More Than Something You Wear

I consider myself patriotic.  Mind you, not blindly patriotic; I don’t think that everything my country does is great.  Instead, I see patriotism as more like a process, or at least requiring a process wherein you don’t simply follow the lead, but instead constantly work to improve your country, applauding when it does something right, and rightly critical when it fails in an attempt to not repeat those mistakes.

Directly following the terror attacks of September 11th, though, a strange phenomenon swept the country.  Blind patriotism was in vogue, and flag waving became the in thing.  This was reflected in the astronomically high approval ratings in the nineties that Bush enjoyed following the attack.

But as time wore on, and Bush engaged in failure after failure, something happened.  On one side, there was a kind of renaissance for the critical but honest patriotism I profess, and on the other side there was a strengthening of the blind patriots, and it was this latter group, who in their zeal, whether honest, or contrived for political advantage, were quick to label those of us in the reality based camp as unpatriotic.

Meanwhile, particularly following the invasion of Iraq, flag waving was augmented with little yellow car magnets in the shape of ribbons with “Support the Troops” written on them.

Unfortunately, these magnets were quickly politicized, and seemed to only take one side of the debate’s sensibilities in mind.  For too many who exemplified critical patriotism, the yellow ribbon signaled not only support for the troops, but also support for the war they were waging.

But while the critically partiotic have been ostracized and chastized for their reluctance to fall in lock step, the blindly patriotic have increasingly made their brand of patriotism superficial.  The kind of debate and skepticism that can be used to make America better was eschewed in place of symbol after symbol.

Rejection of these symbols is an open invitation to attack that you aren’t patriotic enough.  But one presidential candidate, surprisingly enough, is bucking the trend.

“You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin,” Obama said. “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,” he said, “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.”

In a sane world, something like this wouldn’t even matter, but of course, we live in far from a sane world, and already Obama has been under the gun from conservative mouthpieces.

Said Sean Hannity: “Why do we wear pins? Because our country is under attack!”

Which really highlights exactly how empty the gesture really is.  For one, I would like to remind Sean that we haven’t been “under attack” for six years now.  And really, the attack didn’t last that long.  We were only “under attack” for under attack, after that the correct phrasing would be, “we were attacked.”  Or more accurately, “we were attacked and therefore use that as an excuse to act completely idiotic at just about every juncture possible.”

The other problem with Hannity’s statement is even more obvious.  What the hell will wearing a flag do to those who would attack them?  Did I miss something?  Do these flag pins cast a magical shield around you or something, because if they do I’m buying stock.  Do they strike fear in the hearts of terrorist, maybe?

Oh…  probably not.  All things consider, when terrorists see an American flag anymore, they also see rich recruiting grounds.

I know not everyone is fan of Obama, but I have to admit, it’s a gutsy move, and the words ring particularly true in this day where gaudy symbolism falls far short of true patriotism.

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