The Great Con of American Patriotism

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Ron Kovic during military service. Courtesy of Ron Kovic.

American soldiers born decades apart in the state of New York, Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen are two crucial dissenting voices that have experienced first hand the futility and brutality of America’s interventionist wars. Kovic, a marine veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam war, has spent the rest of his life fighting against the U.S. war machine. The film Born on the Fourth of July, starring Tom Cruise, was based on his book, works he’d hoped would combine with his activism to dissuade young people from buying into the toxic patriotism that leads Americans to fight destructive, ultimately pointless wars.

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Kovic tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, “I couldn’t stop speaking against that war. I was arrested a dozen times. I--every single day was life and death. Every single day I know that there could be another young man like Ron Kovic being paralyzed, another young man from a town or a farm somewhere in this country, being killed in that war that had to stop.:

Yet Sjursen, who says he watched the film based on Kovic’s life before he was even of age to join the military, explains he sadly wasn’t able to hear past what he calls the “faux patriotism” that pushed him to attend the military academy West Point, as well as do tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I think the fact that I didn’t learn the lessons from Ron Kovic’s story,” Sjursen laments, “[is] proof of the power of the masculinity that is associated with military service, and this notion of nationalism and patriotism. It’s so prevalent that it’s, in some ways, if it’s not fought every day…it will continue despite the lessons before us.”

Listen to their brutally honest discussion about the vital need to reframe patriotism in the age of the “forever wars” and the current state of the military industrial complex. 




Joshua Scheer