Here is an issue that should stir up some rhetorical juices out there. Most of us here are atheists; by implication, that means we are also secular humanists, which is to say, we put the welfare of humans before the care and feeding of imaginary gods. My question, though, is this: shouldn’t we also put humans before politics? In other words, is it a good, moral, ethical thing to give one’s life for his/her country? Self-serving and self-aggrandizing politicians, plutocrats, kleptocrats and chicken-hawk Republicans say YES (as long as THEY don’t have to die). I say, unequivocally, NO!
I would only be willing to give up my precious life for persons that I love, maybe even a beloved pet. But NEVER would I willingly sacrifice my one and only life in order for my country to maintain its supremacy or even its viability as a political entity. Or, to be more specific, should I be expected to give up my life to help my country be more powerful, wealthy, and influential than all other countries? I DON’T THINK SO. Certainly not I. I am proud to say, I did not fight in Vietnam. No Vietnamese peasant ever threatened my family. None of them deserved to die for the political and economic objectives of our privileged class.
The great English literary giant, Samuel Johnson, said, on April 4, 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” To this day, nobody knows if that barb was aimed at Mad King George or at the wealth aristocracy in Massachusetts; but from that day forward, Americans have repeatedly proven that aphorism to be a case of “truer words were never spoken.” Heck, we’ve even built a political party around just such scoundrels.
I am prepared to debate any of you who wish to defend any of our wars of “manifest destiny;” but I’ll save that to respond to your specific examples. My purpose here is just to vigorously assert that only the protection of the lives of our loved ones justifies making war on people who themselves only want to live.
I expect a torrent of indignant responses; so have at it. I'm ready for you.
I think it was Aristotle's idea that citizens would be ready to defend the city when attacked if it was a just city. The Aristotelean city is one where the citizens participate in leadership, everyone is educated and there is not much of a class system, rather, everyone is equal.
In a sense, then to the extent to which someone brings war to my doorstep then by all means I will be ready to die. If the governing elite want to expand their territories or dominate others, they should be at the forefront of the invading army. I don't support sending young recruits to go get killed just so that they may satisfy their egos. And to that extent, patriotism can take a rope and go hang.
You state you would not die for your country--or presumably risk dying for your country--so it can aggrandize itself on the world stage. (My phrasing, but I believe it is equivalent to yours. If I bodged it, let me know, and I apologize in advance.)
Hypothetical: what if your country were under attack, an attack that, uncountered, could lead to it being conquered? Two subcases, where your answer might be different: an unprovoked attack, and a provoked attack. (Note please I said this was hypothetical--This is not an argument against your statement on Vietnam; I don't think anyone claims that Vietnam itself represented such a case!)
"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." - Nathan Hale
No torrent from me - pick your battles - what do you think about World War I and II - should Americans have been involved in that.
Vietnam was a disgrace, and still is, children still being born deformed from agent orange - children sired from servicemen, left to fend for themselves - the men and women who fight a war like that, plus in Iraq and Afghanistan, are cannon fodder. The babies of Iraq and Afghanistan being born deformed from depleted uranium bombs. America was supporting Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden who had received support from America in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. . It is all about oil, when Saudi Arabia invited the Americans into their country, keeping in mind, Saudi is one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, the protecting of Kuwait, the money to be made through private contracts with European and American companies - and in the end, nothing will change. Women will be still treated like chattels - and have to marry their rapist - and have to put their life on the line if they want an education - these wars will not change the culture.
So, yes Judith - the tax on all profits etc. public transparency about what companies are where - and what they are supplying and what are they taking out of the conquered country -
I remember vaguely, a politician, can't remember which country, America or Australia, was asked why his children weren't on the front line - and he said 'They took a different path'. Not good enough - it is ok if the solders that die come from the poorer classes, not from the decision makers class.