Books closed, pencils out everyone: it's time to find out how patriotic you really are!
And so it came to pass that a sitting United States president, afraid of eroding support among both his country and his Congress, designed a Loyalty Program to ferret out subversive elements among the citizenry. The broadly interpreted program required oaths of loyalty for civil servants and background investigations into any organization deemed suspect. It was 1947 and the everpresent menace was Communism.
Such oaths affirmed neither person nor organization would teach about or advocate rising up against the federal government of the United States, a radical departure from the tenets set down by the Constitution. It was the ultimate admission of draconian policy in a democratic republic, but the oaths did little except force people to lie or hide their ideologies behind a mask of nationalism.
Allegiance and loyalty aren't birthed by force, they germinate in the minds of men and woman who passionately believe their cause is just. If an idea or government is wrong, no amount of indoctrination can make it feel right.
Harry S. Truman legislated his own fear, paving the way the "Red Scare" and McCarthyism of the 1950s. It failed spectacularly. Yet even in an age of cynicism and widespread government distrust, the powers that be are doing what they can to learn who is loyal to them and who is not.
Trouble is, now they're starting up with our children.
. . . . .
It's not unheard of for a government to be curious who supports them. It's why we vote and take place in political polls. However, polling data only goes so far, and when difficult questions need to be asked it's done so with a consummate level of subversion.
That said, I present to you the Politics, Patriotism and Protest Opinionnaire. This seemingly innocuous quiz has become part of the curriculum in a number of classrooms around the country. At first I thought it was a joke - who in his right mind would pass this out in an English or Mathematics class? - but a quick Internet search turned up a dozen or so links to an online version (as well as Mrs. Bradley's tribute to seizure-inducing web design). Given that many schools likely didn't place the quiz on their web sites, I'm guessing the target audience is a lot wider than we think.
The questions are the same regardless of region. Apparently Washington, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois and others have vested interests in learning which middle school kids show "fealty to the power of the state and whether the student believes in the right to overthrow a corrupt government." And lest you think this is some isolated urban legend, the above link is hosted on the Bloomington High School web server.
The opinionnaire is a clear canvassing of American youth to see how they view the federal government's power grabs and what they feel crosses the line. Children are our future, so the story goes, and if many of them show a marked disinterest in waging war or lining up as cannon fodder in the Middle East, the Army needs to create more propaganda videos to screen in home room.
Feel like taking the test? I've got the government-approved answers right here, so let's find out how how much you worship the State! Remember, you either agree or disagree (as all issues only have two sides).
1. It is never right to kill another person.
You'd think self-defense is reason enough to kill someone, as are protecting one's family or resisting a corrupt government. You'd be wrong, though. According to my crib sheet, murder is never justified. Martial law might be declared and you might fighting for your very life, but it's never right to stop the army from trampling your rights and killing your family. Apparently the army is exempt from this - just one of many schizophrenic inconsistencies brought to you by the Bush Administration!
2. Political leaders usually act in the best interest of their countries.
Agree and you're aces with the G. Disagree and you're no patriot. You might be a level-headed person capable of critical analysis, but you're no patriot.
3. If a political leader has done something wrong, it is all right to get rid of him or her by whatever means necessary.
I'm all for the peaceful removal of a cancerous government. If I truly believed that our elected representative looked after our interests instead of their own, I'd be inclined to disagree.
But we live in a country that was poured from the crucible of violent rebellion. Saying I disagree with the notion that a leader can oftentimes only be deposed by force is not just a direct betrayal of the actions that forged this nation, it's also a laughable refusal of a government that now routinely overthrows despots abroad.
4. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Ironically, the testmaker agrees.
5. In certain situations it may be justified for a political leader to bend or break the law for the good of the country.
Gee, what do you think the expected response is on this one?
If you actually believe that a leader should be given the power to bend or mold the law to his whims, I want you to go out and purchase every piece of merchandise Larry the Cable Guy has ever sold, for he is your new god.
"Please-Git-R-Done," you braindead hayseed!
6. People should never compromise their ideals or beliefs.
I choose agree. I'd think President Bush would agree, too, as the man has never wavered from his myopic, ill-informed agenda of thievery and death since he took office.
And we would both be wrong. Feel free to compromise yourself to your heart's content! The government would love nothing more than to have a society of ethically challenged boneheads running amok.
I'm reminded of Butch (Bruce Willis) accepting the payout from Marcellus (Ving Rhames) in Pulp Fiction. "You may feel a slight sting," Marcellus purrs to his flunky. "That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps."
Fuck having a conscience. Fuck having a defined sense of right and wrong. It never helps.
7. "My country right or wrong" is not just a slogan; it is every citizen's patriotic duty.
8. No cause, political or otherwise, is worth dying for.
Directly contradicts Question 1, unless you somehow believe killing and dying are unrelated activities. Apparently it's okay to die for a cause - like, say, a war against Syria, Iran, Russia, North Korea, etc. - as long as you don't... kill... the enemy?
Is it a telling thing that this test makes no fucking sense whatsoever and we still have two questions to go?
9. "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant taste of death but once."
Again with the effort duplication! Agree and you're the heroic grunt who kills a number of Iraqis (in direct violation of Question 1 - oh, wait, are we still considering Arabs human? No? My bad!), disagree and you're a sniveling hippy protester commie pinko faggot who, while willing to take up arms to preserve the integrity of our own nation, is a coward.
10. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is [often buried] with their bones."
Don't worry, you can disagree. Because then you too can live in a fairy tale world where cause and effect end the minute you die... unless you did good deeds, because those live forever.
So, how many did you get right? How many of you quit halfway in disgust at the thought of your own children being pressured into this kind of mindthink? How many laughed as I did, comparing what's expected of us while the government engages in the exact opposite?
If your kid comes home with this in their backback, take a look and see if they're a "failure." If they are, you're doing a good job as a parent. Now be a good citizen and bitch out the school for allowing this tripe into the classroom in the first place.
Patriotism, politics and protest aren't reducible to this level of nonsense. If you love your country you can hate your government. It's when the government fears that hate look out. The widespread paranoia of the 1950s was one of the darkest chapters of American history. We don't need to climb into that rabbit hole this time around.
By the way, Bush did have a loyalty oath for his 2004 re-election campaign staffers:
"I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
Isn't that a hoot?
Canon Fodder is a bi-weekly analysis of politics and society.