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BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

15 Nov 02 - 06:15 PM (#827336)
Subject: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

Came across these great quotes of Twain's today. We all know this one, of course:

"Patriotism is the refuge of the scoudrel."

But here are some other choice ones on the subject:

The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice--and always has been.
- Mark Twain's Notebook

We teach them to take their patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest crowd without examining into the right or wrong of the matter--exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place--the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"- with his mouth.
- "The Lowest Animal"

15 Nov 02 - 06:57 PM (#827380)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms. The war was on. In every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun. Daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by. Nightly the packed mass meetings listened panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while. In the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came. Next day the battalions would leave for the front. The church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams-visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!-then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation -- "God the all- terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!" Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was that an ever--merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory -

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there, waiting.

With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside - which the startled minister did - and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said

"I come from the Throne bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import - that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of - except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of His Who hearth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this-keep it in mind. If you beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer - the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it; that part which the pastor, and also you in your hearts, fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory, must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle - be Thou near them! With them, in spirit, we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits."

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Mark Twain

15 Nov 02 - 07:11 PM (#827401)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: mack/misophist

Dulce et decorum, pro patria more est. Somehow the most widely advertized patriots miss out on that last part.

15 Nov 02 - 07:16 PM (#827407)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."
G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), "Misalliance"

Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.
George Jean Nathan (1882 - 1958)

15 Nov 02 - 08:01 PM (#827448)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Don Firth

The standard bumper-sticker and the standard war-cry of the self-described "patriot" is the well-known "My country, right or wrong." That's incomplete. The full quote has been posted on various threads here many times, but it doesn't hurt to remind people (until they eventually get it) that the entire quote is "My country, right or wrong. My country, if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." (Usually attributed to a speech by Carl Schurz in the U.S. Senate. February 29, 1872).

One can hardly be faulted for having some kind of feeling for one's birthplace and the country in which one grew up. When it is attacked by those from the outside, it is natural to want to defend it. To do so is also to defend oneself.

But— "patriots" seem incapable of understanding that attacks can also come from within, from the most insidious enemy of all—internal corruption. It is as if this sort of "patriot" is saying "my body, right or wrong!" Then, when a doctor tells them they have a potentially fatal disease, they refuse to believe the doctor, regard him as an enemy, and refuse to let him attempt to cure them. They thereby become an ally of the very thing that will eventually kill them.

Don Firth

15 Nov 02 - 08:07 PM (#827457)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Thomas the Rhymer

Kill and fight, for earthly blight the warring creed dost plunge
With reasons not, and little thought, into the blood and grunge.
With heads held high, the warring cry, how principled the pain,
As missionary, Or mercenary, into Our Lord's disdain. ttr

15 Nov 02 - 08:12 PM (#827461)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: toadfrog

Don: That may be indeed be what Carl Schurz said in 1872, but the usual citation is to Henry Clay, and goes "My country, may she always be right, but my country, right or wrong." And I believe it dates from the 1820's, so that whatever Schurz said would be derivative.

And the one about "refuge of the scoundrel" is usually attributed to Samuel Johnson. Meaning, Boswell probably made it up.

On reflection, is the mark of a patriot really uncritical support of a "cause," or willingness to make a personal sacrifice for that cause? Can an individual who asks for a tax cut when ostensibly there is a war on be called a "patriot"? I don't know, just asking.

15 Nov 02 - 08:19 PM (#827465)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: NicoleC

Interesting. I always thought the Schurz quote seemed like it was referring to something else, but never saw the other reference.

On the whole, I think Schurz' quote is more patriotic, because it requires an active participation in the process of being "right." While Clay's quote expresses a desire for right, it abdicates personal responsibility.

15 Nov 02 - 09:30 PM (#827529)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Bobert

Don't mean to get to far from the point opf this thread but my favorite Mark Twain quote went something like "live your life so that when you die even the undertaker will be sad". Not too sure how much of a stretch this is from Twain's distain for patriotism but I'd guess not far.


15 Nov 02 - 09:32 PM (#827532)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Genie

Actually, the original quote (IIRC) was ""My country, in her intercourse with other nations may she always be in the right, but my country, right or wrong."   (And I thought it was from John Paul Jones or Stephen Decatur, or one of those military guys, not Henry Clay.)

And the Samuel Johnson quotation was something like "Patriotism (is) the last refuge of a scoundrel."

[Italics added]

15 Nov 02 - 10:03 PM (#827553)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Greg F.

Actually, the quotation in question is:
"Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations
may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.

Stephen Decatur, toast given at Norfolk,VA, 1816.

I prefer John Quincy Adams' response in a letter to John Adams,
August 1816:

"I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see
in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I
cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a
cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia,
pereat coelum.
My toast would be, may our country be
always successful, but whether successful or otherwise,
always right."

15 Nov 02 - 10:12 PM (#827559)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Genie

Thanks, Greg. I knew we'd eventually get the quote and the quoter right!

16 Nov 02 - 09:21 AM (#827672)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

I believe the quote regarding patriots and scoundrels may well be attributable to Johnson, but Twain stole it fair and square!

16 Nov 02 - 11:05 AM (#827708)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

H. L. Mencken:
The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.

16 Nov 02 - 11:10 AM (#827713)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Jim McLean

'I was taught all my life, cruel England to blame,
That made me a part of the Patriot Game'
Dominic Behan, The Patriot Game.
Jim mcLean

16 Nov 02 - 11:20 AM (#827722)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: van lingle

Some Frenchman, don't know who, defined patriotism as nothing more than the memory of good things we ate in childhood.

Saddest of all, to me, is the way captalists and their henchman have used patriotism to seperate us from the natural world, non-Americans and other creatures to line their own pockets. vl

16 Nov 02 - 11:29 AM (#827729)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: EBarnacle1

As a friend of Sunny Ochs, this puts me in mind of one of her brother's most famous songs: I ain't marching any more. It was not that Phil was against war as war, he was against violence to enforce economic imperialism. If he had been directly threatened, he would certainly have defended himself.

16 Nov 02 - 11:33 AM (#827732)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Rapparee

I thought that there was more to the Stephen Decatur quote, but there wasn't. Instead, I found

"That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge [Senator Stephen] Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.""

                                 --Abraham Lincoln,seventh and last
                                 debate with Stephen A. Douglas,                                                
                                 Oct. 15, 1858.

This seems to be as true today as ever before, whether the government is a dictatorship, theocracy, democracy, republic, or monarchy. The "patriot" who waves the flag but is not willing to put life, liberty, wealth, sacred honor -- everything -- on the line for whatever they profess to believe in can't be much of a patriot.

"He either fears his fate too much/Or his desserts are small/Who does not put it to the touch/To gain or lose it all."

16 Nov 02 - 01:09 PM (#827819)
Subject: RE: the sunshine patriot
From: Genie

Argh! I'm trying to recall the source of that line about "the sunshine patriot," and I just can't recall either the line or the source at the moment.

16 Nov 02 - 01:14 PM (#827823)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Rapparee

Thomas Paine. "Summer patriots and sunshine soldiers." From "The Crisis" I think.

16 Nov 02 - 02:42 PM (#827864)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Don Firth

You can sure tell that this is a batch of folk music enthusiasts. It seems that everybody gets hung up on tracking down the earliest source of a quote and miss the point being made.

Don Firth

16 Nov 02 - 02:56 PM (#827871)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined

Now, I never claimed that saying was the source--I said Twain stole it fair and square. Which brands me a bit differently, though I think as a folk music enthusiast, just not a purist.

Duck and cover.

16 Nov 02 - 03:25 PM (#827886)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Don Firth

I was referring to the "my country, right or wrong" thing.

Don Firth

16 Nov 02 - 09:00 PM (#828080)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: GUEST,colwyn dane

My 2 per cent:

"For us, patriotism is the same as the love of humanity."

----Mohandas Gandhi----

"Patriotism, to be truly American, begins with the human allegiance."

----Norman Cousins-----

"In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it

and more anxious about what it can do for the the nation."

----Warren G. Harding----


16 Nov 02 - 10:30 PM (#828141)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Thomas the Rhymer

And we that are forced to go and fight
Will never gain true honor by't
For volunteers will win the day
Over the hills and far away...

-extract from "O'er the Hills"

16 Nov 02 - 11:32 PM (#828171)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Donuel

Everyday I write a little something in a Mark Twain vein. I have over 200 "contemporary Twain quotes" now. First I hear his tone of voice (ala Hal Holbrook) in my mind and they just flow. Many of them are war related but...

Today I wrote:

Be careful not to lose your "grain of salt"...

it is tiny,
dissolves in BS
and, for some, vaporizes
at the invocation of the word of god


16 Nov 02 - 11:54 PM (#828182)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: GUEST,

Anybody mind talking about music? I always found "patriotic" music a guilty pleasure. It stirred me entirely against my will, and I figure it's like whiskey, most dangerous to those who like it most. Are there patriotic songs you like, that don't court these dangers?


17 Nov 02 - 04:43 AM (#828252)
Subject: RE: BS: Mark Twain & Patriots Defined
From: Genie

Thanks, Rapaire, for jogging my memory.  I thought it was "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot," though.  In any case, I think we have a lot of those in the US right now -- eager to wave flags and bomb other countries but not willing to do anything inconvenient like trying to conserve energy or working to promote understanding among people of different nations and faiths.

 Don F
It seems that everybody gets hung up on tracking down the earliest source of a quote and miss the point being made.
You may have misunderstood my priorities.  If someone makes a vague reference to a quote (e.g., "A famous American once said "My country, right or wrong.") I don't see it as important to go find out who said it and what the exact quotation was.  But if the quotation is misquoted or misattributed, I do think it's helpful to correct it before the misinformation multiplies.  This does not distract me substantially from the main point.

 I always found "patriotic" music a guilty pleasure. ...  Are there patriotic songs you like, that don't court these dangers?

 One of my favorites is the Earl Robinson and a co-writer (whose name escapes me at) song "The House I Live In."  I think it reflects what America could be if we came close to living up to our ideals.  I also love "America The Beautiful."  If you consider the lyrics of all 4 verses, it is not a jingoistic, my-country-is-better-than-yours song.  It's a prayer of thanksgiving for a beautiful, bountiful land and for the sacrifices made by those who "more than self their country loved and mercy more than life," and a prayer for guidance in the pursuit of liberty, justice, and brotherhood.