As Donald Trump demonstrated in his first address to Congress, no matter how loathsome a ruler may be, he can bring an assembly of politicians to its feet and disarm some critics simply by invoking the quasi-secular faith—Americanism—and eulogizing the latest uniformed war-state employee to sacrifice his life for it. Trump has indeed shown he can fill the job expected of any president: supreme head of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer.
“We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy Special Operator Senior Chief William ‘Ryan’ Owens,” Trump said before Congress. “Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero—battling against terrorism and securing our nation…. Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you. For as the Bible teaches us, ‘There is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom. And we will never forget Ryan.”
But we are ever to abolish America’s bloody and costly permanent war state, writes Sheldon Richman, we will have to rethink the quasi-secular faith which holds that dying—and killing—for one’s country is the greatest honor and virtue to which one one can aspire. It is time we learned that killing and dying for an ideology—even so-called liberal democracy— is as bad as doing so for a religion, even so-called radical Islam.
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