This July 4, American patriotism is coming under fire.
Public concerts by United States military bands could end in the near future, and a former bureaucrat from the Clinton administration is asking people to be less patriotic.
Robert Reich, a University of California Berkley professor and former Secretary of Labor wants Americans to keep their patriotism in check, lest they offend people who don’t live here.
In an editorial for SFgate, Reich writes: “We hear a lot about patriotism, especially around the Fourth of July. But in 2016, we’re hearing about two very different types of patriotism. One is an inclusive patriotism that binds us together. The other is an exclusive patriotism that keeps others out.”
He called it “a strident, exclusive patriotism. It asserts a unique and superior ‘Americanism that’s determined to exclude others beyond our borders.”
On a separate matter, lawmakers are considering placing restrictions on military band performances outside of any official duties, according to Navy Times. The House has already approved the new restrictions, and it will go before the Senate later this year.
Two of the amendment’s sponsors are military veterans : Martha McSally, R-Arizona, a former Air Force colonel, and Steve Pearce, R-New Mexico, a former Air Force captain. Betty McCollom, D-Minnesota is also sponsoring the measure, according to Navy Times.
Lawmakers are suggesting the $437 million the Department of Defense spends on military band costs, such as instruments and travel, is essentially a waste of taxpayer money. Under the plan, the military would be forced to give detailed documentation of all band activities and expenses.
In a comment on the House floor in June, McSally said. “While our communities certainly do enjoy being entertained by our military bands they would, I think, prefer to be protected by our military.”
The $437 million spent on military bands is a laughably small part of the Department of Defense’s total 2017 budget request of $582.7 billion.
McSally complained in The New York Times that the military is buying $11,000 flutes and $12,000 tubas “while at the same time the Air Force has been facing a shortage of fighter pilots and aircraft maintainers.”
In a letter to colleagues, McSally maintained that the measure would “ensure military bands perform their proper duties and limit their performances to official ceremonies, honoring the fallen, and playing taps.”
“She said every dollar spent on military bands to entertain at social functions is a dollar that’s not being spent on national security, the troops and their families,” Military.com reported.
Our nation’s budget also fails to effectively address the more than 20 or more veterans that commit suicide every day, the 11 percent of the nation’s homeless population that are veterans, and multiple studies that point to lax or inadequate medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Allowing military bands to play “Hail to the Chief” but not the “Star Spangled Banner” is not the cure, band enthusiasts say.
Writing on his personal blog, Lt. Col. Domingos Robinson, commander and conductor of the Eighth Army Band, stated:
“The people who think that limiting military bands to ceremonies and funerals is a good idea have no idea what we do. We make Americans feel good about their military and their country; we create connections between cultures; we set the stage for strategic talks; we bridge the gap; we provide context; we help people celebrate and we help people mourn.”
The Air Force rock band also defended its value in instilling national pride.
“These servicemen and women set one of the highest examples of musical achievement, pride in nation, and further the aspirations of all citizens, including young American music students across the nation,” Mike Blakelee, executive director of the National Association for Music Education said in a statement published by Navy Times. “They provide music throughout the entire spectrum of operations, to instill in our forces the will to fight and win, foster the support of our citizens, and promote America’s interests at home and abroad.”
The United States military bands date back to the Revolutionary War, which was fought to assert our nation’s independence from the Great Britain’s tyrannical rule over the colonies. Today, many military bands march in Fourth of July parades across the nation.
[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
Fall concerts for the Spirit of America, called the Army’s “premiere community outreach program,” have already been cancelled, according to its website.
“The Department of Army regrets to announce that Spirit of America, The Army’s premiere community outreach program scheduled to take place in Portland, ME – Sept. 9-10; Bridgeport, CT -Sept. 16-17 and Allentown, Pa – Sept. 23-24 has been cancelled,” the website states. “The decision to cancel Spirit of America was not an easy one, but in light of current budget constraints the program has been suspended.”
[Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images]