Patriotic Duty - The relationship between
the Citizen, the Soldier and the President
Despite claims by supporters of the Bush administration to
a monopoly on American patriotism and their right to define that patriotism, organizations such as Military Families Speak Out are
exercising one of the highest duties with which any American citizen is charged. If our family
members serving in the military are duty bound to follow their Commander-in-Chief they then have a right to expect fidelity
from that commander. The commander must have no higher priority than the greatest possible support of the troops, must focus
on keeping them as safe and least exposed to harms way as possible in pursuit of national security objectives.
Likewise, citizens are duty-bound to our military in
a way no less important than the troops' obligation to obey and trust their commander-in-chief. The commander-in-chief is
neither an emperor nor a dictator and at all times remains accountable to all citizens - not just those who voted for him.
American civilians have - as their highest duty in support of our family members in the military - an insistence on accountability
for decisions placing our troops in harms way. We in fact are a vital part of a system of checks and balances that must function
in order to protect the integrity of what constitutes democracy in America.
On the one hand, military devotion to duty, courage in the
line of fire, and obedience regardless of agreement or disagreement with command decisions ought to be the highest measure
of soldierly patriotism.
On the other hand, civilian devotion to the fact of American
democratic process is equally vital in making sure ulterior motives and secret special interest agendas are not placed ahead
of the safety and well-being of our troops.
When either of the dominant political parties in this country
makes an assertion that patriotism and loyalty are defined within that particular party, we disenfranchise ourselves if we
blindly buy into that notion. Particularly dangerous is the circumstance where we as citizens find politicians attempting
to exploit what they believe to be our own personal politics, philosophy or economic outlook with highly emotional rhetoric
in an attempt to stampede us into acting without thinking.
We see the Democratic Party expend a lot of energy trying
to appeal to the electorate as an alternative to the Republican administration that - in response primarily to 9/11 - launched
this country into a military enterprise. We see the Republican Party expend a lot of energy trying to appeal to the electorate
based entirely on a war on terrorism launched after the 9/11 event - essentially appealing to our patriotism.
What has devolved is a conflict around who is patriotic and
who is not.
The fundamental truth of the matter is this: Neither party
has the monopoly on patriotism. Neither party is empowered to define for you and for me what it means to love your country
and what a patriotic act looks like.
The politician who says that those who do not support the
President are then in support of terrorists is deliberately denying that which is at the heart of democracy.
The politician who declares that dissent and disagreement
with national leadership is not patriotic and in fact is a betrayal of the country is deliberately denying that which is at
the heart of democracy.
The politician who declares that families with relatives on
active duty betray those relatives when they openly disagree with the administration is deliberately attempting to harm a
vital component of our political system in pursuit of a personal agenda.
If we who remain at home do not do our part to make a powerful
lobby on behalf of our military troops we may be able to lay the blame for disaster at the feet of those whose politics got
us into a disaster. However, the blame will lay more fully in our corner for believing someone else's deliberate denial of
what is at the heart of our America.
It is, after all, Our America.
There are more of us owners out of office than in office but
We the People remain in charge.
© Arthur Ruger 2005