American soldiers are “citizens of the world,” I wrote in “The International Highway to Hell.” “We pay their wages, but their hearts belong in faraway exotic places with which Main Street U.S.A can hardly hope to compete” for affection. This year’s Memorial Day Message” is gentler than that 2005 antiwar.com column, which was not as understanding about the specter of “misplaced loyalties,” where,
soldier after American soldier burbles on about how freeing Iraqis [Libyans, Afghans, etc.] inspires him … Or, if injured, … how eager he is to get back to his “buddies,” those he considers his real family. …
Celebrated on Memorial Day are “the … self-destructive sentiments too many American soldiers express – their willingness to give their lives for Iraqis [Libyans, Afghans, etc.]; their wish to rejoin their battalions as soon as they heal from being carved up in combat.”
But these point to a “profound alienation from all that’s important.”
And what it important? Not to live a contradiction and a lie, the one Jack Kerwick pinpoints in “The Consequences of American Patriotism” :
if morality consists in the observance of universal principles like “human rights,” then one of two things follow.
Either the partiality that we have toward our spouses, our friends, and our families is beyond the moral realm altogether, or it is actually immoral. There is no way to avoid this conclusion. Any morality affirming universal principles requires impartiality. In glaring contrast, the intimate relationships from which we derive our identities — “the little platoons,” as Burke described them — require partiality.
Thus, either patriotism is a moral fiction or our “little platoons” are.
Or perhaps “patriotism” is a devotion to “our little platoons”?
Perturbed I was back in 2005 “by the sight of compatriots who remain vested in a foreign polity.”
And convinced I was—still am—that “healthy patriotism is associated with robust particularism – petty provincialism, if you like – and certainly not with the deracinated globalism exhibited by our GI Joes and Janes.”