Episode 16, Lesson 8: We’re Preoccupied with Patriotic Illusions We Should Have Outgrown

Welcome to Episode 16, Lesson 8 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Like you, I’m a seeker and student of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which can be so inspiring, but quite confusing too. ACIM is also commonly depoliticized in the same way that the Powers That Be have always depoliticized the revolutionary message of Jesus the Christ. We’re trying to avoid that misreading here.  

So, thank you for joining me as I work through the text’s gems and perplexities.

Remember, the overriding thesis of this podcast is that A Course in Miracles is not for everyone. More than anything else, the text’s origins, language, style, and content reveal that it is primarily addressed to North Americans living in a cultural cave where we are propagandized and deluded (often unwittingly) by parents, pedagogues, priests, politicians, publicists, and philosophers. According to A Course in Miracles, Jesus is directly addressing us Americans there.

So, what is he saying to us?

Lesson 8’s main thought is expressed as follows: “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.” Today and tomorrow, I want to focus on two sets of past thoughts that dominate our minds and separate us from reality as far as our spiritual and activist lives are concerned. I’m talking about conceptions we learned as children concerning our own country and about the Jesus who is presented as addressing us in A Course in Miracles.

Today, let’s talk about our shared preoccupations with our country’s past – about patriotic notions that keep us mired in childish illusions we should long ago have outgrown.  

Recall that the topic of “the past” was already broached in yesterday’s lesson. It reminded us that when we examine the circumstances of our own lives, when we consider our relationships, work, and beliefs, when we look at the world, we see only the past, almost never the present, the exclusive residence of what we call “real.”

With that in mind, we expressed yesterday’s thought in this way: “I see only the past as portrayed by my keepers as shadows on the wall of our cultural cave.”

Historically and politically, those shadows, I reminded us, generate what The Course calls “meaningless” thoughts about patriotism, nationality, Founding Fathers, our sacred borders, the supposed superiority of our economic system, and the need to protect ourselves from the world’s poor by spending $2 billion per day on the money laundering scheme we call “national defense.”

Today, I want to underline that last point. We spend our military budget fighting wars against the world’s poor.  Yes, it’s the poor that our cave’s shadows portray as our enemies. Again, that’s what I want to focus on here.

Please think about it. The world’s poor turn out to be the only ones we’ve fought wars against since the Second Inter-Capitalist War (1939-1945). Our keepers have convinced us that the poor are our enemies. That’s why our country never takes on any enemy that has anything that resembles the wealth or military might that America possesses. We only attack the relatively defenseless and poor. That’s why countries such as North Korea believe that they need nuclear weapons. (Without them, the U.S. long ago would have overthrown Kim Jong-un.)

But here’s the rub. Despite all “our” spending on weapons of war and despite our “enemies” inferior weapons systems, poor farmers, mothers, grandparents and children defending their homelands from U.S. imperialists have defeated our “glorious” army in case after case. Most obviously, I’m talking about Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq where the thrashings our military has endured have been so glaring that they are impossible to deny. Our country hasn’t won a war since 1945! 

Yet the generals, our politicians, and the arms corporations they serve continue to tell us that “our” military is invincible. (Talk about shadow reality!!) Such claims would be laughable if their horrendous results were not so tragic in terms of slaughtering and further impoverishing the world’s already poor. They’d be laughable if military spending didn’t empty our national treasury of the money that could give us Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, forgiveness of student loans, free college educations, a guaranteed basic income, and a bright and secure future for our children and grandchildren.

In other words, and for purposes of this podcast, our convictions about militarism represent past beliefs that we’ve been taught to accept without question. They are among the most destructive of what Lesson 8 refers to as the “past thoughts” that preoccupy and blind our minds. They are there so prominently that seeing their shadow nature is nearly impossible to acknowledge and even more difficult to articulate without being accused of somehow “hating America.”

All of this is especially noteworthy in the context of our study here. As we move through A Course in Miracles, we’ll find that the term “attack” will be centralized. The Course will remind us repeatedly that attack is an illusion. We are not under attack by anyone, The Course insists. When we attack others, we are attacking ourselves. For as The Course says, there is really only one of us here.

What we perceive as attacks represent self-defense by poor people that the U.S. insists on attacking. So, “counterattack” is not only self-defeating. It is completely illusory.

More particularly, all of this should remind us that:

  • It’s the United States that is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. (Martin Luther King said that)
  • “Our” government, military, and police are attacking the poor everywhere, at home and abroad.
  • Immigrants and asylum seekers are in no way attacking us or causing our problems. (They are the poorest most powerless people in the world!)
  • Venezuela is not attacking us
  • Nor is Nicaragua
  • Nor is China
  • Nor is Iran
  • Nor is Cuba
  • Terrorists like Al Qaeda are themselves the creation of the United States
  • So was Osama bin Laden
  • So to a large extent is the Taliban
  • Every attack on “terrorists” creates more of them – i.e., more resistance to U.S. aggression.

Please think about all of that today as you listen to the news, as you read the mainstream media, or listen to better news sources such as “Democracy Now.” When designated “enemies” and their “attacks” are referenced, say to yourself “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts. No one is attacking us. There is no need for counter-attack.”

Tomorrow we’ll take up the past thoughts that preoccupy our propagandized minds about Jesus of Nazareth.

Till then, this is Mike Rivage-Seul signing off and wishing you God’s blessings.  

Please see other episodes in this series on my podcast site here.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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