“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy
Expressions of patriotism, not just in the United States but in many countries of the world, are often couched in positivistic, aspirational, “feel good” propaganda. This is not only true of countries built upon liberal democracy but of those which exhibit more totalitarian and oligarchic tendencies. But regardless of the form of government or of the message sent to its citizenry or to the world, what a nation is often evaluated on is how close to the ideals it boasts that it actually comes to.
It has been said, “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.” One could tweak that axiomatic statement by saying: “Show me where you invest your money and I can tell you how patriotic you are.” It is a well-known fact that many American companies have, over the years, relocated their operations to foreign soil. They made such moves, partly, in order to mitigate what they saw as high labour costs and also to avoid high taxation on their burgeoning profit margins. The exportation of jobs, in and of itself is not necessarily illegal nor is it immoral. Seeking to protect their “bottom line” makes perfectly good sense. But, with whom they do business does give cause for serious concern.
There are four nations which top the United States’ greatest enemies list and they are North Korea, Russia, China and Iran. All four are seen as important military or nuclear threats. The U.S. has trade relations with more than 200 countries, territories, and regional associations around the globe. It is the second largest exporter of goods in the world. Of the three countries which top the percentage of trade with the U.S. — year-to-date — China, one of four of our greatest threats, has the number one ranking with 16.9% of total trade.
An article published by Investopedia in 2022 stated that a substantial number of multinational corporations operate in China, both Western and otherwise. China is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and its inhabitants make up almost 20% of the world’s population. The article went on to state that, “Since its adoption of free-market principles, China has become one of the world’s most hyped investment locations. Increasing numbers of large multinationals have a presence in the country and, despite some uncertainty related to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, the trend is likely to continue in the years ahead.” That is all quite interesting considering, again, that China is among the top four on the list of America’s greatest enemies.
With all that in mind, when President Kennedy said so eloquently “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship” did his words include the political and economic hardships that we would likely incur from taking a principled and a patriotic stand against a regime that is diametrically opposed to our democratic ideals, and one that is also bent upon our complete destruction, if the U.S. Intelligence community is correct in their assessment of the threat that China poses? Where does our capitalist “bottom line” begin and where does it end in respect to America’s national security?
As the war was getting into its high gear in the Ukraine, the following was stated in an article published by CBS news on May 25, 2022:
“The Starbucks logo and McDonald’s Golden Arches are being dismantled in Russia as the coffee and fast-food chains both withdraw from the country over the war in Ukraine. But Russians are still getting their fill of American fare like burgers and pizza, as Hard Rock Cafe and Sbarro are among the more than two dozen U.S. corporations that continue to do business in Russia. Twenty-seven U.S-based companies are defying calls to exit or curtail their activities in Russia, according to a running tally by Yale University management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his research team. While Starbucks and McDonald’s have both announced their complete withdrawals from Russia in recent days, Hard Rock continues to operate its Hard Rock Cafes in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.”
That revelation at the time just makes the following words from one of our popular patriotic songs ring hollow:
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
In a Fox Business publication on September 23, 2022 the title of the following article raises the same concerns about America’s sense of patriotism in her business dealings with Iran, “Treasury Department allows American companies to expand Iran Internet access despite sanctions”. This was allowed, according to the piece, in order to “boost Internet access for the Iranian people as Washington continues to navigate increasingly strained relations with Tehran.” The Treasury Department also issued the following details in respect to its sanctions against the Iranian regime, perhaps along the same line of reasoning with respect to Internet access:
“The United States maintains broad authorizations and exceptions under U.S. sanctions that allow for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran from the United States or by U.S. persons or U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities. U.S. sanctions laws provide similar allowances for sales of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices to Iran by non-U.S. persons.
Broadly speaking, transactions for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran are not sanctionable unless they involve persons on the SDN List that have been designated in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including designated Iranian financial institutions or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or activity that is subject to other sanctions.”
Perhaps the United States was attempting to abide by the biblical injunction to love our enemies, and to bless them that curse us. Or, could it have been shrewd national diplomacy with national security concerns at the forefront? Or, was the real reason here — the fine print — nothing more than unadulterated corporate profit? American democracy seems to have created an environment in which laissez faire economics can arise, survive and thrive, but one has to wonder if the fruit that it bears contains a poison that will cause the demise of the very freedoms offered to it so generously within and by that very socio-political milieu. There are forces which call, incessantly, for the removal of all checks and balances that would hinder or that would stand in the way of corporate profits. Such untrammeled freedom, they reason, is the American way.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, that “America is another name for opportunity.” But, in response to that statement someone could ask, “Opportunity for who?” A recent CNN exclusive news report bore the following headline, “A single Iranian attack drone found to contain parts from more than a dozen US companies”. Where, oh, where, oh, where does one draw the line between American patriotism and the American corporate “bottom line”?
A country’s patriotic ideals comprise its identity — a fabric spun from the wharf and woof of its history and of its ambitions. They are what keep its people grounded and focused, and they are what it uses to hoist them to higher, to more prosperous, and to more secure places than their founding fathers ever imagined — perhaps helping to clothe their neighbours with amity and goodwill. Americans, therefore, must be clear — is their vision of who they are and of what they do “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, or is it the dollars and cents whatever? Was it ever the first, or was it always the latter? Who poses the bigger threat, her enemies at home or abroad? These are not questions in the abstract, but real life existential ones.