Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Patriotism Is An Act Of Violence



memorial day 2011

For my sons, Memorial Day 2011

God Bless America blared from the flag waving Harley as boy scouts, soon to be men, marched between white lines. Memorial Day, a national glance inward to mourn the lives mangled and lost ‘serving’ freedom and civic liberty. I almost wept, not out of patriotic duty and honor but for the deep feeling of shame and betrayal that this and past pageants endure.

While I honor the ultimate sacrifice brothers and sisters have made through the ages, some urgent, some heroic and necessary, so many lives, however, have been mangled for reasons – that had they known – they would have wept too.

Memorial Day is participatory theater, show business, cultural conditioning of good little boys and girls to play their part – so when it is their turn to ‘serve’ they too will walk between the lines unquestioning, parents proudly applauding at the curb.

Today’s theater pounds the drums of war hard and fast. As long as there is a political corporate military industrial complex that needs and feeds (profits) from carnage, there will be wars and Memorial Day parades.

War is mostly an enterprise, a casino game really, played for profit and control. A few months later when body bags return by the thousands the same flag waving pageantry will accompany what were once bright and proud boys and girls marching down our neighborhood streets. Don’t look behind the curtain, daddy. Wave that flag.

Need we review the carnage this Memorial Day masks? The 20th century was the bloodiest humanity has ever known. David, my high school friend, one of the funniest guys I will ever know, put a shot gun in his mouth after returning from Vietnam, and pulled the trigger. Walk the corridors of any Veteran’s hospital and you will see.

You and I, by allowing it, poisoned over 250,000 little American boys and girls in the 1991 Gulf War. They called it Gulf War Syndrome – and wagged the flag of denial when our kids hobbled home, infecting their wives and their children with the same toxins. Two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) is a lot of boys and girls.

Proud to be an American blinds us to the deformed babies being born wherever our depleted uranium weapons are routinely used (illegally). For thousands of years the radiation, now invisible dust floating in the air and in the water of those regions, will cause human babies to be born like deformed frogs and tossed away. Somehow the Memorial Day pageant elevates us above this.

We pour champagne in the streets at the alleged assassination of Bin Laden, once an ally, like Saddam Hussein and countless others we courted, funded, trained and promoted. We can’t be the good guy without a villain. More staged pageantries. Where is the body? Oh, don’t worry about the truth, dear, here come another wave of children carrying flags.

War has never, never resulted in freedom and increased civil liberty. Those precious treasures come in war’s absence and those who need and profit from the pageant know this. The true intent of today’s annual show is to condition, to limit and constrain true freedom, our innate potential and development. One way is the ‘Patriot Act,’ another betrayal hidden behind the theater curtain. The pageant often betrays the values it pretends to honor.

Why are we so easily enchanted? Is the conditioning that deep? I guess it is. Century upon century of tribalism, being part of the group, we against them, personal identification with race, gang, church, political party, nationalism, praise and acceptance for doing and believing what we are told and public rejection, punishment and humiliation if we don’t.

Once infected with the blame-shame, what-will-they-think-of-me virus, as every child is before they learn to speak, we do this crippling to ourselves. Even the thought of jumping out of the box adds weight to the intended leap.

It is one thing to be infected by those already stunted, it is quite another to pray on and spread the infection for profit. Sadly this honorable sensibility is naive. To retain power Machiavellian philosophy demands that the ruling-power-class be carefree with its use of immoral acts, pageantry, brute force, and deceit. It is stupid not to. Recall the classic line in Coppola’sThe Godfather: “Don’t take it personally, it’s only business.” The Mafia and Government often have a lot in common.

We are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other geopolitical oil spots because of their strategic importance, not as the flag waving crowds cheer for freedom or to protect us from the wicked witch of the north.

The overarching insight is one of identity. National boundaries are abstractions. Conflict is inevitable if we identify ourselves nationally, we against them. We are in fact one humanity. We share a common blood line, common genes. We all experience the same sensations and feelings of joy and sadness, as we do with our mammalian cousins. In so many ways we are vastly more similar than different. The divisions we plunder over are ideological, conceptual. War is a mental illness, believing we are something that we are not.

Stop identifying with your political party and what happens – who you think you are expands. Stop identifying with your religion and you expand again. Stop believing that you are a nationality, a race, a gender and the expansion of what you are becomes infinite. Fred Donaldson, friend and original play researcher put it this way: ‘When I play Fred disappears, Fred being all the categories I identify as me.’ J. Krishnamurti observed: “With complete attention there is no observer.” What remains is pure creation, wholeness, one humanity, creation. That is what we really are.

War and its twin Memorial Day pageantry is a mental illness, falsely identifying ourselves as a cultural category, a case of mistaken identity that blinds and breeds conflict.

Until we awaken ourselves from the enchantment these events evoke and help our children see through the false hopes and false fears patriotism brings – there will be more wars, more bags and more parades.