o say can you see

The morning bell brought the playground swirl to a halt and sent all us children running to line up by class.

The morning bell brought the playground swirl to a halt and sent all us children running to line up by class.

Two lines marked out each class in descending order by grade, girls in their pleated, blue tunics and white blouses to the right and boys in proper shirts and slacks to the left. A morning prayer officially began our day at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Elementary School in Kansas City.

With hands held over our hearts we all turned to face the flag. The tall pole holding it marked the boundary between the paved portion of the large playground and a dirt field reserved for rougher games.

In unison again we repeated, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Grade by grade then we filed from the playground in silence, our day had begun.

This daily ritual reinforced a deep in our bones adherence to the proffered notions of God and country. To criticize either church or state seemed almost beyond comprehension. This could and did for some, lead to an uncritical, ahistorical attitude best epitomized by the widely misquoted slogan attributed to an early American naval hero, Stephen Decatur, “My country, right or wrong!”

It seems that most hierarchical structures prefer memberships that don’t question too closely decisions made for them. Over the generations many folk have been quite content to live out their lives without challenging commonly held myths. Soldiers from many lands have gone to war accepting the trumped up, manufactured, patriotism-stirring rants of political leaders who really were motivated by more crass concerns like control of territory or trade.

The first line of the US Marine Corps anthem “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli; We fight our country’s battles” reflects the glorification of ignoble chapters of US history. Foundational stories of resistance to tyranny can be seen from very different perspectives given a critical eye. Remember the story of the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773? The tale we accepted saw patriots resisting the imposition of an unfair tax. “No taxation without representation,” rallied Mohawk-costumed protestors who threw 342 chests of tea from three East India Company ships into Boston Harbour.

Was the real story the tax on tea or the fact that the East India Company had just won the right to ship their tea directly to British colonies? The Tea Act of May 1773 effectively “cut the price of tea in half and was therefore a boon to colonial consumers” according to William Bernstein author of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World. However the savings to consumers eliminated the profits of New England smugglers and middlemen.

“Colonial special-interest groups deployed protectionist cant against the welfare of the many and against the big companies, improbably tarred as agents of a foreign culture.”

Patriotism or profit, what was the real motivation?

From the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana Harbour to the Gulf of Tokin incident to the infamous Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, people’s honest patriotism has at times been manipulated to achieve the aims of the leaders of the day. An honest patriotism demands looking critically at the challenges of the day no matter how hard that might be.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste notes

Sunday, July 5 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark 6: 1-6.

Monday, July 6th – 1030th annual sitting of the Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s and the world’s oldest continually sitting parliament.

Tuesday, July 7 – Asalha Puja commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon.

Thursday, July 9 – Martyrdom of the Bab, Ali Mohammed, by Persian powers in 1850 is remembered by Baha’i.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read