The First Platform of Fools

This was hell week in New York City.  Traffic was paralyzed from one end of the narrow island to the other as bigwigs and their entourages flocked to the city for the fall opening of the United Nations.

Making matters worse, President Donald Trump chose the occasion to lambaste nations he does not like in a crude display of boorishness not seen since Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk at the General Assembly back in 1960.

Trump reserved special venom for his pet bêtes noirs, Iran and China.  His jeremiad against Iran was reportedly written by senior aide Stephen Miller, a rabidly anti-Muslim extremist who speaks with the voice of Israel’s expansionist far right.



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Trump reiterated his doctrine of American ultra-nationalism.  Political and economic nationalism are his credo.  The president claimed he had indeed made America great again, whatever that means.

The president’s speech was greeted by derisive laughter from the General Assembly, a first in UN history.

I was reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s famous bon mot, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’ Indeed it is.

And of the words of the late British professor, A.P. Thornton: ‘Patriotism is the first platform of fools.’

Patriotism is poison.  Dictators, despots, lunatics – and too many democratic politicians – use it to enflame popular passions to enhance their power.  There is nothing wrong with loving and respecting one’s homeland.  Canadians offer a fine example of quiet national pride without obnoxious flag-waving and bullying.

But everything is wrong with unleashing toxic nationalist emotions to promote…

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