Friday, July 19, 2019

Love It or Leave It

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else. -- Clarence Darrow

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.-- Mark Twain

Love it or leave it. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the consistent message from Nixon and LBJ, the Klan, university presidents, military generals, dirty cops, Young Americans for Freedom, the GOP, neo-Nazi apologists, and other right-wing co-conspirators. Progressives and liberals who demanded changes to the racist and oppressive capitalistic system, and who did not heed the warning to “love it or leave it,” became targets of harassment, intimidation, threats, violence, imprisonment, assassination.

Love it or leave it. Some wise-guy Chicanos, in response to the anti-democratic slogan, hung banners that proclaimed, “This is Aztlan! Love it or leave it.” The message was lost on all but a few cultural nationalist activists. 

Love it or leave it.  Many did leave. Anti-war draft-dodgers fled to Canada or Mexico. Embittered artists ex-patted to Europe. Burned-out communists and socialists migrated to Russia or Cuba. Home-grown radicals left their families and class status and went underground, some with violent revolution on their agenda.

Love it or leave it. Some returned to face a paranoid, uptight America. Disillusioned Vietnam War veterans morphed into anti-war protestors. Weather Underground cadre turned up as professors, lawyers, and next-door neighbors. Civil Rights Movement leaders stood trial and went to prison, or community service, or on book tours.

Love it or leave it. The four dead in Ohio did not have the option to leave. Nor did the murdered Jackson State students, Ruben Salazar, Los Seis de Boulder, numerous Black Panthers and Chicano activists, Ricardo Falcon, victims of Native American genocide, MLK, Malcom X … It’s a never-ending list.

Love it or leave it. Like a well-trained demagogue, Trump resurrected the old slogan, with a twist. His message was, “If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it." At his recent Mussolini-style rallies, the chant, “Send her back,” apparently directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has erupted to cheers and a laughing, approving Trump. This week, hard on Trump’s racist coattails, a Virginia church hung a sign that reads, “America: Love or Leave It.”

Love it or leave it. And so, we spiral out-of-control back to the “good old days” of blind patriotism, where criticism of the country is not allowed, where standing up to racist authority is attacked as being disloyal, where, in fact, any questioning of or opposition to the power in control is condemned as treason.

Love it or leave it. Here’s all I can say to that: I love my country. I’m fearful about the future of my country. My country needs to change. Trump and his lapdog followers are dangerous racists. I support the Congresswomen singled out for abuse by Trump. I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, even though the President of the U.S. obviously does not. These ideals must be protected and nurtured if we are to survive as a democracy.

I'm not going anywhere.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.)


Susana Vincent said...

AMEN. (Y bien hecho.)

Anonymous said...

Evangelicals have always been pieces of you know what.