An open letter to free-market patriots

LincolnMonument

Dear patriots of capitalism,

I am a Communist, but I am a patriot. I am a better patriot, I dare say, than many of you who pose with flags, guns, teabags, and facsimiles of the Constitution.

Paying taxes is already an act of patriotism, in an age when so many who have so much treat progressive taxation as the cruelest of martyrdoms. 

But I have another claim, incontestable, to the title of American patriot: I believe that the good of the country, the equitable pursuit of shared freedoms for all its people, takes precedence over whatever narrow interests bind me to myself. 

I respect the sovereignty of the United States government, its solemn duty to make laws for the common welfare of its citizens and of all who have sought refuge within its borders.

Can you, for all your flag pins and three-cornered hats, make the same claim?

You bellow in chorus about the Constitution, about individual liberties, about loyalty to... what? A flag? A catchy country hit? An incomplete version of American history where there has only ever been one revolution, led by white, male property owners, and to hell with the courageous fights of women, of African Americans and other minorities, of the working class, to win a voice in our political process?  

You claim adherence to the law, until some law menaces corporate hegemony; you turn then to the Constitution, to states' rights, and to the courts. 

When the Constitution fails to comply with your fantasies, you push to amend it; when the courts declare your projects unconstitutional, you cry that rogue judges refuse to respect the will of the people.

Failing all that, you rush to the unholy sanctuary of "Second Amendment remedies," hoping that bloodlust will convince a tired people of your fervor and your good faith.

This you call dissent, and patriotism-proud, powerful words cheapened by your hypocrisy. It is not dissent; it is not patriotism. It is a betrayal.

It is a betrayal of the most basic tenets of American democracy, because your only real claim is that the law of the market-the law of ruthless competition, of deregulation and exploitation, of income inequality and rampant injustice, of the basest and most sociopathic individualism-should prevail against laws enacted for the common good. 

It is a betrayal because you would have the government of our Republic cower before the throne of business as a humble supplicant, begging and cajoling firms of astronomical wealth to comply with rudimentary standards of social and environmental responsibility.

It is a betrayal, finally, because your only real loyalty is to money, and your only real homeland is the capitalist dystopia of shantytowns and gated communities, of private clubs and private prisons.

I am an American Communist, and I am a patriot. I hold that our government, as the representative organ of the whole people, is beggar and supplicant to no one. It is time for that government to govern, to make rules and enforce them, to demand that businesses respect workers and their rights in the interest of building a more just society. 

The progressive left-socialists, anti-corporate populists and grass-roots activists, union members, documented and undocumented workers of every trade and profession-we who work for a better, cleaner, more equitable country, are the real patriots, and this is our revolution.

You may have the money and the guns, but right and the march of history are with us, and someday there will be liberty and justice-not to mention peace, fair work, and dignity for all ... and even for you.

Solidarity forever!

Harold Wallace lives and works in Chicago.

Photo: (Goldberg/CC)