My Memorial Day Message – Why I Don’t Support the Troops

It’s a tired old phrase, but we still hear it each time the US government attempts another ill-fated intervention overseas. Even if we’re anti-war, they tell us, we should still support the troops. I say that’s wrong. The following example will illustrate what I mean.

Let’s consider one of the most contentious issues in America today – abortion. Assume that your best friend has decided to move to Washington, DC and become a full-time campaigner on that issue. And your friend’s stand is 180 degrees opposed to yours.

Let’s say you’re pro-life and she’s pro-choice. Would you say, “I support you”? Of course not. Her cause condones the killing of unborn babies.

That goes the other way, too. You’re adamantly in favor of the right of a woman to choose and she’s against it. What she’s doing will set women’s rights back 50 years.

In neither case do you wish her any ill will. You don’t want her plane to crash on the way to DC, nor should she be killed by some deranged fanatic who takes the cause much too seriously.

You speak to your friend, and she admits that she’s having second thoughts, but it’s too late. She’s already signed a contract to serve as director of NARAL or National Right To Life. Do you urge her to see through her commitment? Or do you hope she’ll resign, even if it causes her and her family financial hardship?

The latter, of course. This issue is more important than your friend’s economic well-being. You offer to help her out financially, anything you can do to change her mind.

This is exactly how I feel about the troops. I care about what happens to them. I know they joined the military with the best of intentions. But they’ve made a mistake.

I’m not saying that no one ought to defend this country against a genuine threat. But Washington’s imperial interventions have nothing to do with national defense, and everything to do with projecting power overseas and generating obscene corporate profits. Even if the enemy is as vile as ISIS, there is no way you can fight them without taking innocent lives. What’s worse, your presence as the representative of a nation which local people on both sides despise for its ham-handed interference, will damage the cause you purport to be helping.

This is my message to the troops: call it quits and come home, as soon as possible. If there is any legal or non-felonious way out, take it. Instead of feeling obligated to stick it out with your comrades, urge them to do the same. If you can get out by claiming mental hardship, do it. Chances are, if you’ve seen any sort of combat, you’ve already been traumatized in some way.

If you have to take a dishonorable discharge, do it. If you were counting on the GI bill to get your education, make that sacrifice, even if you’re the sole supporter of your family. I and my fellow anti-war activists will support charities such as Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign to help you out. If you need to go to Canada, do it, though be warned – the right-wing pro-war Harper government has been denying war immigration status to American war resisters.

Furthermore, I call on all pro-peace businesses to give preferential hiring to veterans whose records have been blemished by acts of conscience.

To all my fellow Americans, I say: Support means approval. Don’t give approval to evil, even unwitting, unintentional evil. Support those who do the right thing and leave the military.

 

Celebrating the Fall of Saigon

It was 40 years ago this week when I heard the news about the Fall of Saigon. I was a senior in high school, on break from rehearsal of the play Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My reaction was immediate: I let out a whoop of joy. “It’s over! The good guys won!” I don’t recall my classmates’ reaction; perhaps they looked at me like I was crazy. They knew me to be a radical. Forty years later, I stand by that reaction.

You may dismiss me as a traitor; be my guest. To me, getting this country involved in an unnecessary, immoral war was the actual betrayal, and JFK, LBJ and Nixon were the traitors.

“My country right or wrong” was the watchword for lots of folks in my parents’ generation. That attitude was not just misinformed, it was utter folly. The whole purpose of a constitutional republic, which the US supposedly is, is to allow the people to correct their leaders when they are wrong. In a functioning system, there is no blind trust, no embarrassing secrets shielded by “national security.” The Founding Fathers would have been appalled at our gullibility.

You may say I’m insensitive to the Americans who died there; not so. I understand that most of those young men who went were drafted or volunteered after being brainwashed to believe the country needed protection against the fairy tale of falling dominoes. Our intervention in Vietnam had nothing to do with freedom; it was a violent invasion by a nuclear power against a weak, backward nation which had never attacked us. (The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was, of course, a fabrication which our corrupt, complicit media never bothered to expose.)

I would have preferred that the whole male cohort aged 18-25 had gotten up and high-tailed it for Canada, which is exactly what I would have done, had I been drafted. I would do it still, if a similar situation arose. “You would let someone else do the fighting,” you say? No, if I had it in my power NO ONE from America would participate in foreign wars, not in Vietnam, nor the more recent idiotic crusades in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I have no illusions that the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong were angels. No doubt many of their enemies perished after the fall. Yet they may have seemed kind and gentle, compared to the brutal senseless violence of the American occupation. (See Kill Anything that Moves, by Nick Turse.) The one morally correct thing the US government did was to welcome as refugees many of the Vietnamese who had foolishly sided with them, thus any Communist bloodbath was averted.

And speaking of bloodbaths, what of the genocide that happened next door in neighboring Cambodia? Was that the fault of peaceniks like me? No, the fall of Prince Sihanouk’s government was largely due to Nixon’s secret bombing campaign, which paved the way for the psychopathic Khmer Rouge. Those with short memories may not recall that the US opposed the Communist Vietnamese government when it intervened in Cambodia to restore order. That was hardly one of the high points in our history.

So say what you want, I’m glad Saigon fell, because the US elites who had perpetrated this incomprehensible war crime deserved to get a metaphorical black eye. Too bad they weren’t charged, tried and convicted as well.

 

What’s all this fuss about Net Neutrality?

Hail, hail, the FCC has just enacted Net Neutrality. What is that? Techno-geek types have been concerned for some time about service providers’ plans to charge different rates for different levels of Internet service. The reason is that some applications – HDTV for example – require a very high bandwidth. Some people opposed such differential rates, out of fear that the big players, for example digital content providers like Hulu and Netflix, will hog all the bandwidth, leaving smaller providers out in the cold.

I feel this fear is misguided, for several reasons. Internet bandwidth is not a fixed-sized pie. It’s been steadily increasing with demand, and it will continue to do so. As long is there is competition, the little guy won’t get squeezed out. My bigger concern is about the customer’s connection, the so-called “last mile.” Competition is an issue here, because of state and local governments’ encouragement of telephone and cable monopolies. Many of us have only have three choices – phone, cable, and satellite, and I’ve seen tons of online complaints about the billing practices of Dish Network. City-run wifi networks might help somewhat, but any subsidized service could undercut private providers and become a monopoly, a problem I’ll address later.

As far as the FCC regulation, it’s unlikely to address the problem, even if there is one. That’s because of a phenomenon call regulatory capture – the industry ends up controlling the regulatory agencies. Corruption is one cause, but the biggest reason is that no one knows an industry better than the companies themselves. People often bounce between the corporations and the agencies that supposedly control them. Secondly, regulation costs money, and will undoubtedly increase the cause of our service. Thirdly, why do we need 300 pages of regulation? As usual, the government doesn’t want the public to see the rules until they’re implemented.

The other issue with net neutrality is the allegation, mostly by conservatives and libertarians (see Alex Jones’ infowars.com) that the FCC is doing this as part of a plan to regulate content, which will eventually lead to censorship and licensing of websites. I agree that classifying the Net as a “public utility” sets a bad precedent, but I don’t see the threat as imminent. Censorship will likely come from other directions, such as the un-PATRIOT-ic ACT or “hate crimes” legislation, Furthermore, if city governments take over the “last mile” via public wifi networks, they will be tempted to impose their propagandistic agendas on their citizen customers.

A much bigger threat, I think comes from Obamacare. Well, not exactly the Affordable Care Act itself, but the medical fascism that gave rise to it. Obama’s adviser Cass Sunstein has advocated outlawing the promotion of unapproved, non-mainstream health theories, such as the idea that moderate sun exposure is beneficial. If the insurance companies or Big Pharma were to sue, for example, an anti-vaccine website for cutting into their profits, I doubt that the Supreme Court will have the cojones to go against them. After all, the Supremes were dumb enough to buy the notion that a mandated purchase is the same as a tax. But that’s an issue for another time.

 

Je suis Dieudonné

I was one of many who were shocked and outraged when the French satirical paper Charlie Hedbo was attacked and twelve of its employees killed by alleged Islamic extremists. It was heartening to see thousands marching in solidarity with the slain journalists. Ironically, it was also an occasion for the French government to crack down on free expression, which they label as “hate speech.” One of their victims was the controversial African-French comic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who has in the past been convicted of “anti-semitism” and “making light of the Holocaust.” This time the charge is “condoning terrorism” because of a Facebook post he made sarcastically comparing himself to the gunman who, in solidarity with the Hedbo murderers, killed hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

I decided to check out Dieudonné’s comedy for myself. You-tube has many of his performances, some of which have English subtitles. Sorry, but the man is funny, and despite having made a few tasteless and intentionally shocking public remarks, I don’t believe he’s an anti-semite. His audience in the video was not full of radicalized Arabs; it looked predominantly white and French.

If you don’t mind very dark humor, and if you can laugh at yourself (he’s particularly harsh on Americans) I highly recommend it. One very edgy sketch had his Jewish-looking assistant Jacky dressed in Auschwitz-style pajamas; the point was to satirize President Hollande’s mandate that French schoolchildren study the lives of the French Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. Call me cynical, but I believe Hollande is trying to whitewash the sins of the French government, particularly its support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and American atrocities in Syria and elsewhere. “We must not forget!” Dieudonné mocks. What we’re not supposed to remember is that it was the collaborators in the Vichy government who rounded up and deported French Jews before the Nazis even asked for them.

In “freedom loving” France, it’s dangerous even to support Dieudonné. An African footballer was suspended for copying the comedian’s satirical “quenelle” gesture which the French authorities have branded as a modified Nazi salute. Personally I hope to see Dieudonné team up with Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front (believe it or not, the two are friends) and send that politically-correct Marxist imbecile Hollande packing.

 

Congress Has Lost Its Mind

The US House of Representatives, excluding 10 brave members, recently gave us proof of its collective insanity. House Resolution 758, passed on December 5, 2014, condemns Russia as an aggressor nation that must be sanctioned. The bill’s supporting arguments are a tapestry of lies and propaganda, and hypocrisy. Among the howlers:

  • Russia has “invaded” Ukraine. Every month or so the corporate media spouts some nonsense about Russian tanks invading its neighbor’s separatist-ruled eastern provinces, but we’re never offered any proof. Even if they’re talking about Crimea, Russia’s actions there are not an invasion but an occupation. Crimea is a historic part of Russia populated mostly by ethnic Russians which was granted arbitrarily to the Ukrainian SSR by Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev in 1954. Somehow the US doesn’t have any trouble with Israel occupying Palestinian land, and the Palestinians didn’t welcome their occupiers as did the Crimeans.
  • Russia was responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, because the commercial airliner was shot down by pro-Russian separatists using Russian weapons. Again, we’re not offered a shred of proof, and it’s equally plausible that Ukrainian forces shot down the plain either accidentally or intentionally (as a false flag promoting war with Russia.)
  • Russia has initiated economic sanctions against Ukraine. More precisely, Russia has eliminated subsidies, the same way the US Federal government threatens to cut off funding for states that refuse to enact its policies. In reality, the US is the aggressor, first supporting the ultra-nationalist coup in Ukraine, and then strong-arming our allies in the EU into supporting sanctions that hurt them (our friends) far more than they hurt the “evil” Putin.
  • Russia has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This one’s true, which is to Putin’s credit: Assad is the good guy in this situation, opposing the barbaric, genocidal so-called “Islamic State.” It’s the United States that illegally initiated aggression against Syria by arming the so-called “moderate rebels.” In reality, it was arming ISIS. Whether this was an act of sheer stupidity or Machiavellian evil, I can’t say.

Unfortunately, a lot of people I know believe the US corporate media’s bullshit about Russia. Please don’t take my word for it, look to the alternative media for a more balanced perspective. There are even British mainstream sources such as the Mail Online which tell the truth about Russia. I’m not saying it’s a perfect country; it has many policies I abhor, such as military conscription and oppression of gays and Chechens. Yet at the rate we’re going, with our rising rates of incarceration and “anti-terrorist” legislation, America will soon be less free than Russia.

Should we really risk igniting a new world war by antagonizing a fellow nuclear power for dubious reasons? Absolutely not!

 

An American’s Belated Thanks

In this belated Thanksgiving post, I’d like to express my appreciation of the rights we still have in America. That is not to say that they come from the government, because I believe that freedom is part of the birthright of all human beings everywhere. Still, to the degree that I don’t need to fear incarceration for speaking my mind, for defending myself and my family, and for refusing arbitrary searches, I’m grateful to the stubborn pro-freedom heritage of my people.

We libertarians sometimes forget that there are a lot of countries that are more stupid and despotic than ours. Though there are certainly several nations with a freer press and better protections against the police, the vast majority are worse. Even those countries with close ties to America, with traits we admire such as sensible policies regarding drugs and sex, are often plagued with idiotic “hate speech” laws. For all that Americans can be smeared, demonized and boycotted for expressing an unpopular opinion – think Donald Sterling, Paula Deen and the Duck Dynasty family – you can’t be fined or arrested, as you could in many European countries, even the UK.

Nor can we be punished for questioning or mocking religion, as in most Muslim-majority countries, or for openly practicing or discussing gay lifestyles, as in Russia. Though the US government has put enormous pressure on whistle blower sites such as Wikileaks, our Internet is not (yet) censored, as in China. In many places, a person can be arrested for questioning the official accounts of the Nazi Holocaust. Personally, I have no desire to deny such atrocities; people who do so are delusional. Yet such laws provide unintentional motivation for neo-Nazis, and can easily chill honest scholarship, in much the same way that Turkey’s laws against defaming the nation prevent people from discussing the Armenian genocide.

Unlike many nations, the US does not have a military draft, and we should be very thankful for that. Conscription is truly a form of slavery that allows governments to pursue aggressive wars despite public opposition, forcing young people to kill and be killed. Even Switzerland, one of the most relatively free countries on Earth, forces its male citizens to be part of its military reserve – though due to that country’s enlightened political neutrality, the mandate is not nearly as onerous as it could be.

Finally, though the police in America can certainly be oppressive and abusive, they have not yet reached the level of corruption as in Mexico and many other places. We’re not yet to the point where a group of college students protesting peacefully could be abducted and murdered en masse. Though Mexico still has its good points, the government’s draconian gun laws are a great atrocity that has, in part, allowed the drug cartels to run roughshod over the people.

As Americans we must appreciate the rights we have left, and use them on every possible occasion. We should not censor ourselves out of fear; we should aggressively defend our ability to speak out. If a “state of emergency” is ever declared, we may be among the first to be detained, but the risk is worth it.

 

Why I’m Not Voting in This Election

I cast my first vote at the age of 19. Since then I’ve participated in every significant election, both Presidential and mid-term. I once ran (unsuccessfully) for the Arizona State Legislature. I’ve given money to campaigns and I spent two years as the secretary of the Arizona Libertarian Party. As of now, I’m done with all that, and here’s why.

There’s no significant difference between major-party candidates. Though their rhetoric may differ, once in office they do the same thing as their predecessors. Barack Obama could have ended the wars, vetoed extensions of the so-called Patriot Act, closed Guantanamo and ended NSA spying, but he didn’t. In many ways, his administration was worse than that of George W Bush.

Third parties are locked out. The only candidates who advocate real change are in alternative parties such as Libertarian and Green, but the powers that be put huge hurdles against them getting on the ballot. Including these extra candidates would “confuse the voters,” the politicians say, as if we’re children. Third parties spend all their meager funds collecting signatures to achieve ballot access. If they do get on, the corporate media treat their candidates like a joke, or more commonly ignore them completely.

The system – both the media and the party hierarchy – discriminates against those who work for real change. Congressman Ron Paul tried for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012 against incredible odds. He was immensely popular, yet the pundits dismissed his successes in the primaries as flukes, or failed to report them at all. The party apparatchiks rigged convention rules to prevent Paul’s representatives from speaking or even being seated.

Voting machines enable fraud, which I suspect is widespread. Many jurisdictions use machines manufactured by companies such as Diebold. The software on this devices is secret and there is no audit trail. Machines are in the custody of party hacks who have the ability to change the votes. This almost certainly happened when John Kerry lost Ohio to Bush in 2004, yet no charges were ever filed.

If the people don’t vote the way the elite want, they keep bringing the issue back until they do. Initiatives and referenda are a powerful tool for democracy, ye the system prevents them from working. Here in Arizona, the public turned down boondoggles for riverside development and public transit, but both projects were repackaged and approved years later. If, on the other hand, a measure threatens the system, such as an initiative we had years ago to repeal the state income tax, it is subject to close scrutiny and “disqualified.”

Although big money dominance of the elections is a problem, campaign finance reform won’t work. Campaign laws are most often used against the little guy, or anyone who challenges the status quo. Congressman George Hansen of Idaho, an outspoken opponent of the IRS, was convicted in 1984 of irregularities in his filings and spent 15 months in Federal prison, enduring unspeakably brutal treatment. Personally, I believe campaign finance restrictions to be an unconstitutional limitation on free speech. Some kind of disclosure requirement might be helpful, but I don’t expect the wealthy 1% would ever be held accountable.

Voting in 21st Century America is a waste of time and a distraction from the real issues. It’s time that would be much better spent researching government wrongdoing, finding ways to safeguard our privacy and beat the system, or engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. In the words of Emma Goldman, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

 

Proud to be a Truther

In America today, a sure way to mark yourself as crazy is to express a belief in 9/11 Truth. To clarify, I’m referring to the theory that the Federal government is lying about the causes and events of the so-called terrorist attack of 9/11/2001, with the high probability that some secretive group within the government is either partially or wholly responsible. People view us as deluded cranks because of course the government would never do such a thing. Personally, I don’t care what these people think, because I know that I’m right.

I’m not saying that I believe every rumor and conjecture that the Truth movement has spawned. Many of these are listed in the documentary video Loose Change, which I regard as a pastiche of wild and sometimes contradictory conjectures. In fact, I think that many of the more ridiculous theories (such as, the passengers of Flight 77 were abducted rather than killed, that there were sinister pods under the wings of the planes, or that the hijackers are alive somewhere in the Arab world) have been intentionally pushed by the US intelligence agencies to discredit us. Just because an idea appears on a slick video is no reason to believe it.

I’m a truther because the official story is so preposterous – that 19 untrained Arabs with box cutters circumvented airport security separately in different airports, for starters. For the alleged conspiracy to succeed required simultaneous security failures in numerous government agencies from the FBI to NORAD. Think the government wouldn’t target its own people? Read Day of Deceit by Robert Stinnet, which outlines how FDR deceived the public about the Pearl Harbor attack. Investigate Operation Gladio, in which western intelligence agencies faked Communist terror attacks in Europe. We ordinary citizens are “collateral damage,” expendables whose murder is justified if it furthers some policy goal. Note that the so-called USA PATRIOT ACT was written and ready to go, requiring only a justification for its passage. There is also concrete evidence that the CIA was following al Qaeda and knew of their plans – see Disconnecting the Dots by Kevin Fenton.

Today we may be considered crazy. Someday we will be recognized as visionaries.

Vladimir the Terrible?

As a libertarian, I don’t like political leaders or their phony, arrogant claims to “legitimate” use of power. I despise every last one of them, especially Obama, the Clintons, and the Bushes, both father and son. They are among the worst people the world has ever produced. Being at the helm of the world’s most powerful country has allowed them to exceed the evils of those whom they’ve demonized, two-bit dictators such as Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Khadaffi. Power corrupts, whether you lead an autocracy or an alleged republic. That is why I’m surprised by the restraint that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, has shown so far in the Ukrainian crisis.

It’s not that Putin is a nice guy. He was formerly in the KGB, the kind of organization which would not exist in a just world. Many people believe that Putin’s government, not Chechen separatists, were behind the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings. These false-flag events gave “Vlad the Terrible” an excuse to crush that rebellious province, rather than granting them a plebiscite on independence as is their right. Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was mysteriously poisoned by the radioactive element polonium while in exile in London. Who but the government of a nuclear power could pull this off? Putin has also presided over a ridiculous anti-gay law that serves mainly to focus the peoples’ minds on an imaginary threat.

Yet Putin’s Russia has proved to be a worthy adversary for the arrogant and self-righteous United States. The American corporate media likes to blame Russia and Putin for the chaos in Ukraine, but in reality, America’s spy services and its captive “non-government” organizations initiated the conflict. Obama’s State Department interfered by supporting the protests, even after they became violent. When Ukraine’s President Yanukovych compromised to schedule new elections, the US-supported far right elements drove him from the country. The new junta in Kiev immediately passed discriminatory laws designed to outrage the Russian minority in the country’s east and south. Did the holier-than-though US government tell our allies to stop this, lest the country slide into civil war? Of course not; provoking ethnic Russians and their cousins across the border was probably their real aim.

Again and again we hear that Russia “invaded” Crimea. Balderdash. Crimea was historically part of Russia, not the Ukraine. Its people are mostly ethnic Russians, a majority of whom supported the annexation in an internationally monitored election which the Ukraine opposed. Ironically, the US did the exact same thing in supporting Kosovo’s split from Serbia in opposition to the wishes of the Serbian people. Consistency has never been the US government’s strong suit.

Because of this alleged “invasion,” the US proceeded to impose ridiculous economic sanctions on Russia and strong-arm its lackeys in the European Union to go along with them. Then came the crash of flight MH-17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. Without providing any evidence whatsoever, the US government blamed the pro-Russian rebels (and by extension Russia) for this atrocity. The media refused to entertain the possibility that the Ukrainian military did this themselves in order to whip up anti-Russian sentiment.

This kind of “false flag” operation has happened throughout history, such as Nazi Germany’s Gleiwitz Incident (which it used to justify invading Poland) the CIA’s Operation Gladio which terrorized post-war Europe and Israel’s Lavon Affair which attempted to frame Islamists for a series of bombings in Cairo.

I believe the reason America hates Putin is that he’s one of the few world leaders who appears to be sticking up for the interests of his own country and against those of the globalist corporate community. Throughout the world we see leaders kow-towing to the “neoliberal” world order, plunging their countries into IMF-engineered debt servitude.

Libertarians detest this exploitative system, and also oppose the sanctions against Russia. Putin has done a lot of evil things, and is certainly no hero in our philosophy, though some (myself included) admire his determination and apparent cleverness. Best of all, he’s no stooge of the financial industry. The oligarchs who looted Russia during the Boris Yeltsin era were not “too big to jail.”

No matter what Putin’s motivations are, it hardly seems sane for our leaders to risk war with another nuclear power over a small patch of territory, and over what was probably just a tragic accident. Another, more probable outcome of this new cold war is that Russia and its allies such as China will create their own independent systems for trade and banking.This would end the economic supremacy of the US, already under threat, along with most of the value of the dollar. That would be a disaster for all of us “commoners,” whether the event was intentionally planned or just the unintended consequences of the incredible arrogance of American politicians.

Though what happened to MH-17 is still a mystery, one thing is for certain: the story the corporate media tells us is based upon lies.There may not be much we can do about the insane belligerence of so-called leaders such as Barack Obama (and his bloodthirsty Republican opponents), but we must not let ourselves be their fools, either.

The “Real Words” of our National Anthem

On this July Fourth I’d like to say a few words about the US national anthem. Many of you are no doubt aware that this year marks the two hundredth anniversary of the lyrics, written by Francis Scott Key as “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Few people know that the song has four verses, because we seldom hear any but the first these days. Far fewer people are aware of the origin of the melody, a popular English drinking song from the 1700′s.

Yet another little-known fact is the controversy that surrounded the adoption of the song in 1931 as the nation’s official anthem. An article that appeared in the Daily Beast on last July 4th tells some of this fascinating story. The song has been the target of criticism for a melody that is difficult to sing (with a range of an octave and a fifth) and for its lyrics that celebrate militarism.

By the way, today’s history-challenged young people may not know the story behind the war that inspired Key’s poem. The War of 1812 was the nation’s first major war after the American colonies secession from the British Empire. In grade school I learned that this second war was Britain’s fault for restricting our trade with France and conscription of American sailors into the Royal Navy.

In junior high school I was fortunate to have a teacher named Frank Lewis, an offbeat-looking man (he wore coke-bottle glasses and a 50′s style pompadour) who helped inspire my own passion for history. In his class, we learned that another over-riding reason for the war was the desire of certain American politicians to violently annex British holdings in Canada (the southeast portion of the current country) and Florida. They were known as War Hawks, birds of prey with the distinctive cry, “Canada! Florida!” They got their war, which ended in a stalemate. At least 5000 American and British soldiers and sailors died and untold numbers of civilians, all for naught. It’s not a glorious episode in our history, which is why I prefer the original lyrics of the song.

Speaking of the original song, its creators were members of a London men’s club called the “Anacreon Society.” Anacreon was a poet from classical Greece whose works extolled the virtues of “wine, women and song.” As such these words are at least as appropriate for us Americans. Back in 1835, French writer Alexis de Toqueville observed that “the drinking population constitutes the majority in your country, and that temperance is somewhat unpopular.” Here without further adieu is the first verse of the famous “Anacreon in Heaven” (which you can listen to here):

 

THE ANACREONTIC SONG

as Sung at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand

Words by Ralph Tomlinson, music by John Stafford Smith

 

To Anacreon in Heav’n, where he sat in full glee,

A few sons of harmony sent a petition,

That he their Inspirer and patron wou’d be;

When this answer arriv’d from the jolly old Grecian

“Voice, fiddle, and flute,

“No longer be mute,

“I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,

“And, besides, I’ll instruct you like me, to intwine

“The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.

 

Remember these words on this Fourth when you hear the line about the “land of the (formerly) free and the home of the (occasionally) brave.” And if you haven’t seen it, watch this clip of Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat singing the words of the fictional Kazakhstan national anthem to this tune for unsuspecting rodeo patrons. He was lucky he didn’t get himself lynched!