Samuel Johnson in the 18th century said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But for certain today, patriotism is a battleground. Being labeled unpatriotic or anti-American have become routine terms of abuse. Somehow the state has been invested with some extraordinary power and people are to be silent and obey in respectful awe. As Martin Luther King, Jr said in his great Riverside Church speech in 1967, “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, citizens do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in a time of war.” Perhaps true patriotism would be to raise uncomfortable questions that challenge the official story. Principled dissent has historically been a hallmark of a vibrant democracy .
Michael Parenti is one of this country’s foremost independent political analysts. Cornel West calls him, “a towering prophetic voice.” He has taught at major colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. He is the author of numerous books including the classic Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Face of Imperialism, and The Assassination of Julius Caesar.