For this week I thought I'd stick with last week because while going on about nationality I'm naturally drawn to the subject of my own problems with nationalism-- particularly that ugly strain of nationalism known as "jingoism". Not that I've ever had much luck trying to post definitions of words taken from dictionaries at people on Daily Kos but here's what Webster had to say about "jingo" back in the days before he'd hooked up with Merriam:
jin•go (jin'go-) n., pl. -goes, [< phr. by jingo in the refrain of a patriotic Brit. music-hall song (1878)] a person who boasts of his patriotism and favors an aggressive, threatening, warlike foreign policy; chauvinist –adj. of jingoes; jingoistic –by jingo! [prob. euphemism for by Jesus] [Colloq.] an exclamation used to indicate strong assertion, surprise, etc. –jin'go•ism n. –jin'go•ist n. –jin'go•is'tic adj. – jin'go•is'ti•cal•ly adv.That got me wondering about that old British music-hall song. So I scrounged up this link to a page where I found the lyrics:
Macdermott's War SongAnd not really wanting to download their MP3 and Mid files I thought I'd take a chance on it being posted on YouTube and discovered this:
The "Dogs of War" are loose and the rugged Russian Bear,
All bent on blood and robbery has crawled out of his lair...
It seems a thrashing now and then, will never help to tame...
That brute, and so he's out upon the "same old game"...
The Lion did his best... to find him some excuse...
To crawl back to his den again. All efforts were no use...
He hunger'd for his victim. He's pleased when blood is shed...
But let us hope his crimes may all recoil on his own head...
We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do...
We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too!
We've fought the Bear before... and while we're Britons true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople...
The misdeeds of the Turks have been "spouted" through all lands,
But how about the Russians, can they show spotless hands?
They slaughtered well at Khiva, in Siberia icy cold.
How many subjects done to death we'll ne'er perhaps be told.
They butchered the Circassians, man, woman yes and child.
With cruelties their Generals their murderous hours beguiled,
And poor unhappy Poland their cruel yoke must bear,
While prayers for "Freedom and Revenge" go up into the air.
May he who 'gan the quarrel soon have to bite the dust.
The Turk should be thrice armed for "he hath his quarrel just."
'Tis said that countless thousands should die through cruel war,
But let us hope most fervently ere long it shall be o'er.
Let them be warned: Old England is brave Old England still.
We've proved our might, we've claimed our right, and ever, ever will.
Should we have to draw the sword our way to victory we'll forge,
With the Battle cry of Britons, "Old England and St George!"
A few of my thoughts about jingoism below the ginger hairball that's been swept under the disclaimer--
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Here's a remarkable bit of paper:
That bit of paper bears the signature of my 11 year-old father. I suppose the death of his babysitter who died at Pearl Harbor was still pretty fresh in his mind. And I can sympathize with Dad being confronted with the incomprehensible at that age. It was easy to make an entire country full of people into monsters; some of them had acted like monsters. Hatred makes monsters of us all.
I'd like to think I live in a different world. My sister-in-law and my niece and nephew are Japanese. The kids were from a previous marriage and I met the whole family-- my brother's bride-to-be, her kids, her parents, sister, brothers, and their children when I visited my brother before the wedding when he was living in Japan. Nothing can make me see the Japanese as monsters. But my father did. He got over it. We talked about how deeply ingrained his hatred of oriental people had become, his bloodlust was easily transferred to Koreans during that conflict but eventually, he grew up and questioned the prejudices and the anger. He reasoned his way past his ignorance. One of his best friends and fellow anesthesiologists was a Japanese American whose family had been sent to the concentration camps set up in the US during WW II. "Yosh" and his family became our friends. His daughter taught me how to downhill ski. So my dad was pretty much done with Jap-Hunting. Then one of his sons brought a Japanese bride with him back to the states-- and she was smart and lovely and disarmingly charming. Yet, there was still a twinge there when it really came home. But he got over that too.
I myself have had friends from every country that the USA has ever had an armed conflict in. I think about some of the Mohameds and Sassans I've known whenever idiots like John McCain start rattling sabres.
I think about that little bit of paper whenever I see the insipid pandering to nationalistic values that to me are represented by politicians with flag lapel pins and their posturing in front of backgrounds made up of giant, or even more ridiculous, multiple American flags. What is this overblown, costume jewelry they're flaunting. Flags as decorations, flags as wallpaper-- what cracks in the plaster are they hiding?
I've learned to be suspicious when I see grand displays of the flag that flies to represent my own nationality.
When I see multiple American flags I always think of Memorial Day and graveyards.
Seeing lapel pin flags makes me think of this scene--
Maybe I'm overreacting. I do think the displaying of allegiances through jewelry is better suited to frats and clubs. There's an element of tribal elitism to it that I can't take seriously.
I rather liked discovering that "by jingo" is probably the euphemistic form of "by Jesus". I think there's a similar theatrical, ostentation to the megaphone praising of "God and Country"... the louder it is the more hollow it sounds to my ears. And all I can see are the cracks in the plaster. Somehow, I've never associated volume with sincerity.
I fear most of our politicians have become televangelists for America.