Patriot Power

The left’s movement to reclaim the flag kicks into high gear.

Michael Moore is a patriot. Who knew? To be honest, the chances are that those reading this article knew it. Most other Americans, however, probably believe that Michael Moore is a Stalinist who wants to send registered Republicans, NRA members, and anyone affiliated with a “cigar club” to a gulag for re-education.

I wish that were a joke. Just a few days ago, while helping to man a table to register people to vote, one obvious victim of talk radio claimed that John Kerry was married to a Communist. Apparently, he was unaware that his wife is worth at least several hundred million dollars thanks to good ol’ American capitalism.

For decades, right-wing talking heads have tried to paint the left as “anti-American.” Perhaps their most insidious and successful tactic in this strategy was to claim the flag for themselves, making its apparent meaning so odious to liberals and progressives that many of us rejected it as a reflex. They split pacifists from the red, white, and blue by wrapping the flag around bombs. They divide atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed all who believe in separation of church and state, from it by branding the colors with the cross. They sully it for socialists, labor, and other financial reformers by packaging it with the all-mighty dollar.

And yet, the flag truly stands for none of these things.

Two LA Weekly writers deconstruct this debasement well, pointing out that left-leaning movements have had patriotic underpinnings for decades if not centuries:

Indeed, throughout the nation’s history, many American radicals and progressive reformers proudly asserted their patriotism. To them, America stood for basic democratic values – economic and social equality, mass participation in politics, free speech and civil liberties, elimination of the second-class citizenship of women and racial minorities, a welcome mat for the world’s oppressed people. The reality of corporate power, right-wing xenophobia, and social injustice only fueled progressives’ allegiance to these principles and the struggle to achieve them.

I am aware that some DMY writers disagree with this sentiment. There are certainly valid reasons to be suspicious of the last refuge of scoundrels. But consider this: is it any more “logical” to love your parents, when there are billions of others much like them? Is it “logical” to love your home, when it is no more or less special than millions of others? How about your alma mater, your home town, your best friend?

Taking the emotional aspect out as entirely as possible, the logic is simplicity itself: “think globally, act locally.” Americans have a much better chance of successfully working for change here in America than we do in, say, India. We can convince our own politicians to reconsider their policies with far greater efficacy than we can the oligarchy running China.

And if my readers will forgive a bit of that emotion returning, the dream of America is unprecedented in world history. The myth of a land where everyone has a place, regardless of creed, gender, color, or nationality, is a powerful one. Our highest ideals are liberty and justice for all, and E Pluribus Unum — “Out of Many, One” — where the Great Melting Pot makes of us an alloy far stronger than any “pure” metal. Our goal is nothing less than a world where individuals are free, the laws are just for all, and we are stronger together than we are apart. If America leads the way in this ideal, it is by being a guide, not a master.

Of course, the United States has hardly lived up to this ideal. Conquest of smaller nations, the arrogance of treating an entire hemisphere as its playground, near-genocide of those who lived here before the Europeans came, institutionalized slavery, the virtual slavery of women, vigilante justice, lynchings, obscenely corrupt politics, follies such as Prohibition, and tragedies like “internment camps” mar our heritage and legacy. More recently, covert operations have caused the deaths of thousands throughout Central America, and brainless hubris to shock the most hardened imperialists of old has dragged us into a war that our last shocking failure should have taught us to avoid. America is not perfect.

Then again, none of the things we love are perfect. (Well, my wife is, but she’s the exception that proves the rule. *G*) There were times our parents didn’t understand us, we had teachers who taught us only the nature of boredom, Main Street is home to a dozen strip malls, and the handle sticks on the bathroom door. We love them all the same, though, because they are ours and we are theirs. The rad-cons believe they are patriots because they say “my country right or wrong.” I believe that we are patriots who say, “my country right or wrong — right, to be kept right, wrong, to be made right.”

(/) Roland X
“Our world is unconquerable because the human spirit is unconquerable.” — Al Gore

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