. You are my Commander; I am the commanded. My journalism is at your service, Sire."

The one is Congresswoman Barbara Jackson Lee, member of the House of Representatives, 9th Congressional district, a Democrat from California. The other is CBS network anchor Dan Rather, the multi-million dollar, unelected corporate journalist.

Which is more popular?

Which is more American?

The U.S. Constitution has no provision (to this writer's knowledge) for a national legislator to surrender her independence to the executive - even in times of war.

As for the "Commander in Chief" reference, despite Dan's journalistic genuflection, the Constitution's Article II states that the President is Commander in Chief of "the Army and Navy of the United States," and, under certain conditions, "the Militia." Unless Dan enlists, anchors aren't included.

A free person is not patriotic because he surrenders his freedom. He is either free, or he ain't. Which are you?


[Col. Writ. 10/31/01] Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal