The American Flag, National Anthem, Football Player Kneelers, and Me

The American Flag, National Anthem, Football Player Kneelers, and Me May 31, 2018

The American flag and national anthem have been in the news a lot in the last few years. However, this controversy is not new. On the one hand, we have some Black American football players who kneel during NFL games, with their supporters close by (white and People of Color), to protest some things they see as inequality, racism, and oppression happening in the country. On the other hand, we have many Caucasian Americans (along with some POC allies) protesting the protest, saying that this is unpatriotic or just not the proper forum to address these grievances.  I’m not writing to take sides since the conflict is pretty deep and I imagine the solution, if there is one on this side of heaven, is equally deep. So there’s not enough room in this short blog to address this adequately. 

I’m writing to add my story and hopefully another dimension, perspective, or nuance to the issue.

Every time I hear the national anthem, I choke up. Every time I see the American flag, I hear the pledge of allegiance in my head, the one I’ve recited since first grade. As my sons have been in scouts the last nine years, I’m still reciting it. The truth is that I’ve never had a family member serve in the US military or law enforcement. But I have all the respect for them. Especially the 58,220 American soldiers who died during the Vietnam War for my freedom. And I have not forgotten the hundreds of thousands more who served under the Star Spangled Banner to spread freedom and democracy on behalf of the little guys living under more despotic regimes around the world.

No, as a refugee of war, when a young democratic South Vietnam, aided by America and her allies, lost a fierce civil war to communist North Vietnam, aided by the Soviet Union and China, thousands of people were tortured, killed, imprisoned, or persecuted, all for believing in a sovereign democratic state. The pain of losing your country is real. The pain of being paid less compared to my male counterparts in this country does not compare. That is why my enemy is not imperfect America. It is not even the gruesome legacy of White supremacy. And it is definitely not the white, Christian male.

I have no animosity or grudges against the white, Christian male, because for the most part, I’ve only had good experiences with them (this is also true regarding my interactions with folks from other races/ethnicities). I even married one, straight from the predominantly white, Lutheran church that sponsored my refugee family back in 1979. In fact, during the late 1970s and 1980s, white, Christian churches throughout America partnered with the US government to voluntarily sponsor tens of thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Laos. These citizens had nothing to gain from doing so. It was Christians quietly living out their faith, with a compassionate heart for all of God’s children, that spurred them to take on the task of sponsoring non-European foreigners to immigrate to America. 

And because of these kind-hearted believers, who organized food drives, helped my parents to find work, donated hours of weekly childcare for the kids, along with other items of need, I was able to have a solid start as an American. Their actions in my early years in this country left a good taste of who Christians were. 

America-centric these folks may have been, even white nationalists they may seem. After all, who can blame them for sounding white when that’s the only skin they’d known their whole life? Who can blame them for loving their country and serving her ideals as espoused in the US Constitution, even sending adult children in harm’s way to serve in the armed forces? This is the same Constitution and government that allows for self-correction in the form of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, and other progressive laws passed since. My experience with predominantly white, Christian America has been the opposite of oppressive or racist. It’s been deeply heartwarming and at times exasperatingly delicate. Interracial marriage can be characterized the same way (but that is a topic for another day).

I also grew up with a father who was experiencing PTSD from his post-war escape journey, refugee camp experience, and adjusting to life as penniless immigrants. All I heard growing up was how evil and deceptive the Vietnamese Communists were. How sweet sounding was their political rhetoric, and how much the social justice movement in America resembled what they just fled from. 

Like other immigrants who fled despotic regimes in the Eastern European Bloc, Cuba, China, and North Korea, my parents were grieving survivors who hoped that their suffering would not be in vain. They wanted their children to live in freedom, have social and economic opportunities that were thriving for them in the former South Vietnam. They urged us kids to seize opportunities here in the land of the free.

America was, and is, a breath of fresh air. That is why when my parents became eligible to turn in their green cards and to take the tests to become naturalized US citizens in 1985, they were so proud to do so. And guess who helped Mom and Dad to study for and pass their citizenship tests? 

Vietnamese Refugee turns US Citizen
Vietnamese Refugee turns US Citizen

President Ronald Reagan was their hero in the 1980s. My parents were comforted to hear him talk about his vision of achieving peace through strength. There was hardly any mention about the racist, white Americans because the few incidences of discrimination Mom and Dad experienced in their new land paled in comparison to the suffering they endured from their own skin color back in their “homeland.” When you have to leave life and limb behind because of what your own brethren did in the name of equality and social justice, you have no more concept of “my people.”

That’s how I came to love America. Yes, the nation is majority Caucasian, and white-centric, but only a few of her citizens actually support or practice racism.  I have yet to meet one. Negative stereotypes and implicit bias—yes. Misguided notions of superiority/inferiority—yes. Abuse of power for greed and selfish ambitions—yes. Exclusivity and rigging the system to favor you and your kind—mostly likely. But the vast majority of Americans whether native born or naturalized citizens, in my experience, are like you and I–well-meaning, good people, trying to live well and do more good than evil.

I’ve had to unlearn some things I learned in childhood and young adult life, and my learning continues each year.

And that is why I love the Star Spangled Banner. It symbolizes a resilient people that keeps fighting for the more noble society. Indeed, this country has accepted me, given me legal status, and equal representation in the eyes of the law. Affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws have solidified her appeal as a more just and free country, at least when compared to the rest of the chaotic world. Her free-market capitalism, though cut throat, has attracted so many driven people seeking economic prosperity for themselves and their loved ones.

While some argue that America still needs to fix her problem with racism against POC, especially against her black brethren, good citizens from various persuasions will disagree on the best course going forward. While some focus on the third stanza of the national anthem as condoning the racist act of slavery, others point to the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform who fought for the ideals of this country as guided by the US Constitution. In fact, our constitution is a revolutionary document that has inspired numerous copycats from around the world. 

Personally, I have no ill feelings toward my fellow Americans who think differently from me. We all come from different history, family backgrounds, cultures, education, and life experiences–all of which help shape our perspectives. I will not protest anyone who feels the need to publicly protest. My enemy is neither the Vietnamese Communists, the Black Lives Matter group, nor the white supremacists. I will not write against the NFL or the anthem kneelers. I have no enemies and neither should you. 

Perhaps most importantly, I have been blessed with a faith from seeds that were planted in me many years ago. This Jesus has opened my eyes to see Him and He is everywhere. He is at work in our lives, constantly, behind the scenes, through people of various skin color. He is good, all the time. And He alone is great, the source of our hope out of this dark messy world.

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  • Michael Dodaro

    Excellent article and much needed perspective on rhetoric I hear frequently in my church, Episcopal, about social justice and white male privilege.

  • Thank you!

  • DebbyJane65

    Excellent article. AMEN.

  • Though the above article is based on good intentions, it is also based on factual errors from the writing of The Constitution to the Vietnam War. That the writing of The Constitution was about strengthening the federal government so it could better respond, in terms of maintaining the status quo, to widespread dissent and insurrections like Shays Rebellion, America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was the result of America rejecting the democratic process for Vietnam. The Geneva Accords dictated that reunification of Vietnam was to be decided democratically by the Vietnamese people. But because of fear, that reunification was not accepted by the American government. So just as the democratically elected gov’t of Iran under Mossadegh in 1953, the democratically elected government of Guatemala under Arbenz in 1954, the possible election of a left-leaning gov’t in Greece in 1967, or the democratically elected gov’t of Allende in Chilé in 1972 were not acceptable to the US, they were replaced with dictators. And there were other examples of America overthrowing gov’ts that it disapproved of. America’s first involvement in Vietnam was to put South Vietnam under the control of a dictator, not a democracy.

    I understand the sentiment of the person writing the above article, but the sentiment is based on falsehoods that were repeatedly taught as truth. And thus what I just wrote will appear as harsh and false. But what I wrote above is well-documented and true. And my fear is that we confuse our idealisms, like the idealism we believe about our own nation, with God’s voice and thus believe what isn’t true. Regarding Vietnam, we need to come to grips with the millions of civilians we killed in that conflict so that we could control who would lead that nation. And we can’t blame our atrocities on the atrocities of our enemies.

    Our society has been based on white supremacy from its founding. That white supremacy was shown in how we both ethnically cleansed Native Americans from the land and enslaved Blacks. And while we continued ethnically cleanse Native Americans from the land after the Civil War, Reconstruction was quickly followed by Jim Crow. And now the most patriotic of us, white conservatives voted for a President who promised to ban Muslims from entering the nation and build a wall to keep out Mexicans about whom he made racist generalizations. And all of that is because they don’t want to share with those in need many of whom were put in need by US policies.

    So while some may count what I wrote as unpatriotic, I would rather be unpatriotic in describing my nation than sound like the Pharisee from the parable of the two men praying.

  • Hello Curt, your comments about the Vietnam War and Geneva Accords reflect that of an outsider. History is written by the victorious, just like white supremacy and racism have been minimized or justified in US history by the white majority for centuries. Your understanding of the South Vietnamese refugee perspective will improve if you dialogue with more of them. But many are too old, don’t speak enough English, or dying so that is unfortunate that you espouse a limited, skewed perspective that you believe is the whole history. And unfortunately, it is an anti-American attitude that is pervasive in academia and popular culture today.

    You are right that being in denial of the facts of history is not helpful, but neither is being stuck in white guilt. America is neither pure not sinless, but that is true of every other nation as well. I’m reminded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23) and that includes not just non-believers, or white Christians, but also POC. Furthermore, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12 Therefore, my advocacy is not against a race, political party, or nation. Thanks for engaging.

  • Tim F

    Your freedom was never dependent upon those 58k+ who were killed in Vietnam. I’m surprised and saddened to have read that from you.

    Tim Felegy.

  • Michael Dodaro

    This rhetoric has become so pervasive, Curt, that one begins to analyze the sources that have been propagating it for 40-50 years. I was was at the University or Oregon in the late 1960s when the then new left was hyping this line. I didn’t buy it then, even though it rationalized staying in school to avoid the draft. I was an English major and now I’m a professional writer, so I have not completely evaded the treads in the humanities that have become the rationale for attacks on Western Civilization and American culture in particular. When you condemn American institutions for abuses, it begs the question. Compared to what? Kim’s family was painfully aware of the similarity of current social justice rhetoric to that of the Communist “liberators” in Vietnam. Western institutions improved the lives of millions of people before and while left wing governments perpetrated atrocities.

    In academe, deconstructionist ideology is the core of this rhetoric. The humanities are soaked in deconstructionist ideology, which is at bottom moral relativism mixed with Marxist class struggle. Among the most frequently heard rants about American culture and institutions is the claim that they sustain white male privilege.

    Deconstructionist literary theory spills over into legal deliberations. Rorty became a legal scholar. The currently hanging argument that a transgender student in North Carolina can use the bathroom of his/her choice is based, legally, on the deconstruction of sex/gender currently in fashion: if there are exceptions to biological sex as understood everywhere, the classification is invalid and should be deconstructed and replaced with fluid gender identity. But, one doesn’t have to be a metaphysical realist, per Thomas Aquinas, to think sex is real and valid in human anthropology. It isn’t white male privilege that sustains it.

    Much of the race baiting in politics is academic deconstruction of American institutions that have proven very useful in advancing human rights. Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to documented ideals: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'” and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    When there remains inequality of outcome for black people, this morphs into judgement that the American ethos and institutions are steeped in racism. Merit isn’t applicable because institutions themselves allegedly favor white males. Affirmative action isn’t enough. Black people are absolved of moral responsibility; crimes are justifiable revolt against oppression. It is seriously argued that only black identity politics can change structural evil. Race becomes the main criterion in class struggle.

    Aggrieved classes ally themselves in a power block on the basis of “intersectionality” that includes women, people of color, homosexuals, supposedly refugees and immigrants, legal or illegal. My experience at a Muslim interfaith event recently puts some of this in question. Muslims are claiming the same rhetoric as King claimed fifty years ago. Others in the Middle East are expecting God to win the last battle for them and empower Islam and the Mullahs. Dissenters are to be beheaded. Compared to what, Curt, is American culture irredeemable?

    Muslims are being liberalized in America, just as the church has been liberalized. Post Reformation state churches fought centuries of religious wars, but American denominational pluralism, separation of church and state, and freedom to choose in an open market of churches, has civilized our churches. Now mainline Protestants are being sidelined by millions of Evangelicals, on world scale, who are anything but liberal in the current meaning of the word.

    In my church, Episcopalians are ensconced in the politics of intersectionality. The “Reclaiming Jesus” statement and the marches it inspires are a thinly veiled attack on Evangelicals’ and conservative Christians’ involvement in politics.

  • Kim,
    US policies in Vietnam have no connection with South Vietnamese refugees. Talking to them will enlighten us about their experiences , but not about US policies that date back Roosevelt and WW II and agreements made with France.

    Describing my perspective as skewed wins no logic points. Using facts and logic to disprove what I wrote, does. Unfortunately, I think that facts logic are on my side and I cited some of them.

    Finally, the value of being stuck in guilt depends on many factors in including history. For example should allow Germany to forget the Holocaust? But it seems that today’s American foreign policies are based on a denial of past sins and failures.

  • Michael,
    See, I mentioned some specific details of the context of both the Vietnam War and the writing of The Constitution. However, I don’t see you dealing with those specific details. Instead, you attach some label to my overall approach as if once you label that approach, you in some way have control over it. The problem is for as long as those details are true, your labels become worthless. For as long as those details are true, it matters not whether I am writing as a Post Modernist, which I am not btw.

    Labeling the writings of others gives you no upper hand, it simply allows you divert attention from the specific details mentioned. And those details tell us that America has a lot of sins to account for before we start attributing our any of our ideals to the flag that symbolizes what our nation is about. In the meantime, it would be wiser for us to to listen to those kneeling during the playing of our national anthem than to ignore them. For they too are trying to draw attention to the sins of our nation

  • Michael Dodaro

    I don’t acknowledge that the Constitution was written to suppress insurrections. There have clearly been mistakes in the Mid East. They don’t undermine the legitimacy of American democratic capitalism or the institutions that that have made it possible for free people to engage in the most life supportive and productive enterprise the world has yet known. The West is a civilizing veneer over tribal and oligarchic organization of human society. The rhetoric of grievance against the West mainly undermines the legitimacy of the best humanity has been able to muster in a long history of oppression. Vietnam would not have been the debacle it was absent the leftist propaganda my generation promulgated in the 1960s.

  • Michael,
    Until you deal with the facts I listed in my first comment, it matters not what you acknowledge about The Constitution or assert about the US or the Vietnam War.

  • Michael Dodaro

    What you listed are a bunch of unsupported assertions, not facts. I see one fact: The Geneva Accords dictated that reunification of Vietnam was to be decided democratically by the Vietnamese people.

  • Michael,
    Not at all. Though I didn’t provide documentation, it is easily available for each of the assertions I made. You can look at all of the Constitutional references to the Militia as well as look up Shays Rebellion. And you can easily look up the Robert Yates’s notes on the Constitution convention that preceded the writing of The Constitution. You can also look up Henry Knox’s letter to George Washington which preceded the convention In those notes you see references to economic classes with the assertion that the other classes must always depend on the Landed-Interests. You see Madison’s disdain for opening elections up to all classes of people and you can look up the Federalists Papers’ references to factions.

    With Vietnam, during WW II, we had agreed to help the French recolonize Vietnam though we knew that France was exploiting Vietnam. Having rejected the Geneva Accords, we installed a dictator, a king, not a democracy. And you should look up the history of Vietnam’s first elected leader during the war.

    In 1953, we helped the Brits overthrow Mossadegh in Iran and installed the Shah who brutally oppressed dissidents. And we did because of the business repercussions and the fact that Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the nation’s oil resources. We overthrew Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 because he wanted agrarian reform and United Fruit was opposed to that. We installed a dictator in his place. And the facts go on…

    I could go on but these are historical facts that one can easily look up. You are simply arguing with history.

  • Michael Dodaro

    History isn’t nearly as simple as your interpretation of history. I have no obligation to research your claims in your sources. If you want to convince anybody, you have an obligation to support your claims with more than overworked rhetoric that people have heard since the mid 1960s.

  • Michael,
    I believe you are the one who has oversimplified history. For what did you write?

    They don’t undermine the legitimacy of American democratic capitalism or
    the institutions that that have made it possible for free people to
    engage in the most life supportive and productive enterprise the world
    has yet known. The West is a civilizing veneer over tribal and
    oligarchic organization of human society. The rhetoric of grievance
    against the West mainly undermines the legitimacy of the best humanity
    has been able to muster in a long history of oppression. Vietnam would
    not have been the debacle it was absent the leftist propaganda my
    generation promulgated in the 1960s.

    As Christian, what I have observed is that sometimes religion is about self-worship, not the worship of God. And Patriotism does not provide an exception to that observation.

  • Michael Dodaro

    I work every day with people who have been lifted out of poverty by Western democratic capitalism–Indian, Chinese, immigrants who, I was told fifty years ago, were going to starve as a result of the population bomb. Capitalism and Western technology brought prosperity instead of doom. Communist regimes murdered in excess of a hundred million people in the twentieth century. These are facts that any honest observer can see. Christianity requires rational assessment of social institutions on the basis of the values Jesus preached and demonstrated: all people are created in the image of God and have the capacity to be creative. God does not compel anybody to obey or even believe these ideals, and Western freedom is built on this foundation.

  • Michael,
    And when I was social worker, I worked with kids of people who were put in poverty. When I taught college, I came in contact with students who lost white collar jobs because of the economy. And when I see the UN reports on poverty in the US, the news is not as cheerful as your workplace experiences. In addition, it seems that you don’t understand the original definition of the word stakeholder. Because that definition includes far more people than either of us come in contact with.

    And if you want condemn the bolsheviks or the Maoists or Castro or others who employ elite-centered rule, I agree. But those people have no monopoly on elite-centered rule. We have an elite-centered rule here (see ). It is just our government has a more democratic veneer to cover that elite-centered rule than the Bolsheviks or the Maoists. But note that neither Capitalism nor Socialism are monoliths.

    But your note is confusing here. For you have yet to refute the facts I have brought up and now you are changing the subject.

  • Michael Dodaro

    I think the subject of this discussion is whether the United States is worthy of respect in a five minute anthem before a football game. When I said American civil society is a veneer over tribal identity politics, my claim was, and is, that we have largely kept tribal impulses in check for more than 200 years, not perfectly, but we could lose the progress we’ve made if we don’t appreciate and sustain it. Condemnation of flaws in the American system has a place, and football players with a sense of injustice have a right to express themselves. Fans who take offense have an equal right to boycott the NFL. I took issue with your statements that American institutions are based on racism. I quoted MLK Jr who appealed to documented American values to make progress against evident injustice. Progress came about because Jim Crow laws and racist practices were inconsistent with documented non-racist ideals.

  • Michael,
    You are talking about a requirement for everyone where people’s experiences are different and in a nation with free speech. And in doing so, you denied some of the history of our nation which I mentioned.

    In addition, claiming American exceptionalism, which has been done almost from the beginning of our nation, is the epitome of tribalism. So no, American civil society has not held tribalism in check. It expanded and built much of its initial empire on a White Supremacy driven tribalism. And what Martin Luther King Jr. cited is still merely just a formal value, not an actual value that is at the heart of America. All one has to do is to continue to look at the racism and classism in our nation or suggest that the US be under the jurisdiction of the ICC to where the heart of America is. BTW, you might be interested in knowing that Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the ‘greatest purveyor of violence in the world’ was the American government.

    So while King appealed to a formal value written down, the working value of America has always been millions of miles away. THat would America one of the biggest purveyors of hypocrisy in the world.

  • Michael Dodaro

    Back to square one, Curt. Compared to what?

  • Michael,
    I am understanding your question to apply to King’s statement. And the answer is to all nation’s in the world.

  • Michael Dodaro

    In the largest conflict of the twentieth century, sixty million people died. Surely you don’t attribute all those deaths to American imperialism. Also during the twentieth century communist and socialist regimes starved or murdered in excess of one hundred million.

  • Michael,
    But not only were we a part of that largest conflict, but wasn’t King talking about the then present time of 1967?

    Also, please provide a breakdown by country and time of the 100 million who were starved and murdered by communist and socialist regimes. Realize that not all socialists regard all the regimes that claimed to be socialist to actually be socialist. In other words, just as Republicans have RINOs, so too Socialists have SINOs.

  • Michael Dodaro

    The statistics are debatable, but suppose you show me an example of communism or socialism that works and has been productive on the scale of democratic capitalism.

  • Michael,
    First, the stats are still incomplete to support the comparative claims being made. For example, how many of those who died in North Korea died as a result of the Korean War, in general, and the US carpet bombing of North Korea as well as its attempt to take over North Korea after it had beaten back the initial invasion? Please note that the carpet bombing of North Korea is considered to be comparable with the WW II bombing of Germany and Japan (see

    As to Vietnam, how many of those deaths were do to US military actions? For example, how did the bombing of South Vietnam compare in the bombs dropped and deaths caused with US bombing in WW II (see )?

    Third, unless famines were deliberately used to attack the people, how could the number of deaths from the Chinese famine be construed as violence? IN addition, how did the death rate in China from the famines compare with the death rates from other nations during their worst famines? After all, back then, China had the world’s largest population and thus if say 5% of their people died from a famine, then that would be a far greater number than double that percentage of people from Ireland dying from a famine or the number of Vietnamese who were killed in the Vietnam War? Also, for China, what was the breakdown of the number of the 35+ Million deaths by year? Note that 35+ Million represents those who were killed by famine.

    Fourth, as with China, what was the breakdown of those killed by Soviet Union Communism by years? Did that include WW II deaths? How were the estimates of those killed outside of the Civil War separated from those deaths that came as a result of the Civil War since that war started almost immediately after the October, 1917 Revolution? How do we account for the number of Socialists purged and killed by Lenin’s regime? Does that make his regime Communist especially since his first economic program was part “socialist” and part capitalist (see ). Remember that in the Civil War, a number of western nations joined the White Russians in battling the Bolsheviks.

    Fourth, regarding Afghanistan, how many deaths were due to the government’s policies for the nation that were outside having to battle groups led by Osama bin Laden and others like him. Realize that the US, along with Saudi Arabia, started funding people like bin Laden in his fight in Afghanistan in around 1979 to 1980. And they were funded in order to bring the Russians into a Vietnam War type conflict.

    I could go on but here is the point. You are comparing accumulative deaths from as far back as 1918 to the 1990s with a specific point in time of the latter 1960s. You are also counting as one a number of different national conflicts compared with the US war in Vietnam. And you are not distinguishing deaths that come as a consequence of non-deliberately made famines with deaths that come from war. And you are counting communism/socialism as a monolith even though not only were socialists victims of purges by Lenin and Stalin, but that their ruling over their nations are not considered to be communist/socialist by many socialists. That is why you need a further detailed breakdown of statistics to evaluate King’s statement. For it seems King was comparing the US to other individual countries during the latter part of the 1960s. And not only was King looking at Vietnam, he was also looking at other places the US was involved and at home. Other nations that the US intervened in starting with 1964 included the Congo, Laos, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Indonesia, Ghana, Guatemala, and Panama.

  • Michael Dodaro

    If only half of the deaths were due socialist and communist atrocities, they are sufficient to make my point. I’ve read the Gulag Archipelago. Have you?
    Can you supply an example of a working socialist state, or any government, that has supported comparable opportunity and freedom to what has existed in the US for more than two hundred years?

  • Michael,
    First, you questioned King’s state as he made statement that was referred to a specific point in time while you were referring to a time period of around 8 to 9 decades.

    Second, you are assuming that at least half of the deaths were due to communist or socialist regimes. I am saying that your data is not specific enough to assign any amount of those deaths to to communist or socialist regimes. That doesn’t imply that no deaths can be attributed to people like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and so forth, but that the data provided does not allow us to estimate..

    Third, when did you look at the number of deaths attributed to the US throughout its history. For example, how many Native Americans were killed by ethnic cleansing. How many Africans were killed in the transporting or running of slavery in the US. How many Blacks were killed during Jim Crow or the race riots such as in East St. Louis, Chicago, Tulsa, and so forth? How many people were killed by our ventures in the Spanish American War and our incursions into the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, and so forth? How many people were killed after we helped replace regimes in Iran, Brazil, Haiti, Guatemala, Chilé, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and so forth or our invasion of Vietnam and North Korea or the number of civilians we killed in WW II? But more than that, what was the death rate of those nations from our interventions? Most of that hundred million, or half of it, comes from some of the most populated nations in the world.

    Fourth, are you going to attribute those deaths from the Soviet Union where both Lenin and Stalin purged their parties to those Socialists who opposed Lenin and Stalin? Or are you going to attribute the deaths in China to those socialists who oppose what Mao did? Are you going acknowledge that, like Capitalism, Socialism is not a monolith and thus it seems that you attributing to all Socialists what some, some of which were not Socialists in the eyes of many Socialists, did. Why not compare the communism from all those nations with the number of deaths from Western colonialism and the wars that followed afterwards?

    What King said I think is true and you haven’t provided any evidence to disprove it. That the greatest purveyor of violence in the world in the 2nd half of the 1960s was the US. And, it seems that is true today.

  • Michael Dodaro

    You want to condemn the US and ignore atrocities by socialist regimes. Seems you are the jingoist or at least an over zealous apologist for socialism. This is too similar to the “patriotism” that you dismiss as self worship. Left wing cant often appeals to a moral equivalence doctrine–we are no better than they are–but you exclusively condemn America. You discount King’s appeal to principles explicit in the Declaration of Independence. You disparage the Constitution, not acknowledging its revolutionary separation of powers. But you claim Kings accusations about American war deaths as somehow conclusive.
    I asked for an example of better government than has actually existed in the US for more than two hundred years. As a socialist, you must think some of the experiments with socialism have been successful. Where are they? To what do you compare the American story.

  • Michael,
    You’re too eager to accuse. I’ve never ignored the atrocities of people like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, or others. All I have said is that, like Capitalism, Socialism is not a monolith. The form of Capitalism followed after WW II is not the kind of Capitalism employed today. Likewise, what you would call Socialism in how Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and others is not what I call Socialism from a Marxist tradition. Why? It is because the first concern and most basic tenet of Socialism from the Maxist tradition involves the proletariat dictatorship. And yet if you look, you won’t find any resemblance of a proletariat dictatorship in the reign of those just mentioned. I have said before that, just as Republicans have RINOs, Socialists have SINOs.

    Please note what your comment is in response to. It is in response to a comparison between deaths caused by the reigns of people like Lenin, Stalin, and so forth without using the necessary statistics to determine how many of those deaths were really attributable to those people and without providing any stats as to the number of deaths that can be attributed to the US throughout its history.

    Make no mistake, I consider Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro and such to be monsters who were guilty of gross atrocities. And that I readily admit that they performed such atrocities in the name of Socialism/Communism. But they don’t represent the kind of Socialism I believe in just as other forms of Capitalism don’t represent the kind of Capitalism you believe in.

    As for a better government, you still can’t fully acknowledge the atrocities that have been committed by the US and yet you want a better form of government. Personally, Germany’s current form of government is preferable to ours as are the governments of some Scandinavian nations. It would have been interesting to see what governments would be formed by Mossadegh in Iran and Allende in Chilé but US interventions replaced their governments with dictatorships as the US also replace Arbenz’s government in Guatemala with a dictatorship and stopped the democratic process in Greece in order to install a military dictatorship.

    And those interventions provide a picture of the problem. Where leftist governments have emerged from democracies, the US has repeatedly replaced those governments with dictatorships so we don’t know what would have happened. Venezuela’s leftist government failed and it emerged from a democracy but it failed for the same economic reasons that its government failed in the 1980s and 1990s before the leftists took over.

    There is no form of government that is infallible because all governments are made up by people. But one thing is clear, elite-centered governments are the most dangerous governments because of the consolidation of power. And the “communist” governments like Lenin’s, Stalin’s, Mao’s, Castro’s, and so forth have no monopoly on elite-centered rule. The US has been reclassified as an oligarchy (see ). And the reason for that is that in Capitalist countries, power follows wealth. We should note that Germany, even though it has mostly a capitalist economy, actually has somewhat of a hybrid economic system with its codetermination laws

  • Michael Dodaro

    Now you are on the moral equivalence doctrine, but you still have not identified a socialist government that works. Germany isn’t socialist. Though it provides more social services to its citizens than the US, private ownership is still making opportunity for business people and those employed by privately owned businesses.

  • michael,
    Don’t you understand after all of the examples I provided? With a couple of exceptions, all of the democratically elected left-leaning governments that emerged from democracies were over thrown and replaced with dictatorships by the US. And even those governments that survived that can’t fully implement socialism until they break away from the WTO because the WTO lays claim to sovereignty over a nation’s economic system.

    And something else you don’t understand is that with all of its private ownership, the US is not functioning as a democracy. That was the point of the last article I provided for you.

    In addition, the codeterination practiced by Germany is the closest thing to what Marx advocated that is practiced today. Most conservatives equate big government with socialism and that is not the case. What Marx advocated was workers control of both the workplace and the government. The abolition of private property and religion didn’t, according to Marx, mean the elimination of either one. Rather the abolition of the two occurs when government is freed from the control of those who are religious and from the wealthy who own property. And why did Marx want the abolition of religion and private property in that sense? It is so that everyone could participate in society as equals. And that is what we have never had in this nation despite all your bragging (see ):

    Is not private property abolished in idea if the non-property owner has
    become the legislator for the property owner? The property qualification
    for the suffrage is the last political form of giving recognition to private

    Nevertheless, the political annulment of private property not
    only fails to abolish private property but even presupposes it. The state
    abolishes, in its own way, distinctions of birth, social rank, education,
    occupation, when it declares that birth, social rank, education, occupation,
    are non-political distinctions, when it proclaims, without regard to these
    distinction, that every member of the nation is an equal participant
    in national sovereignty, when it treats all elements of the real life of
    the nation from the standpoint of the state. Nevertheless, the state allows
    private property, education, occupation, to act in their
    way – i.e., as private property, as education, as occupation, and
    to exert the influence of their special nature. Far from abolishing
    these real distinctions, the state only exists on the presupposition of
    their existence; it feels itself to be a political state and asserts its
    universality only in opposition to these elements of its being.

    But in Capitalism, power follows wealth and thus the consolidation of wealth leads to the consolidation of power. And nothing shows that more than today’s U.S. government.

    So tell me, which Capitalist nation has thrived without relying on the exploitation of large groups of people somewhere in the world?

  • Michael,
    In addition to what I just wrote, realize that the opposite of moral equivalency is moral relativity.

  • Michael Dodaro

    Democratic capitalism has existed in actual fact against the long history of various kinds of oligarchy and against theoretical socialism. Democratic capitalism has continued to lift millions out of poverty for more than two hundred years. In the past fifty years formerly doctrinaire socialist states have adopted capitalist economics and prospered far beyond anything they achieved previously. We may as well agree to disagree because you are not going to convince me that the reason there are no viable socialist states is that capitalists states have strangled them in the cradle. The British Empire was against the independent states that became American government. The twentieth century is awash in failed socialist experiments. This ideology, promoted for a hundred years by intelligent people aspiring to be on the right side of history, isn’t any longer credible.

  • Michael,
    Democratic Capitalism is an oxymoron. Why? The answer is rather simple. Capitalism provides one vote per dollar, democracy provides one vote per person.

    We have oligarchy now because we believed that we have a “democratic capitalism.” One only has to look at which influences the other more, is it our democracy that influences our capitalism more than our capitalism influences our democracy, or is it the other way around.. Our “democracy” greatly resembles our capitalism, it is based on conquest and control. Each political group is looking to conquer the other groups rather than share power with. We might think that democracy is about majority rule, but it is more than that. Democracy is about more than the political procedures used to choose leaders and make decisions. Otherwise, nations like Iraq under Saddam Hussein or today’s Russia or Iran would be counted as democracies.

    But there is a missing ingredient to democracy that political processes alone do not provide. That missing ingredient is equality in terms of how we share society with each other. Consider what is written below:

    All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will
    of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful
    must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which
    equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us,
    then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore
    to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty
    and even life itself are but dreary things.

    Currently, because of our economic system, we have an absence of equal rights and thus we have oppression. We see this in everyday life. We see race-based law enforcement. But not just race-based law enforcement, we have class-based law enforcement so that those financial institutions whose risky business used fraud that eventually crashed the system are not criminally prosecuted unlike the person possessing minuscule amounts of marijuana is. We see officials from banks launder money for drug cartels go unpunished because their institutions are considered too big to fail while some are arrested and even framed simply because of their race. If you read the study referred to by the article I provided the link to, you will see that it is those with wealth are the ones who have the ear of our elected officials, not us. And a recent UN report backs that assessment (see ). So your claim that Democratic Capitalism is lifting millions out of poverty is not only a misrepresentation of what is actually claimed, it is unsubstantiated. It is said that the free market is lifting more and more people out of abject poverty. But there is more than one level of poverty. And so while some are lifted out of abject poverty, which is defined by living on less than $1.xx per day, wealth disparity both within nations and between nations is growing and American poverty is much worse than you realize.

    Why do you think The Constitution was written in the first place? It was because of the widespread dissent over the economic conditions and Shays Rebellion. And the government formed by The Constitution was formed to prevent novelty and factions, from having their way. But those labels were used by those with wealth, such as James Madison, in order to keep the status quo because he opposed democracy. Consider that Pinkney said, during the Constitutional debates, that the other classes must forever rely on the landed interests because the landed interests of his day were those with the most wealth. Or why James Madison expressed fear that England would open its elections to all classes of people because such would result in agrarian reform (see ).

    Einstein made the following observations and he was not alone in making it (see ):

    most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest.
    The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically,
    as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for
    themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood
    from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made
    the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a
    system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large
    extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

    And he saw Capitalism as continuing that predatory nature of man:

    Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no
    provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a
    position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always
    exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since
    unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market,
    the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is
    the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more
    unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The
    profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is
    responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of
    capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited
    competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the
    social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

    This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our
    whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated
    competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to
    worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

    IMO, you seem to understand neither the political-economic system you claim to defend nor socialism from the Marxist tradition. So instead of answering specifics, you look to discredit. That is why you posted about the hundred million killed by communism/socialism without looking into the details of the statistics you cited. That is why you made a quip about moral equivalence. And that is why you didn’t address the article whose link I provided and how it provided a study that showed how it is those with wealth who have the ear of our elected officials, not ourselves. So instead of addressing the details, you make this claim about Democratic Capitalism even though the former is based on egalitarianism while the latter is based on conquest-based privilege.

  • Michael Dodaro

    You are so voluble, Curt, that I have stopped reading much of what you send. I don’t think anybody else is reading it. I don’t know whom you are quoting in boldface type. You are a Christian, so I assume we share faith in Jesus resurrection. We don’t share much in terms of what we believe leads to human thriving in this world that there might be life before death.
    Inequality of result doesn’t reduce to oligarchy. Some people are very ambitious and in a capitalist system they are free to produce value that is not zero sum. I have worked for twenty years in an “empire” built by a well known capitalist. His technologies have benefited millions while making him rich, and now he’s a philanthropist. The poor in the US are better off than many of the middle classes in China, the former Soviet Union, Vietnam, Venezuela, or any socialist economy.

  • Michael,
    If you are not going to read documentation, then it seems that you are interested in evidence and facts. And such allows you to keep the views you have regardless of the evidence.

    Inequality per se doesn’t lead to oligarchy. But growing inequality does and the issue brought up by some of the documentation I have provided concerns itself with whether we have an oligarchy.

    Finally, one of the problems that many conservative ideologues have is that they reduce the what is happening in the world to what they experience and they reduce the number of stakeholders in a venture to just those who are visible. And usually, those who are visible are those who prosper. In addition, they brag about the poor in the US and how they compare to others without really having gone to other places. I’ve met some of the poor here and no, they aren’t doing as well as you seem to think. Some of the poor work full-time jobs and are homeless. Others choose between rent, food, and health care. In addition, I already provided a key criteria in defining socialism from a Marxist tradition and asked you to apply that criteria to those nations you claimed were socialist, but you seem uninterested.

    If you want to really understand the poor, then do what one Cal Berkley Economics professor did. He lived with them for a year because he knew that his discipline’s vocabulary did not speak to their experiences.

    If you want to continue to converse, then at least browse through the links and stop with the labeling. Labeling is just an authoritarian move that attempts to discredit conflicting views rather than dealing with the facts and logic involved.

  • Michael,
    I also wanted to comment on your remark about our shared faith. One of the biggest threats to our faith consists of the other groups we join. It is inevitable that we belong to multiple groups. However, belonging to those groups threatens our faith when our loyalty to those groups continue to grow. As loyalty to other groups continue to grow, we start creating syncretisms and then start feeling free to labeling fellow Christians in an effort to discredit the groups they belong to. And eventually, we start conflating our faith with the beliefs of those groups. That last step is very evident in those who hold to Liberation Theology. But it is also evident in many American Christians who grew up in a privileged state in our Capitalist economy.

    To avoid the dangers posed by our loyalty to other groups, especially ideological ones, it is best to be able to criticize the ideologies that one holds to. I have plenty of criticisms of Marx’s system and I hope you have the same of Capitalism whether it is the Capitalism implemented after WW II or today’s Capitalism.

  • Michael Dodaro

    We hold conflicting views about economics, but your ad hominem rhetoric has been incidental. I appreciate that. I’m an Episcopalian and get attacked in my own community for my views, often by people not nearly as articulate as you are. You are evidently passionate about socialism and believe it would benefit Christians and everybody, but the excessive verbiage seems mostly intimidation. Are your quotes without attribution intentionally concealing the sources–Marx or Chairman Mao?

    Why are you expending so much effort on an obscure blog discussion? I have excessive verbiage of my own. I write a dozen blogs, some technical, some arty, some about the politics one cannot evade working in technology. I participate in various forums but seldom to this length. I also write documentation for computer programmers for which I am well compensated. I might write in a different vein if I retire in a year or so.

    You have ideas that could be persuasive in a more disciplined format. Write a book (you might need an editor). Episcopalians are good prospects for your socialist campaign. Join Episcopalians on Facebook. Most of my posts get deleted there rather than discussed, apparently because few of the social justice advocates have the guts to engage the perspectives I bring. You engage, and generally, only evade by excess. The Episcopalians evade my sources by castigating them “far right”, or they complain and get me deleted by the administrator.

    I suppose we have alienation in common. Something to be said for that. :0)

  • Michael,
    But you are denying the facts about what growing wealth disparity does especially in Capitalist nations where power follows wealth. You could look at some of what the IMF says about growing wealth disparity:

  • Michael,
    It is your use of labels to try to discredit what was said that shows the use of ad hominem attacks here. And it seems that you are not willing to consider evidence that doesn’t support your present view. And, again, that is a reflection on you. So until you are willing to deal with details, facts, and evidence, I will ignore your comments.

  • Michael Dodaro

    Whom are you quoting without attribution?

  • Michael,
    If you are talking about a few comments back, I was quoting Thomas Jefferson from his first inaugural speech (see My point in quoting him is that Democracy is not just a set of political procedures, it is a state of being for a nation.

  • Michael Dodaro

    You are not being truthful, Curt. This and following is Karl Marx: “Is not private property abolished in idea if the non-property owner has
    become the legislator for the property owner? The property qualification for the suffrage is the last political form of giving recognition to private property.”
    in a notorious anti-Semitic essay, “On the Jewish Question” (1843)

  • Michael,
    NO, Marx’s essay was not anti-semitic. If any part of that essay was anti-semitic, it was the comments made by Bruno Bauer to whom he was responding.

    But your response is not surprising. You have taken the authoritarian approach of using labels to try to discredit what was written. Obviously, you don’t know the point Marx was making and have not read that work.

    If you want to continue to converse, stop the authoritarian approach of trying to discredit.

  • Guthrum

    Why is this not an issue in the NHL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NASCAR, PGA?

  • Widuran

    Interesting article

  • kyuss

    …Vietnam War for my freedom…

    LOL. I didn’t realize that the Vietnamese had invaded YOUR country…

    Also, America LOST the Vietnam War. Did you loose your freedom? Didn’t think so.

  • The North Vietnamese Communists invaded South Vietnam with the help of their sympathizers in the South (VietCong). All the South Vietnamese lost their freedom. The new Communists seized people’s bank accounts, property, people were jailed for being associated with the former government, the press, schools, and media were under Communist control and censored. The victorious (due to America’s lack of resolve to defeat them) persecuted political dissidents, jailed and tortured many, and rewrote history to paint their struggle as one against America. But the fact remains that they fought a bloody war against the South Vietnamese in which over two million soldiers died defending South Vietnam. May God bless America for defending the cause of freedom and democracy throughout the world. Thank you, Veterans! Thank you, America, for taking me and my family in when we were homeless and stateless. Our freedom here is precious and not to be taken for granted.