Patriot Games

[ Posted Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 – 16:37 UTC ]

Barack Obama may have just forever changed a sincerely ugly dynamic in American politics that has existed since before I was born -- the old Republican refrain which questions the patriotism of Democrats. They've been beating this drum for a long time, which is why it would truly be stunning if Obama manages to put it to rest once and for all. From McCarthyism to post-Vietnam "Democrats hate our troops" nonsense to silly games about flag-worship to a few days ago, this has been a favorite weapon to use against Democrats: They're not patriotic. They're not real Americans. They don't love their country. They blame America first. In fact, they hate America. Unlike all us America-loving Republicans.

I have always bitterly resented this caricature, I should add. I even write about it (or different aspects of it) every Fourth of July. I fly an American flag on the Fourth, and I make no apologies for doing so. That flag doesn't mean I support the wars George Bush started, that flag doesn't mean I'm more patriotic than anyone else, and it certainly doesn't mean I'm a Republican. What that flag means is that I believe in the ideals of America, while at the same time being patriotic enough to point out flaws in those ideals' execution.

Am I a patriot? I would not use that word, myself. Much like the word "hero," most anyone who uses it to describe himself probably doesn't qualify. Unless you are referring to yourself as a Patriot, and you are indeed a professional football player on New England's team (ahem). Seriously, though, patriot is a word best used about other people, in my humble opinion, and not about yourself. In other words, you don't get to judge for yourself whether you're a hero or a patriot, others do. That may be unfair, but that's how I feel.

To me, voting is just about the most patriotic thing you can do. But right behind that comes keeping an eye on politicians of any stripe when they try to lead America away from her ideals, and speaking up about it when it happens.

Patriotism means different things to different people, though, and I certainly don't try to force others into my definition of the word. If you want to call yourself a patriot for whatever reason, I will not argue. Love of country is an intensely-felt and deeply personal matter.

Which brings me to Barack Obama. Recently, Sarah Palin said something stupid. That, in itself, is not news (due to the many times it happens in a single day). What she said was boilerplate Republican stump speech stuff -- that she loved being in the "real America," or the "pro-America" parts of the country. Anyone over the age of twelve won't be surprised by this, since as I said it's been happening longer than I have been alive. The slurs change over time (commie, pinko, fellow traveler, radical, terrorist-pal, pro-America), but the tactic does not.

But finally -- finally! -- a Democrat has risen to the challenge, and smacked it down hard. From an extraordinary article in the Washington Post, which reports on a recent Obama rally in Richmond, Virginia (with tongue firmly planted in cheek):

Something unreal is happening here in the real America.

Two hours before Barack Obama's appearance at a campaign rally here Wednesday, they played the national anthem -- and people stood and sang. Some even put hands on hearts! In the first row sat a woman -- we'll call her Margaret the Corporate Trainer, in Joe-the-Plumber style -- wearing an actual flag pin on her shirt. "I'm American!" she said proudly. Really.

Then Obama took the stage and gave a stirring speech about those soldiers who "fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America! They haven't served a Blue America! They have served the United States of America!"

The audience took up a chant of "USA! USA!"

And these are Democrats?

This scene did not fit neatly into the Sarah Palin view of the world. In that view, there is the "real America," the "hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation," the place where "we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans." We can identify this part of America because they vote Republican.

By inference, there is also a faux America, where people are slothful, unpatriotic, anti-American, misanthropic, bad and cowardly. We know these areas because they vote Democratic.

The article gets more and more amusing (yes, the author is writing satirically) -- it's worth reading in its entirety -- as it goes on to report Obama's words, and some reactions from the crowd.

"There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country," he told 12,000 supporters. "There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country. We all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, city dweller, farm dwellers, it doesn't matter. We're all together."

In recent elections, Democrats were cowed by challenges to their patriotism. But the crowd in Richmond, confident of an Obama victory, brushed off the Palin insult with laughter, a survey of the first row in the arena revealed.

"I'm a terrorist," said Kathleen the Food Vendor.

"We're probably communists," added John the Other Food Vendor, sitting with Kathleen. "I've been hating America ever since I was a young man."

"I was a baby terrorist," offered Terrence the Unemployed Guy.

Obama finishes strong as well:

"There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq; there are patriots who opposed it," he said. "There are patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Virginia and all across this country who serve on our battlefields, some are Democrats, some are Republicans, some are independents, but they have fought together and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag."

Now, I know all of this isn't really anything new for Obama to say. It's a variation on a line from his standard stump speech. But still, I found it inspiring because I've waited a long time for a Democratic politician to say something like this so eloquently. Kerry tried to tap into this patriotism theme (remember his "I'm reporting for duty" salute at the convention?), but Obama seems to have mastered it. And if he keeps it up, he may be able to bury the anti-American Republican accusations for good in this country.

Since, by my rules, you can't say it of yourself, I will gladly do the honors here for him -- Barack Obama is a patriot.


-- Chris Weigant


6 Comments on “Patriot Games”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I don't know why I am surprised but it always amazes me how in this country of free speech everyone seems to be trying to shut everyone else up. And the way this is done is by painting those who disagree with you as un-patriotic. This is most commonly seen when there are disagreements with how the government is running the country. Of course when the government abuses its power or takes the country in the wrong direction is when freedom of speech is need most.


  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well said, Chris and Stan!

    And, speaking of patriots, I am so looking forward to FTP today and, most especially, to the awards.

    It would be fitting that most impressive Democrat status be reserved today for the one who is Barack Obama's greatest protector and defender and who will always have his back, at every turn.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Very inspiring, CW...

    Although, I do take exception to those lunkheads who proudly proclaimed "I am a terrorist"..

    That is not something to joke about. Why not just say, "I am a child molester" or "I am a serial killer who rapes women and then eats their flesh"..

    Yea, funny funny, ha ha... :^/

    I know, I know.. It's satire and meaningless. But ya'all know that one of my "buttons" is terrorism..

    On a lighter note, I AM glad to see that the good Senator Obama concede the point that you can be a patriot, even if you support the war in Iraq..

    I wonder how many on the Left would agree with THAT sentiment.. Not many, I would wager.. I have to say and I mean this in all objectivity and honesty.. I am certain that if Senator Obama would read some of the comments on the likes of HuffPo, TaylorMarsh and DailyKos, he would be infuriated at such unbridled bigotry and embarrassed that those people supported him..

    I think that, once Obama is sworn in as President, the Left is going to be in for a rude awakening.. Much like they were with the Senator's support for FISA...

    Finally, if the ladies of this forum would allow me to indulge in what may be construed as sexism...


    If Obama can attract the vote of someone THAT hot looking, he can't be all bad!!! :D


    As an aside to CW, feel free to delete that last part if you feel it's in bad taste...


  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    I just read an interesting comment that really got me thinking.. I LOVE comments like that! :D

    Anyways, consider this.

    If there was massive reports of potential terrorists attacks or, gods forbid, an actual attack, the Left would be screaming hysterically about how the Right is causing all of this and instigating attacks to sway the election.

    But what we have is an economic catastrophe in the works that is STILL going on.. And, it's accepted that, the ONLY reason the Dems are ahead this election season is BECAUSE of the economic crisis.. Terrorist/military crisis benefits the GOP and economic crisis benefits the Dems.. This is accepted as fact..

    So, this begs the question..

    Doesn't claims of DEM responsibility in the financial disaster we are facing have EQUAL merit??

    I mean, if the GOP can foster and/or instigate a terrorist crisis to sway the election, it stands to reason that the Dems can foster and/or instigate a economic crisis to serve the same end..

    I am not advocating such a theory, nor do I know of anyone who is..

    But the theory IS interesting, nonetheless...

    "Furthertheless is not a word. Stop using it!"
    -Charlie Crawford, SPIN CITY


  5. [5] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I'd say that the financial crisis was not caused by Republicans or Democrats but by a belief, the belief that a completely deregulated market is always good.

    Many people on both sides bought into this belief. I'd focus on changing the belief rather than spreading blame.

    The one thing I would add though is that it's primarily been Republicans driving this belief with Democratic complicity.

    Not that one is better than the other, but here's why I'm always urging Democrats to lead rather than follow!


    p.s. The Starsky and Hutch movie is one of my favorites. I can picture Ben Stiller right now running in slow motion.

    p.s.s. And I totally agree with you about Obama being angry at people who are not engaged in productive discussions. I'm a member of an Obama forum here in Ohio and occasionally someone posts an anti-Republican post. Someone always responds with something like the following: "Let's focus on getting Obama elected folks!" It's quite a good list. Very much like CW's site. You'd be proud!

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Many people on both sides bought into this belief. I'd focus on changing the belief rather than spreading blame.

    Agreed... Trying to affix blame in the middle of a crisis is like trying to affix blame while a boat is leaking. Fix the fracking leak first, THEN we can decide who's at fault..

    p.s. The Starsky and Hutch movie is one of my favorites. I can picture Ben Stiller right now running in slow motion.

    My favorite part was when Owen Wilson pulled out the guitar and started singing, "Don't Give Up On Us, Babe".. Gods, I busted a gut!! :D

    p.s.s. And I totally agree with you about Obama being angry at people who are not engaged in productive discussions. I'm a member of an Obama forum here in Ohio and occasionally someone posts an anti-Republican post. Someone always responds with something like the following: "Let's focus on getting Obama elected folks!" It's quite a good list. Very much like CW's site. You'd be proud!

    I get that a lot on HuffPo.. When I question an action taken by Obama or imply that he is not god's gift to the planet, many people start spewing all the crap and garbage about McCain and Palin..

    HELLO... I am an OBAMA supporter!! Why would I care about what evil nefarious thing McCain or Palin has done.

    I liken it to picking your favorite NFL player. If I like David Gerrard at QB, why would I give a rat's arse what bonehead move Tom Brady or Brett Favre did the other day??

    Which isn't to say that Gerrard is my favorite player.. Probably the "dynamic duo" of Fred Taylor and MJD would have that dubious honor... :D


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