Tag Archives: patriotism

Still pissed

Those of you who have been around here much know that when I get really pissed about something, I can’t blog much.  So that’s where I am now and why it’s been pretty quiet around here today.  I’m completely spun up about this McCain-deciding-not-to-debate thing.  I know I wrote about this yesterday, but I think it bears some more attention.  I will say it again:  McCain’s move is the equivalent of calling in question someone’s patriotism  because they don’t wear a flag pin.  Saying, as McCain did, that, “We must show (the) kind of patriotism now” that we did after 9/11 as an excuse to cancel the debates is nothing more than hiding behind the flag for political gain.  And he should be ashamed.

Obama’s response, essentially that this is exactly the time when people should be hearing how the next President would handle this crisis, is, by any measure, more sane.  McCain has shown an alarming tendency recently to go completely off his rocker.  Calling Putin the President of Germany, calling for the resignation of the Chairman of the FEC, and dissing Spain are just three examples.  Let’s not even go into Palin territory.  And now the man who essentially demanded that Obama share the stage with him at Town Hall meetings is running away from sharing the stage with Obama at a debate.  Huh.

I love what Robert Gibbs of the Obama campaign had to say:

My sense is there’s going to be a stage, a moderator, an audience and at least one presidential candidate.

Maybe Obama will do a Town Hall, after all.

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Who needs a flag pin?

We have this …


Congratulations to the US Ryder Cup Team.

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More on patriotism

Sometimes the best I can do for y’all is to send you somewhere else.  This is one of those times.  Please, please, please go over to HuffPo and read The African American Patriotism Quandry by Leonce Gaiter.  Here’s a tease to whet your appetite:

Imagine you were born where you and your parents did not have the rights of most, in which you witnessed the majority laugh at coon-faced parodies of people like you, in which your young self knew that the majority of your countrymen did not consider you quite as human as they were, and felt justified in treating you accordingly. It leaves a scar. It’s a scar many Americans don’t want to see, so they attack those like Michelle Obama who draw attention to it. They call it “grievance.” In fact, it’s just history–yours and mine. There are other scars in America’s history, but few that are treated with such revulsion.

Yeah, it’s all that good and you really need to go read it.

I have a strange relationship with patriotism.  I distrust the form of patriotism that shields itself behind flags stuck in front yard grass and weeping eyes staring at Old Glory during some (undeniably) horrendous version of the national anthem at a sporting event.  I have no issues with getting weepy at the sound of “the rockets red glare,” but I am cynical enough to doubt that those tears normally belie anything deeper than a superficial love of Mama, God, and country.  True patriots should be more willing to burn that flag than to post it in their yard.  True patriots should be fighting to keep God out of schools and, thus, protecting the Constitution.  True patriots should see the other man’s Mama in his eyes and that, if nothing else, should keep them from hate.   

Obama gave a speech on patriotism today.  Here is, perhaps, my favorite excerpt:

As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that’s occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.

This is why voting is patriotic, folks.  Certainly, mass dissent has proved extremely effective in helping to alter failed practice and policy in our country.  But it is the power of the vote that gives us a consistent tool to show our satisfaction or lack thereof in the direction our government is heading. 

When Bush (the dubyah variety) was elected to his second term, I was living overseas.  I sent in my absentee ballot and prayed, hard, that Americans would not be dumb enough to give him a second term.  I was wrong.  Collective insanity held sway and we, the people, elected him to a second term.  My gut instinct was to stay overseas and never come back to a country so obviously lost in its own propaganda.  But my form of patriotism took over and I began dissenting:  writing, talking, working to bring about a sea change in politics.  We’re on the doorstep.  We just have to use those votes, exercise our patriotism, show our dissatisfation with the status quo, dissent. 

I can never understand Leonce Gaiter’s perspective on patriotism, no matter how hard I try (and you know I will).  All I know for sure is that those who blindly follow and never question cannot call themselves true patriots.  Patriotism requires us to evaluate, to question, to call into account our government and to take action when it we find it lacking.  The least you can do is vote.  To register, visit Rock The Vote.   


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On Patriotism and the First Amendment

I’ve been off grid for a week, vacationing in the land of Mickey and sunshine.  Returning to the frozen northeast, I find that the political world is turning its myopic brain back to the issue of patriotism as related to Barack Obama and his non-flag-pin-wearing-self.  In an AP article this morning, the question of Obama’s patriotism is once again front and center.  I say, “once again,” because this nonsense was bantered about last summer when Obama was “caught” without his hand over his heart during the Star Spangled Banner.  Oops.  As usual, folks got the story wrong and began spreading the rumor that he didn’t put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.  And then came the flag pin flap.  

I think it’s useful for us to have a bit of a civics lesson.  First, the Star Spangled Banner.  According to The Code for the National Anthem of the United State of America, adopted by the National Anthem Committee in 1942, “the audience will stand facing the flag or the leader in an attitude of respectful attention.”  There is no mention of placing one’s hand over one’s heart.  Yes, it’s customary.  No, it’s not required, but I’m sure you’ll never catch him singing the National Anthem without his hand over his heart again. 

Moving on the the Pledge.  Did you know that it was originally written for a children’s magazine in 1892?  It has gone through several revisions through the years, including the addition of “under God” in 1954.  The form of salute has changed through the years, as well, from an outstretched arm with right palm up (which was way too Hitler like) to the now customary right hand over heart salute.  Barack Obama is clear that he always puts his hand over his heart for the Pledge, whether at school as a boy or leading the Pledge in the Senate.

As of 1940, school children have been compelled to recite the Pledge in school, even if it is against their religion (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses).  There is currently a frightening move in Congress to pass legislation, called the Pledge Protection Act, which would strip the judicial branch of “jurisdiction of Federal courts over certain cases and controversies involving the Pledge of Allegiance.”  In other words, folks would no longer be able to sue to retain their right under the first amendment to not say the Pledge in school.   

There is another assault on the first amendment underway regarding the flag.  The first amendment, of course, ensures our freedom of speech.  That freedom allows people to burn our flag.  Oooh, did I make you mad there?  I’m not a proponent of flag burning or desecration, but it is vital that we protect that freedom under the first amendment. 

Year after year, folks in Congress try to pass laws to ban flag burning and desecration, almost strictly for some perceived political gain.  In fact, in 2005, while preparing for her presidential bid, Sen. Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a bill with Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah that would make flag burning illegal.  In order to do this, they have to amend the Constitution.  Anyone who has read my previous posts knows how I feel about folks mucking about in my Constitution.  If you’re going to mess about with my Constitution, it should only be to guarantee more freedoms, not take them away.  Constitutional changes should be for things like prohibiting slavery (Amendment XIII) or giving women the right to vote (Amendment XIX).  Or for grand Democratic procedural issues like presidential term limits (Amendment XXII).  Sen. Obama, who has taught the Constitution, issued this statement , in part, on the flag burning amendment:

“But we live in a country of laws. Laws are what stop people from resorting to physical violence to settle disagreements, and laws are what protect free speech. And when I became a Senator, I swore an oath to protect the Constitution. Under that oath, my first allegiance is not to a political party, or to an ideology, or to a president, or even to popular opinion, but to the Constitution and to the rule of law.

“The Framers made it difficult to amend the Constitution because our founding document should not be changed just because of political concerns or temporary problems. And even the strongest supporters of this amendment are hard-pressed to find more than a few instances of flag burning each year. Those problems were left to be solved through legislation, and I support legislation introduced by Senator Durbin that makes it illegal to burn the flag without changing the Constitution. The Constitution has only been amended 27 times. These amendments include guarantees of our most basic freedoms, the freedom of religion, the right to a trial by jury, the protection against cruel punishment.

“Today, there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops risking their lives for their country, looking to us to come up with a plan to win the peace so they can come home. Across America, there are millions who are looking for us to do something about health care, about education, about energy. The Senate will likely be in session for about 50 more days for the rest of this year. To spend the precious time we have left battling an epidemic of flag burning that does not exist is a disservice to our country.

“As Richard Savage of Bloomington, Illinois wrote to me, “I am a Vietnam veteran and Republican. . . . Those who would burn the flag destroy the symbol of freedom, but amending the Constitution would destroy part of freedom itself.” Mr. Savage is right, which is why I will vote against this amendment. Senator Durbin’s amendment is a way forward to balance our respect for the flag with reverence for the Constitution.”

Putting aside the fundamental problems I have with amending the Constitution for this issue, let’s look at what this would actually mean.  Even according to the current state laws on the books regarding the use of the flag, hundreds of people should be arrested, fined and even jailed for their improper use of the flag.  Car dealers who use the flag on their literature are breaking the law.  Political parties who use the flag on their letterheads are breaking the law.  Ordinary citizens who wear flag bathings suits, use flag bandanas, have flag doormats are breaking the laws of many states.  No one, however, is arrested, except in the very rare, nightly news making instance when they take flame and burn the flag in extreme protest over something.  Their arrests, and the state laws on the books, are, however, unconstitutional in the face of the first amendment.  If, however, we change the constitution to make flag desecration illegal, the police could come into your home and arrest you on July 4 for using flag napkins.  They won’t, of course, but then we’ll be walking down the slippery path of selective enforcement and I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. 

We don’t want folks to burn the flag in protest.  On the opposite extreme, we get really, really pissed if a politician doesn’t wear the flag pin.  I’m not going to argue this one on behalf of Barack Obama.  Let me just show you a couple of pictures.

This is Hillary Clinton as she announces her candidacy for the presidency via the web.  Do you see a flag pin?  I don’t.  Seems like a pretty important occasion. 

Watch the Speech

This is a picture from the front page of John McCain’s website.  Do you see a flag pin?  I don’t.  Seems like a pretty prominent place to have your picture.

So when is it appropriate to wear a flag pin and when isn’t it?  What are the rules?  Do you only wear one on TV?  Do you only wear one in red states?  Do you only wear one in front of military audiences?  Barack Obama is clear:  he doesn’t wear a flag pin as a stand in symbol of his patriotism.  He is a patriot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and he doesn’t need a pin to prove it.

We get really worked up in this country over perceived patriotism.  Perhaps there can be no greater show of patriotism than joining in the democratic process and running for office.  Deciding to sacrifice one’s life for politics, to put one’s family under a microscope, to have one’s every move dissected in the hope of helping our country make the changes and enact the laws and policies that will help us remain the strongest democracy on earth is, perhaps, the strongest evidence of patriotism one can ever hope to offer.


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