Flag Pin Patriotism

25 10 2007

After hearing that Obama was criticized a few weeks ago for not wearing the flag pin anymore and seeing that bit of information being treated as newsworthy fodder for pudits and reporters alike, I thought the mainstream media must be really bored to spend time on this.  But then I began to pay attention to this dishonest discussion about patriotism take place and watched people act as if they were really taking the whole charade seriously.

Perhaps, I am alone on this, but I thought Obama response was a good one because it shifted the focus away from the mini-smear campaign right wingers such as Sean Hannity were waging against Obama to criticizing those who wrap themselves in the flag only to violate the U.S. Constitution in how they govern or craft policy. 

You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest; instead I’m gonna try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.

But apparently that answer did not satisfy critics such as Stanley Renshon who said in the Politico yestersday,

Certainly dissent is important, and it’s both the right and the privilege of all Americans. However, equating it with true patriotism is like comparing dating with a good marriage.

That’s assesment is unfair and fails to acknowledge how the post-9/11 America became infused with extremist rhetoric that led to disatrous polices. 

Consider the following. Immediately after 9/11 right-wingers such as the late Jerry Falwell said,  

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU….I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.

And as late as fall of 2006 Rep. Dennis Hastert and others, attributed Democratic opposition to legalizing the President’s unlawful wiretapping to wanting to “coddle terrorists.” And since 9/11, the Bush administration has held suspects indefinitely without charge, tortured people, and of course unsuccessfully prosecuted an unnecessary war.

Now to be fair to Renshon larger criticism was that Obama was conflating the demonstration of solidarity in wearing the pin after 9/11 with the hyper-patriotism of the right wing or even initial support for foreign adventures.  Patriotism, Renshon argued, can be the glue that binds people together for the sake of community service or overcome “identity politics.” And perhaps that true. 

But thats not how it has been recasted in this current environment, and to forget that is to be either blind or purposefully forgetful.  Patriotism and loyalty whether Renshon admits it or not were defined by the right in very stark terms.  It was either you are with us or you are against us. Or as Ashcroft warned the American public, criticism of administration policies would only provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

So while some might want to dismiss Obama’s justification for not wearing the flag pin the way he did as just some ill-considered platitude, he still has a point. Somehow that got lost in the translation.

Bill Maher of course had a much more witter take on the faux controversy.

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13 07 2011
Republicans and their Pledges of Malfeasance « The Liberal Mob

[…] Republicans these “pledges” are the new flag-pin-on-the-lapel badge of Patriotism. If you don’t wear it or sign it, it must mean you aren’t a true American. And I guess […]

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