The last time that the USA forced a smaller and weaker country into a fight in order to acquire its territory was the Mexican War, which resulted in the acquisition of Texas, where, after the US had acquired it, slavery could be practiced, which it could not as long as the territory was part of Mexico. That the US now has a very large, legal and illegal, Mexican population and has been forced into becoming a two language country, English and Spanish, may be regarded as an example of the relentless operation of divine justice, as it would be by my mentor in these matters, Mr. Dante Alighieri, of Florence, Italy.
Mr. Henry David Thoreau, of Walden Pond, protested vigorously against this war, as did Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Mr. Thoreau spent some time in the lockup for his opposition and his account of these events so inspired Mahatma ("Great Soul") Ghandi, of India, that he translated it, and made it the basis of his campaign of civil disobedience in opposition to British rule in India, which eventually succeeded and produced an independent India.
Both these series of events are American, meaning they are part of American history. That any one of us may exercise our individual free will and choose one of them as "truly American," or the path that America should follow, is neither here nor there. Both are American, if that word is to have any meaning at all.
Both sides, when they come to the table, are not so much about to arrange a modus vivendi (way of living) between the two, as ready to negotiate a surrender to their views since these are clearly established facts. "This is the way America operated in the past, and this therefore is the American way." You are right, my son. "This also is how America acted in the past, and this is how we should act now." You are also right, my son.
British patriots, I have no doubt, prefer to think about the battle of Agincourt, as presented in Shakespeare's Henry V, than about the capture, trial, and burning alive of St. Joan of Arc in the same war as presented in Bernard Shaw's play. (Both were set books in my high school, so the credit belongs to whatever bureaucrat was in charge of the curriculum. The emotional rush produced by the prospect of smashing in the heads of the enemy is hardly new, characterized by Homer as "Ares, hated by gods and men." We have advanced our methodology from bronze swords to stealth bombers and smart bombs, but our psychology appears to have advanced not a millimetre since the Trojan War.) That should tell us more about the pitfalls of patriotism than about the country involved, or the people holding the views. "The old lie," says Wilfred Owen in WWI, "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. (It is a sweet and noble thing to die for one's country.)" Well, common sense suggests that dying is sort of final, and means one's bolt is shot, the one dying may not have intended that, and also sweet and noble, and considerably more useful, may be living for one's country, or for a whole range of other reasons. I wonder if the military might give all of us some peace and quiet to do that?
Sun, 30 Mar 2003