These days I am eagerly following a documentary on the Nat Geo (National Geographic) channel titled, Hitler — The Lost Tapes.
This chronicles the heinous Nazi Fuhrer (Adolf Hitler)'s life history, through interviews with those who were close to him — recorded probably in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
These firsthand accounts brought to light one troubling aspect that is a common thread among most tyrants — an obsession with what they term “patriotism,” which they demand of their citizens.
For some egotistical reasons, these dictators — who are usually megalomaniacs — believe in their own self-importance, and in so doing, equate themselves to the country.
They regard blind loyalty to them as synonymous with “love for one’s country” — and, in the same breath, any criticism or opposition as an “attack on the country”.
Is it, then, not thoroughly disturbing and unnerving how, throughout world history, those most vocal about “patriotism” have been dictators, fascists and Nazis?
Actually, facts on the ground prove that citizens known for their unparalleled and indisputable love for their countries — such as Americans, British, French and others — never have “patriotism” defined for them and forced down their throats by their political leaders.
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Put simply, real love naturally occurs and can never be legislated or regulated.
Nowhere in the US law, for instance, is “patriotism” defined.
Those who talk of the Logan Act of 1799, do so out of pure ignorance or deception.
There is a very good reason why no single US citizen has ever been convicted in a court of law under this law — in spite of countless Americans condemning their government on both the domestic and international fronts.
Did we not witness numerous US anti-war activists (Code Pink, ANSWER, Vietnam Veterans Against War, RESIST, and many more) on a global stage — such as the UN, meetings with world leaders, and appearing in international media castigating US wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Have we not watched as US citizens speak at various international fora against what they perceived as institutionalised racism in the country, especially against people of colour?
As a matter of fact, did Philonise Floyd not address the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva (Switzerland) on June 17, 2020, on the tragic killing of his brother, George Floyd, at the hands of the American police?
Yet, in all these instances, none of them was ever accused by the US government or other citizens of lacking “patriotism,” or charged under the Logan Act.
This is because this law cannot override the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which, among other things, protects freedoms of speech, Press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.
Furthermore, its constitutionality has been challenged — particularly in 1964, in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Waldron v. British Petroleum Co — due to its vagueness.
In other words, US citizens have every right under the sun to criticise or condemn their leaders and government on whichever platform they desire, locally or globally.
Nevertheless, during the Nazis’ brutal rule in Germany, or Fascists in Italy, or Communists in China, North Korea, and Russia — a perverted interpretation of “patriotism” was imposed on the citizenry by their ruthless leaders.
This was because what constituted “patriotism” was purely a creation of those in power which had absolutely nothing to do with loving one’s country.
Their distorted version was for the sole purpose of forcing unquestioning loyalty and obedience to the ruling elite.
All the fanaticism and hysteria around nationalism and national pride — usually characterised by public displays and marches — was designed to indoctrinate the population to confuse “patriotism”, with blind loyalty to the self-absorbed egoistical leaders.
If anything, the people lived in perennial fear of their own governments — which ruled by an iron fist, without any qualms at savagely massacring all those who dared question those in authority, and refused to toe the line.
What the leader said was law, and anything against that was disloyalty and was branded “unpatriotic”.
This is what we witness in Zimbabwe today, as the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration is adamant over its intention to enact the so-called ‘Patriotic Act’ – with the Bill already having been passed by both houses of Parliament, and now awaiting the president’s signature.
The recent humiliating interview on South Africa’s broadcaster, Newzroom Afrika, featuring Zimbabwe information minister Monica Mutsvangwa was most revealing.
She stuttered and clearly lost her composure, in her clumsy and hysterical attempts at justifying and defending a law that was unjustifiable and indefensible.
In most cases she could not even explain why there was even need for such a draconian piece of legislation – which criminalized criticism of one’s government.
She tried, as is the norm with any tyranny, to equate castigating one’s government with criticizing the country itself – which, understandably, opened her up to ridicule at the hands of her interviewer, Cathy Mohlahlana.
As the face and voice of the Mnangagwa administration, she did a perfect job of exposing the disingenuousness in that government.
If anything, just as with the US Logan Act, this proposed ‘Patriotic Act’ falls far short of our Constitution – which, under Part 2, guarantees citizens’ freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Each and every Zimbabwean has the right to say what they feel, to whomsoever they desire.
No Zimbabwean, at least that I am aware of, hates their country and wants to see it fail.
We all love our country, and wish only the best of it.
Our only desire and prayer is to see it prosper and reach the dizzying heights of success that we all know it is capable.
We have the greatest people in the world, with a high level of learning, as well as vast natural resources – boasting some of the most sought-after minerals in the world.
Why, then, should we not be enjoying the highest standards of living on the planet?
The only ones preventing this from happening are those in power – who are busy plundering our national resources for their own personal enrichment – at the expense of the millions, who are left to languish in objectionable poverty.
That is what we are against, and those are the people we are criticizing.
Mnangagwa is certainly not Zimbabwe!
If anything, his administration and ruling ZANU PF party are the most unpatriotic people that the nation has ever experienced – since they are solely responsible for destroying a once prosperous.
In my book, Mnangagwa and his fellow comrades have absolutely no right to be speaking about ‘patriotism’ – as they have no clue what that word actually means.
Why should a cabal that has ruined the lives of millions of the country’s citizens ever claim to understand what it means to be patriotic?
In fact, this so-called ‘Patriotic Act’ should have been designed to bring to book all those tarnishing the country’s image by looting our gold, diamonds and lithium for self-aggrandizement.
How many of those seen by the whole world in the Al Jazeera ‘Gold Mafia’ documentary have actually been made answerable?
This law needs to come down hard on all those bringing our country’s name into disrepute through their vicious crackdown and persecution of voices of dissent.
There can never be a worse from of unpatriotism that this!
What, then, can such people lecture us about ‘patriotism’?
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected], or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/