Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘John Kennedy’

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You…”

Posted by M. C. on November 9, 2022

We’re entering an era in which some of the world’s most prominent countries will be increasing their migration controls. Even countries that are very free when allowing new residents in, are already passing legislation that will prevent born citizens from leaving.

By Jeff Thomas
International Man

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John Kennedy gave a stirring speech in which he famously stated, “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

He then went on to say, “Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.”


John Kennedy was by most measures, one of the better US presidents. But he did believe in the concept that the role of the people of a country should be to serve their country and to sacrifice themselves to it.

Again… nonsense.

Let’s put this in perspective.

In seeking employment, you don’t seek a particular job because your primary concern is that, in that job, you can “make a difference.” This is a nice thought, but it’s not why you seek a job. You seek it because it will provide you with what you’re after for yourself – possibly a good salary, possibly interesting work, possibly fringe benefits, etc.

You certainly don’t seek a particular job because they need you to sacrifice for them.

For their part, potential employers generally try to provide good working conditions, good salaries and benefits in order to attract the best people to want to work for them.

It’s the same when you seek to buy products. Advertisers appeal to your desires, hoping to convince you to buy their widget, rather than a competitor’s widget. Never do they say, “We want you to buy our product because you have an obligation to provide income for us.” You make your choice solely on whether that product appeals to you.

And in seeking a place to live, you might look for a community that’s relatively safe, or has good schools, or has good infrastructure. You don’t choose a community because it needs you more than another town or city.

Communities try to put on their best face to attract better residents. They most certainly do not say, “Move here so that you can serve us.” That would discourage potential residents, not encourage them.

And yet, for millennia, governments have taken the odd stance that you should serve them – to be “patriotic.” The premise is that since, by an accident of birth, you were born in a particular country, you therefore owe dedication and sacrifice to that county.

Throughout your life, it’s suggested to you that you should not only willingly sacrifice yourself to your country of birth; you should even take pride in paying whatever tax they burden you with.

The supreme example of this is found in countries that wage war against each other. At such times they go all out to remind you that you should take pride in becoming cannon fodder. As stated by the Roman poet Horace, “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.” (Sweet and fitting it is, to die for one’s country.)

Once again… nonsense.

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Trying to Put All America Behind – Edward Curtin

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2021

Stone is out front where you can see and hear him, while the CIA always operates behind our backs.


Sixty years ago this summer, on August 7, 1961, President John Kennedy signed the bill creating The Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.  It consists of forty miles of immaculate sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and upland along the Atlantic Ocean, with some portions stretching across the land to Cape Cod Bay in the west.  Henry Thoreau walked this wild Outer Atlantic Beach in 1849.  He said you can stand there and look out to sea and “put all America behind” you.

I am trying to do that as I stand looking at the waves breaking on a foggy early morning shore.  I am alone except for the hundreds of seals moaning on a sand bar and the gulls fishing in the tidal inlet at the far southern end of Coast Guard Light Beach.  A few laughing gulls swoop by as if to mock me with their laugh-like calls.

It is very hard to put the United States of America behind you when the fog of an endless propaganda war warps your mind and tries to crush your spirit even when you look away as far as the eye can see.

Across the ocean to the northeast, Mathew Arnold, on a far distant shore in England, wrote his famous poem “Dover Beach” at about the same time that Thoreau was walking where I stand.  Two very different men standing in different worlds, not just one at a window and the other in the blowing wind.

The former was an academically connected school inspector whose faith, vague as it was, was falling away as he described in “Dover Beach”: the turbulent ebb and flow of the breaking waves of faith that was being replaced by the sad withdrawing roar of melancholic human misery, devoid of love, light, joy, certitude, or help for pain.  It was the rhythmic sound of world weariness and declining faith in the Old World.

The latter, a child of the New World, harsh critic though he was of the resigned lives of quiet desperation most people live, was still a man of deep if unorthodox faith in the divine, telling us that most people are determined not to live by faith if they can help it, as if anyone could live without faith in something, whether that something be God, skepticism, atheism, or the then emerging new god of science. He considered people’s constant distrustful anxiety an incurable disease and he would no doubt consider the current religion of science a subject for his withering scorn and underappreciated humor.  Try imagining the government telling Thoreau that he had to be vaccinated and he needed a document to travel by stagecoach from his home in Concord to the Cape.

The young rebel Thoreau (he was in his early thirties like Arnold) still held to the conviction that if enough people gave serious attention to the transcendent nature of their natural surroundings and lived by its divine revelations, a new world was possible.  But also only if they simplified their lives and lived by principles that excluded the mad pursuit of money, slavery, and the worship of false gods.  This was eleven years before the American Civil War, which Thoreau didn’t survive.  He died on May 6, 1862.  His final words were: “Now comes good sailing.”

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