May 26, 2008

Blood of Tyrants and Patriots

As Memorial Day comes to a close, here is a video that I found and lost and found again. I know little about the author, clicking around the links didn't yield too much info for me.

Two more items:

The Macho Response is a site run by a musician here in Los Angeles who calls himself "The Crack Emcee". He has been at war with cults of many forms, and he is both funny and relentless as he chips away at groupthink in his blog. Like myself he is completely immersed in the arts and like myself he was once enlisted in the Navy... perhaps at the same time frame.

This is a strange combination that sets us apart in ways that are both alienating and illuminating. You see, for most of our people in our respective creative communities, the military is either a null set or an object of ridicule... a legacy of of the Vietnam era, I suppose. Sad. It's a strange response, this alienation from the military experience in the realm of the cultural leading edge. In the previous epoch, such background was unexceptional that and artist might have been a soldier/sailor/airman. Beckmann. Rauschenberg. The entire Western worldview, the very nature of art itself as it is manifested in universities and museums and galleries that drive and are driven by them, pivots from freedom's fulcrum. The idea that --from time to time, freedom has to be defended and fought for-- doesn't spring easily to the mind of most cultural sophisticates.

Here's an illustration:

"The Crack Emcee" occasionally visually elaborates text from selected online articles, this one from the Telegraph by Andrew Glimson, a snippet:

...Thomas Jefferson warned that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. To the Americans, the idea that freedom and democracy exact a cost in blood is second nature.

We stood at Gettysburg, scene of the bloodiest battle of all, on a field covered with memorials to the fallen. Here Abraham Lincoln gave his great and sublimely brief address, ending with the hope "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Again some Europeans will give an unkind smile. All this sounds so Puritan, so na?ve and so self-righteous. We cannot help feeling that the Americans ought to have been able to settle their quarrel without killing each other, and, while we cannot defend the institution of slavery, we wonder whether the North had the right to impose its will by force.

These are vain quibbles. The North went to war and was victorious.

The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims. It is yet another respect in which they are rather old-fashioned. They are patriots who venerate their nation and their flag.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war.

It is an idea that cannot survive a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, where one is informed that the "price of freedom" is over and over again paid in blood.

The Americans' tactics in Iraq, and their sanction for Israel's tactics in Lebanon, have given rise to astonishment and anger in Europe. It may well be that those tactics are counter-productive, and that the Americans and Israelis need to take a different approach to these ventures if they are ever to have any hope of winning hearts and minds.

But when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.

One would think the intelligencia on both sides of the Atlantic could easily grasp this.

Posted by Dennis at May 26, 2008 11:27 PM

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