By Matthew Rothschild on July 04, 2013

On this July 4, please chew on this quote from Emma Goldman, circa 1908:

Patriotism means that "those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die ... to impose their superiority upon all the others."

And on this July 4, please consider another quote, this one from the environmentalist David Suzuki, circa 2012:

"We draw lines around our ... countries. ... We will kill and die to protect those boundaries. Nature couldn't give two hoots about our national boundaries," he added.

And that's the kicker.

Flag-waving hinders us from tackling the dual catastrophes that can destroy the Earth: nuclear war, and global warming.

One of these days, the leader of one country, soaking in patriotism, may well drop a nuclear bomb on another country, and the world could go dark. And we're not getting rid of our own nukes -- and holding an international conference on disarmament -- because we want to remain Number One in the nuclear annihilation game.

Our patriotism also tells us that we're so great that we don't need to worry about dragging our feet in reaching an international accord to limit fossil fuel consumption. Nah, we're America. We can go it alone, and we can keep drilling to our heart's content.

Problem is, the globe is not content.

And it won't be till we get over this conceit.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story A Shameful Supreme Court Ruling on Voting Rights.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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