September 18, 2015. Or, as it is known to some, National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The New York Times published a brief article to mark the occasion, a call-back to the Vietnam War – a time when American soldiers were commonly held as prisoners by an enemy with the capabilities to capture and keep them in significant numbers. The author writes that he bought a metal bracelet with the name of a captured soldier, vowing to wear it until the man was returned to his home and his family. He bought it from a “student group.”
This detail, treated as a minor one by the publication, will be the focus of this essay. Looking back at the narrative from that period of American history, one hears only about that other kind of student group. The kind protesting the war. The kind dropping acid and dropping out. The kind spitting on returning soldiers – something that I’m assured, by men speaking from personal experience, still happens in the age of the Iraq War. Let’s talk about the student group supporting veterans. Let’s talk about patriotism on campus, and how to survive as a conservative activist group in a frequently hostile campus environment.
5 Ways to Improve Patriotic Activism
Here are five ways that patriotic activism can succeed on even the most liberal campus, or even the most liberal city. Here is a manifesto for Nationalist Activism in an age of mass media, globalization, and an increasingly educated and liberal world.
1. Know the War
The facts are on your side. You may get upset by arguments against the war, or feel that you wish to stay out of the political rhetoric surrounding the morality of the war itself. That’s fine. Better, even. But know the conditions on the ground, who the other side(s) are, and what the broader demographic and resource conditions are for an operation to maintain global stability and domestic defense. Make sure you can successfully answer any question asked related to the facts of the fighting of the war itself, and keep your mouth shut on the rhetoric. You can make clear you know your stuff, while staying out of the mud.
2. Know your Enemy
Any rhetoric that dehumanizes a foreign nation discredits you, and your cause. Know people from the “other side” personally, if you can. The new face of war is one in which any two sides can sit at a table and talk with respect, at home and abroad. Know everything you can about their culture, and find things you like. Unless you plan on spouting genocidal nonsense when asked about the other side, get your act together. Today’s enemies are tomorrow’s allies. Make that clear to them, and to the world. Preferably in that order.
3. Know your Opposition
Be staunchly, strictly bipartisan. If you have to talk partisan politics, back opposing candidates that demonstrate your views. In American politics, you’ll find some. Preferably, if you can’t say anything nice about your political opposition, don’t say anything at all. The days of threats of violence and vulgar insults lobbed across the political spectrum need to end, and whoever stops first wins every heart and mind in the country. You won’t ever end a stupid argument by winning it, so win it by ending it.
4. Know your History
No strongman leadership. No populism. Nothing that brings up uncomfortable comparisons to the Nazi Party or the Hitler Youth. Read your history, and know every single use of language or use of public space that would draw the wrong comparisons. When it comes to public figures, no idol worship, but no talk of guillotine. You’re above the mud, remember? No spittle, no shouting, no pumping your fist. Just smile and get back to your book.
5. Know Yourself
You’re entering the political fray. How are you coming across? Are you resorting to the tactics of the opposition? Name-calling, personal attacks, threatening or aggressive behavior, or a failure to police the behavior and membership of your own ranks? You’re a political figure, whether you like it or not, the minute you pick up a protest sign or hand out a button. Act like one. The more facts you know, the more calm you can be under pressure. The more calm you stay, the better you look in the face of any argument. The more comforting and inclusive your vision for your country, but the more orderly and selective your ranks, the more power you have – and the more power your ideas have.
It’s the new face of Conservative in the post-Obama era. Clean-cut, patriotic, and “birther”-free.