07 July 2008

Raise what's left of the flag for me

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on Obama's speech on patriotism last week. I'm too beaten-down, I suppose, to offer much beyond the standard reply that no one who's allowed to ascend the heights of mainstream American politics will be allowed to respond any better. However, there are a couple important fallacies here that need to be dealt with sternly.

For example, Obama says:
Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself - by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.
This is, of course, the ritual excoriation of the hippies that's required before you can make a Serious statement on loyalty to America. Mainstream pundits will treat it like a station of the cross, a ritual threshold that doesn't merit close scrutiny. But it's completely wrong from start to finish, and happily internalizes right-wing talking points and Sensible Liberal concern trolling.

Admittedly, I'm not thoroughly versed on leftist writing of the contemporary era, let alone that of the 1960s. But I have a hard time believing Obama, or anyone else, can produce someone other than a mental patient or deranged cultist who ever said America was responsible "for all that was wrong with the world." This is a favorite false frame of rightist nationalists who want to assume America as wholly righteous by projecting the opposite belief on any critics of American policy. But making up nonsense about Old Dirty Hippies isn't going to get Obama in any trouble for the same reason Hillary Clinton's leaked put-down of MoveOn.org members never gained any traction; the mainstream press was too busy nodding in agreement.

I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America.
If you've been around righties at all, you've probably heard some variation on the following: "Susan Sarandon/Michael Moore/etc. should be happy they live in America where they have freedom to criticize the government!"* That there might be other countries out there with freedom of speech seems entirely, well, foreign to them. Obama, apparently, agrees with them. If America hadn't come along with our "singularly great" ideals, the search for freedom, justice, equality, democracy and all that would have forever languished in the ether of possibility. You can't get much more Exceptionalist than that.

So let me say at this at outset of my remarks. I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
Coming from Obama, who previously said he would choose not to wear a flag lapel pin because of his personal definition of patriotism but is now wearing one, this is not a threat as much as a plea. Please don't question his patriotism, because he'll be forced to cave in and comply with your demands, and that will make him look bad.

*I've always wondered about this. People should be thankful to those who died defending their free speech by voluntarily giving it up? Untie that convoluted logic, and you win a pony.

SEE ALSO: Bats Left, Throws Right and Open Left.