On second thought, maybe a little less unity.

2005-02-25 03:53

In a post titled A call for unity, I put forward what was, ostensibly, a call to unite behind the current American President. Several people have expressed concerns about the wording. Let me help explain.

Much of the wording in that post was taken from speeches, not of the current Republican party, but of another party calling for people to back their vision of unity. They, too, were nationalists. Their party was called the National Socialist party, and the two men whose words I used were Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.

Anyway, some of the original quotes: (Special thanks to infiel from #infidelchat, who tracked many of them down.)

“America comes first” is an effort at a semantically correct translation of “Deutschland ueber alles”.

“Our Hitler” was a common phrase in Nazi propaganda.

“We are the example of faith, of bravery, of unchanging conviction. We are the old guard of the party that never wavers.” – Goebbels

“The world is divided by love and hate. To be on firm ground, one must know whom to love and whom to hate.” – Goebbels

“There is a road to freedom. Its milestones are Obedience, Endeavor, Honesty, Order, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland.” – Hitler

“Work makes freedom possible” is a reference to “Arbeit macht Frei”, which was written in big letters over the gates of concentration camps.

“But even more: all at once the Jew also becomes liberal and begins to rave about the necessary progress of mankind.” – Hitler

“Great, truly world-shaking revolutions of a spiritual nature are not even conceivable and realizable except as the titanic struggles of individual formations, never as enterprises of coalitions.” – Hitler

“My country, right or wrong” is plain old nationalism.

I think this gets at something serious and important: Nationalism really is dangerous. And I think it really is fundamentally incompatible with morality. You cannot love your country more than justice and still have justice.

Today, in America, we have American soldiers and CIA agents torturing people, sometimes to death. We have soldiers posing with humiliated naked prisoners, grinning widely and giving a thumbs-up guesture. We have hundreds of people who are being kept in a military camp without any trial, charges, legal counsel, or in some cases even evidence! And, we find, there is credible evidence that they are being abused.

George W. Bush has simply papered over all of these. The first reports of sexual and violent abuse of prisoners were met with a proclamation that this was not to be endorsed or tolerated. However, since then, the man who wrote the letter describing the doctrine under which some kinds of torture were to be considered acceptable has been given the office of Attorney General. Sure enough, I’ve seen people defending the use of “certain interrogation techniques” as long as they’re not “real” torture… But any time you find yourself justifying the infliction of suffering with the specific and stated intent of breaking the will and destroying any hope prisoners may have, that’s torture, pure and simple.

This is not okay, and it is not going to become okay. What has made America great, in the past, is not our unity, but our diversity; our willingness to discuss alternatives, to disagree with each other, to work together to try to keep each other honest. When people demand that we withhold simple standards of accountability, then that is very much un-American. It violates the very principles we are supposedly defending.

In our rush to export freedom, we have run up rather a significant freedom deficit. We have less freedom at home than we used to, and we seem to be quite happy to let it go. We have people proposing laws that would allow certain government agencies to bypass any and all legal checks and balances when “necessary” — in their own judgment, of course. We have people being held without charges; that we sometimes go so far as to do so on land we lease shows that we know it’s wrong, but we do it anyway; another brilliant strategem from our new Attorney General.

Those of you who were deeply horrified by those words, I commend you; most of you didn’t apparently recognize the words, but you recognized the spirit behind them. That spirit is moving in the world today, and all people should, quite simply, oppose it. It is evil, it is wrong, and it does not become okay just because it’s us instead of them.

So, how about some diversity? Some freedom? I’d vote for that.

Peter Seebach



  1. Mark Twain had a good observation on "My country, right or wrong" in _A Pen Warmed-Up In Hell_ - it ought to be, he said, "My country - when right, to be kept right, when wrong, to be set right."

    — Lori · 2005-02-25 09:59 · #