Tuesday, June 22, 2010

False Patriotism

With Independence Day coming up I think this is a good time to explore the new wave of post-9/11, conservative, Right wing patriotism sweeping the nation. In the days after 9/11 you could not find an American flag in any store in the Tennessee/North Alabama area. There were none to be found. Flags could be found on cars, houses, businesses, churches, schools, and anywhere else you could think. President Bush had a 80+ approval rating and for a few weeks at least we were as united as we had been in a long time, especially after the Bush/Gore election fiasco. A few months after the attacks, the United States entered into a "War on Terrorism" in Afghanistan. Most people supported this action because it was believed that Al-Qadea based in Afghanistan, which included the most wanted man Osama Bin Laden, was responsible for 9/11. America was caught up in a sweep of patriotism, a unquestioning love for country, that could be summed up in the Toby Keith song, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)

Two years later, based on what was discovered later as false intelligence, we expanded the "War on Terrorism" into the nation of Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein. This war caused much more conflict and criticism, especially from the left. The reaction from the pro-war Right was that in a time of war citizens should not criticize the President because it would harm the morale of the troops, embolden our enemies, and cause harm to the country. This was the main argument from pro-war pundits and politicians. Do not criticize President Bush because it will harm the troops. Those who did offer criticism, to what we found out later was an unjust war, were condemned as unpatriotic, unAmerican, and in some cases traitorous. Patriotism, according to the pro-war crowd, required a unwavering, unquestioning dedication to President Bush, the Commander in Chief. Anything less would be detrimental to the nation.

Move ahead to 2009. President Bush is gone and a new Democrat President has taken office and from day 1 there has been nothing but criticism from the same people who condemned such rhetoric only a few years before. What changed? Why is it all of a sudden more patriotic to criticize the current administration? Practically overnight the Right in America, including Fox News, went from the biggest supporter of the Oval Office to its biggest critic. Criticism of the Democratic President is now the ultimate act of patriotism. The Tea Party, established in the wake of President Obama's election, considers itself to be the epitome of patriotism, incorporating such patriotic symbols as the Founding Fathers and the Gadsden flag and including a visceral criticism of the Obama Administration.

Why has the definition of patriotism changed with the election of a new President? We are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan with well over 100,000 troops in harm's way. The threat of terrorism is still very real and American still has many enemies. What has changed? Nothing, excepted this President is from the Democratic Party. This change has given the opposing party free reign to criticize every...single...move President Obama makes without remorse or excuse.

This demonstrates that the patriotism of many on the Right is not based on love of country, but love of party. Their mentality is "We love America as long as we are in charge" but with the free election and change of political party in the White House and Congress now America is a cesspool of "socialism, Marxism, and even Nazism." The patriotism offered by the Right is a false patriotism, a pseudo-patriotism. The Right's 2008 slogan of "Country First" is nothing more than pomp and propaganda, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, but political ambition.

This is not to say that true patriotism is dead, but I believe that it is on life support. Patriotism requires criticism, but not for one's own political or monetary ambitions, but to make this nation a more perfect union and secure the establishment of justice. It requires one to question the actions of the government, no matter what party is in charge. It requires one to respect those duly elected by the voters. It requires respectful, productive, political dialogue, when was the last time we had that. It means that one holds dear the basic ideals that America was founded on. (I know I sound like the Tea Partiers.) These include life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. It requires sacrifice, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice. I do agree with on tenant of the Right's pseudo-patriotism, freedom is not free. This list is not exhaustive, but simply a starting point. So, as you unfurl the Stars and Stripes this 4th of July, remember what it really means to be patriotic and let us celebrate the blessings of living in the United States.