USA Today Opinion. My Country by Hal O’Leary

USA Today Opinion. My Country by Hal O’Leary

USA Today Opinion. My Country by American author Hal O’Leary.

USA Today Opinion. My Country by Hal O'Leary

Hal O’Leary

As a result of my last week’s column, Should We Pretend, and several others like it that I have written over the years, I have often, in the criticism of my own country as currently perceived, been accused of being unpatriotic to the point of treason. I have been called any number of unkind names and been told, “If ya don’t like it, leave it.”  Treason is not a charge to be taken lightly, and I am pressed to respond.  Let us first distinguish between my country and my government.  My country is the land and the people I am bonded to from and by birth.  My government is a temporary custodian of the values and principles set forth in the Constitution that serves to preserve those same values and principles.  It is possible to love your country but distrust its governance.  It is possible to love your country so much that you have an insurmountable desire and need to call attention to and attempt to correct any and all wrongs of a government whose actions are taken in your name, besmirching the country and the people you love.  In those terms, it is not I, but those who, for whatever reason, refuse to acknowledge their sacred obligation to call to account any official deed or person acting in violation of the same values and principles which they purport to believe and observe, who are the unpatriotic.  In reality, it is they who could rightfully be accused of treason.  It is unlawful to have knowledge of a crime and let it go unreported.

Then, of course, the question of knowledge must be addressed, and here again, the onus and obligation for being informed in a democratic society falls to the individual, and ignorance is no excuse.  While there is no doubt that everything possible is done to keep us in the dark, with everything from insignificant distractions and secrecy to actual lies and deceptions, it remains possible for the true patriot to ferret out the truth.  There is, of course, the danger that the misinformed or malcontented will unwittingly or deviously make false charges and accusations of misdeeds and policies by honorable officials, and they should be subject to severe scrutiny. However, when the truth of an accusation is not only obvious but admitted, there is little excuse for reticence in speaking out.  Let us examine three such incidents:

First, it is now admitted by officialdom that lies and deceptions were responsible for millions of deaths, both soldier and civilian, in South Viet Nam.  Lou Sarris, a longtime personal friend who served for thirteen years as the State Department’s man in Viet Nam, repeatedly sent negative but reliable reports to Washington officials that ran counter to the more positive but often inaccurate reports from the military.

Then, of course, we must not omit Iran Contra. The lies and subsequent cover-up attempts in this operation are too many to list.

Next, let us dare to reopen the old sore of 9/11. We now know that the Commission was deceived by the CIA, FBI, NORAD and the FAA.  Could it be unpatriotic to question why?  With mountains of evidence to suggest that an honest investigation into what should have been considered a crime instead of an act of war, members of the 9/11 Commission now admit that they were repeatedly lied to and “set up to fail.”

Finally, can anyone seriously deny that we were lied to about WMDs in Iraq?

Have I made my point?  If you are offended by this column, or continue to think that things are not as bad as I seem to think, let me reiterate that these are not the rant of some conspiracy theorist or kook (as I’ve also been called); they are the factual, verified, validated,  proven, substantiated and supported facts.  Now, if you continue to believe, as many of you will undoubtedly choose to do, I imagine you will rationalize your position with that trite admission, “Well everybody lies . . . What’s the big deal?”  Don’t you realize that with that admission you become an accomplice?  Even if you don’t approve of the lies, you are willing to condone and excuse them.  And, should you be one that excuses misconduct with the tired old thought that “There’s enough blame to go around,” please understand that what it means is that no one is to be blamed or held accountable. Then, there are those who will shout, “My COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG,” as an acceptance of wrongdoing.  This crass cry has currently come to represent the worst of right-wing patriotism.

The phrase was first uttered by U. S. Naval Captain Stephen Decatur in 1816, after defeating pirates on the Barbary Coast, as a warrior’s toast:

“Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

What is lesser known, however, is a rebuttal of that phrase on the floor of the Senate in 1872 by Carl Shurz, Union Army General, later US Senator, and, still later, US Secretary of the Interior. In correcting  the use of that phrase as a boast by a fellow Senator, Shurz  countered with:

“My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

It is my firm belief that all the ignorance, arrogance and insufferable exceptionalism  displayed with the fanatic flag waving and slogan shouting only tends to embarrass us in the eyes of the world.  It is for love of, My Country, that I take this stand.  If there is treason, it is by those who would trample on its constitution for personal gain in wealth and power.


I weep because my country isn’t right

While he will shout, MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG.

And for this wrong, he sends his son to fight.

As though in doing so, it makes him strong.


While he will shout, MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG,

It’s ignorance of how the phrase should read,

As though in doing so, it makes him strong,

The ending of the phrase is what we need.


It’s ignorance of how the phrase should read,

If rightit must be kept right. that is clear.

The ending of the phrase is what we need.

If wrong, it must be set right, without fear.


If right, it must be kept right, that is clear,

But what false patriots seem not to see,

If wrong, it must be set right without fear.

It means our country is no longer free.


But what false patriots seem not to see

And for this wrong, he sends his son to fight,

It means our country is no longer free

I weep because my country isn’t right.

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Hal O’Leary is an eighty-seven-year-old Secular Humanist who believes that it is only through the arts that one is afforded an occasional glimpse into the otherwise incomprehensible. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University.

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