Allegiance Belongs to Nation, Not to Government

Often, in criticizing my own country as I currently perceive it, I have been accused of being unpatriotic to the point of treason. I have been called any number of unkind names and been told, “If ya don’t like it, leave it.”

Treason is not a charge to be taken lightly, and I am pressed to respond. Let us first distinguish between my country and my government. My country is the land and the people I am bonded to from and by birth. My government is a temporary custodian of the values and principles set forth in the Constitution that serves to preserve those same values and principles.

It is possible to love your country but distrust its governance. It is possible to love your country so much that you have an insurmountable desire and need to call attention to and attempt to correct any and all wrongs of a government whose actions are taken in your name, besmirching the country and the people you love.

In those terms, it is not I, but those who (for whatever reason) refuse to acknowledge their sacred obligation to call to account any official deed or person acting in violation of the same values and principles which they purport to believe and observe, who are the unpatriotic. In reality, it is they who could rightfully be accused of treason. It is unlawful to have knowledge of a crime and let it go unreported.

Then, of course, the question of knowledge must be addressed, and here again, the onus and obligation of being informed in a democratic society falls to the individual, and ignorance is no excuse.

While there is no doubt that everything possible is done to keep us in the dark, from insignificant distractions and secrecy to actual lies and deceptions, it remains possible for the true patriot to ferret out the truth. There is, of course, the danger that the misinformed or malcontent will unwittingly or deviously create so-called “fake news,” with fabricated claims or charges and accusations of misdeeds and policies by honorable officials, and they should be subject to severe scrutiny. However, when the truth of an accusation is not only obvious but admitted, there is little excuse for reticence in speaking out. Let us examine four such incidents:

First, it is now admitted by officialdom that lies and deceptions were responsible for millions of deaths, both soldier and civilian, in South Vietnam. Lou Sarris, a hometown boy and longtime personal friend who served for 13 years as the State Department’s man in Vietnam, repeatedly sent negative but reliable reports to Washington officials that ran counter to the more positive (but more often than not) inaccurate reports from the Pentagon.

Then, of course, we must not omit Iran Contra. The lies and subsequent cover-up attempts in this operation are too many to list.

And then, let us dare to reopen the old sore of 9/11. We now know that the commission was deceived by the CIA, FBI, NORAD and the FAA. Could it be unpatriotic to question why? With mountains of evidence to suggest that an honest investigation into what should have been considered a crime instead of an act of war, members of the 9/11 Commission have now admitted that they were repeatedly lied to and “set up to fail.”

And who among us can seriously deny that we were lied to about nonexistent WMDs in Iraq? Who among those of us who choose to be informed can deny that our country is now bent on global economic and military hegemony, with more than 800 military bases around the world? We have been led to believe with lies that four countries represent our direst threats: Russia (with only two foreign bases), China, with one, and Iran and North Korea, both with none The real threat, I fear, lies with the deep-state, in control of our foreign policy that could lead to a thermonuclear war and the end of civilization as we know it.

Have I made my point? If readers are offended by this column or continue to think that things are not as bad as I seem to think, let me reiterate that these are not the rant of some conspiracy theorist or kook (as I’ve also been called); they are the factual, verified, validated, proven, substantiated and supported facts.

Now, if readers continue to believe the misinformation, as many will undoubtedly choose to do, I imagine they will rationalize their position with that trite admission, “Well everybody lies … What’s the big deal?” Do we not realize that with that admission we become an accomplice?

Even if you don’t approve of the lies, you become an accomplice to the crime in being willing to condone and excuse them. And, should you be one that excuses misconduct with the tired old thought that, “There’s enough blame to go around,” please understand that what that trite phrase means is that no one is to be blamed or held accountable.

Then, there are those who will shout, “My country, right or wrong,” as an acceptance of wrongdoing. This crass cry has currently come to represent the worst of right-wing patriotism.

The phrase was first uttered by U. S. Naval Captain Stephen Decatur in 1816, after defeating pirates on the Barbary Coast, as a warrior’s toast:

“Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

What is lesser known, however, is a rebuttal of that phrase on the floor of the Senate in 1872 by Carl Shurz, Union Army general, later U.S. senator, and, still later, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. In correcting the use of that phrase as a boast by a fellow senator, Shurz countered with: “My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

It is my firm belief that all the ignorance, arrogance and insufferable exceptionalism displayed with the fanatic flag waving and slogan shouting only tends to embarrass us in the eyes of the world. It is for love of My Country that I take this stand.

If there be treason, I contend that it is by the disgustingly rich 1 percent whose only loyalty is to themselves at the expense of “We the People.”

Harold G. “Hal” O’Leary of Wheeling has been prominent in the arts community for many years. He was the founder of Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre. In 2008 he was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame. He also was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.