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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, July 04, 2008

America The Crack Baby

Rarely have I laughed so much than I did at Larisa Alexandrovna's near-spoof rebuttal to Jonah Goldberg's USA Today article on patriotism.

Goldberg had perfectly summed up the reasons why outward displays of patriotism often discomfit those who find them twee, or unnecessary:

In part because liberal commentators have such a hard time grasping why patriotism should be an issue at all, and the GOP is so clumsy explaining why it's important, the debate often gets boiled down to symbols. Like so much else about Obama, his position on the lapel flag changes with the needs of the moment. After 9/11, he wore it. During the debates over the Iraq war, he stopped because he saw the flag as a sign of support for President Bush. (He started wearing it again in May.) "I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest," he added in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great and, hopefully, that will be a testimony to my patriotism."

Read that line again: "What I believe will make this country great."

Not to sound too much like a Jewish mother, but some might respond, "What? It's not great now?"

This sense that America is in need of fixing in order to be a great country points to Obama's real patriotism problem. And it's not Obama's alone.

By jove, he nailed it! Twice.

A- Outward shows of patriotism are problematic because they suggest said showy patriot refuses to acknowledge or even denies his country's wrongdoings.

B- Support of country equates support of current administration.

The first is usually unworkable in the historical mind of any Leftist, whereas the second depends on administration (but really shouldn't).

Alexandrovna lamely begins her Huffington Post retort by speaking words through gritted teeth:

"Jonah Goldberg continues to demonstrate how the right-wing is manipulating public discourse in order to confuse and conflate patriotism with rabid nationalism."

It's George Lakoff's warning about national discourse being framed according to Republican wording come to life! One can almost hear a squeal of frustration in her opening salvo.

Chris Rock's standup once touched on black Americans' conflicted love of their country. Paraphrasing he said, with that perfect rhythm only he has:

"Black folk love America, but America is like the uncle who sexually molests you. Sure, he's your blood and you love him, and he might even help to put you through college, but he...MOLESTS you!"

To which Miss Alexandrovna counters with her view of American patriotism:

"A mother of a heroin addict, for example, is critical of her child's drug abuse and wants it to stop. The mother wants only the best for her child. Does the mother's criticism of the child's actions in any way illustrate that she does not love her child? On the contrary, it is because the mother loves her child and is devoted to her child that she wants her child to be better, greater than he/she is."

America, the molesting uncle? The smack baby? This isn't my America, and I doubt it's how the majority of Americans view their country either.

Is it a wonder that many on the progressive Left simply do not get what patriotism is, especially in the American context.

No other country was formed so precariously out of a dozen different national molds than the USA. And that was just in 1776.

Each immigrant who came later added yet another personalised layer of what America is, was, and would become.

Through it all, there were some binding symbols which held this patchwork quilt nation together. It's not rocket science, either. American patriotism is dead simple, people.

- The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

- The reverence for the Pilgrims, the Pioneers and Native Americans, the Founding Fathers and all their collective legacy.

- The US Flag, National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance.

You have the philosophical underpinning in the first set, the historical bridge in the second, and concrete ways of showing your acknowledgement of the first two in the last set.

Where other nations remember bloody battles, the chopping off of tyrants' heads, the goosestepping of murderers, America celebrates her patriotism in truly innocuous ways.

We celebrate it during Thanksgiving, when we are thankful for our bounties and blessings. We celebrate it during important dates like the Fourth of July, a day which gave birth to this unlikely experiment called America.

Above all, we celebrate it with an unalloyed, almost childlike belief that the country we live in is a force of good overall.

And I suppose that's the litmus test which fails for so many people.

Patriotism genuinely makes certain people feel squeamish, and unable to express themselves with any semblence of popular patriotism about their country.

When I was driving in my car today, my radio on NPR as ever, I heard "senior news analyst" Daniel Schorr give his own views on the topic, entitled "A Reflection for Independence Day".

Listen here.

"Patriots may be a good name for a football team, or a jeep or a wiretapping law.

But I would submit that in politics it has become a word corrupted by misuse in 'I Am More Patriotic than Thou' epithets.

Patriotism may not be, as Samuel Johnson called it, 'the last refuge of a scoundrel', but at least since 1953, when I covered the Senator Joseph McCarthy red-baiting hearings, I have come to suspect most assertions of patriotism and most accusations of unpatriotism."

Even if you didn't click on the link to hear the cynicism dripping from every painfully pronounced syllable, you can feel it plainly above in his words.

Look how Mr. Schorr begins his entreaty against patriotism: by saying that the very word "Patriot" is something best left to inanimate objects like vehicles (aka, gas guzzling enviro-killers), or to groups like sports teams (sport being the pastime of unthinking yobbos), and then with a clever flourish, he finishes his intro with a little dig at President Bush (Fascist).

But he's not done. Oh no.

Patriotism is a corrupt idea not the least BECAUSE it has been corrupted by the double-whammy of competitiveness and sanctimony!

Why he sounds almost wistful when he asserts that maybe just maybe patriotism is not what good old Dr. Sam Johnson said it was, but certainly his own views on the matter were cemented during a time in American history where to be a patriot meant scoundrels were the ones who determined who was one or not.

Let's put aside his immediate knee-jerk association of patriotism and the McCarthy hearings (akin to a British person remembering the signing of the Magna Carta and the treachery of the weather that day in the same breath). Instead, just concentrate on his last words.

"My suggestion for this Independence Day is for our WARRING politicians and their surrogates declare a moratorium on references to patriotism. This is Daniel Schorr."

Because not even on Independence Day, the Fourth of July...no wait! especially ON Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is it appropriate to be patriotic about America.

Patriotism, you see, needs to be believed on the honour system.

I'll have to take it on tick that Daniel Schorr loves his country, and Barack Obama loves his country, and Chris Rock loves his country, and Larisa Alexandrovna loves her country even though they'll take every opportunity to remind you of all the reasons why you shouldn't love this country.

And then they'll claim they're patriotic because America should be loved despite all its faults -- indeed, to remember the faults, one suspects before long, makes them better human beings because they love her anyway.

I think that's it.

Always trot out the bad about America, because your love (which is never expressed by anything so gauche as patriotic shows like flag pins, or hand on your hearts during anthems, or stuff like that) will glow purer and more noble if you do.

America the crack baby, and America the molesting uncle should be loved inspite of itself.

Just forget the Fourth of July and celebrate really important days like May Day, and Earth Day, and January 20, 2009, the Day when Bush Left Office.

Throw away those chains of patriotism this Independence Day!


Sorry, Miss Alexandrova. Sorry, Mr. Schorr. I just can't do it. I went to Home Depot yesterday, and for .98 whole American cents, I bought me two ginormous Old Glories to hang from my car window.

But that's okay. I'm sure they were made in China.

So with my Chinese-American flags flying high, I say to all my readers on Sundries, I'd like to take this overly sentimental opportunity to wish you a very safe, and very patriotic Fourth of July, and...

(Wait for it)

May God bless America.

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  • I heard one professor say it was patriotic to steal nuclear secrets from Los Alamos and give them to the Soviets...

    (Or at least it somehow "saved the world".)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 04, 03:23:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Crack? No way!

    But I'll do lines of the Constitution off the mirror of the American soul...and feel mighty fine doing it!

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Jul 04, 08:40:00 pm GMT-4  

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