True Patriotism: The empty lapel of Barack Obama

nurembergrally2.jpgIt is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities…” Samuel Johnson

The stage is covered with American flags, draped and propped and perched everywhere, to the left, to the right and behind the speaker’s dais, which itself is covered with flag bunting and a covey of microphones nearly buried in a spreading nosegay of … flags.

The wall at the rear of the stage is covered by a gigantic “Old Glory” and every participant, from the high and the mighty to the clipboard bearers, coffee servers and floor sweepers wears a flag on his lapel or near her heart. Ubiquitous is the term that comes to mind, sleazy is another, frightening yet another.

The people, the true believers in the audience are waving smaller versions of the national banner in a crazed, grinning, drooling frenzy of nationalistic sentiment, carrying signs, and banners, wearing shirts, hats, and neckties on which the same theme is repeated, ad nauseum projectillum.

All in all, there are more flags in attendance at this rally than swastikas at Hitler’s lovely Nuremberg torch light soirées of the thirties.

Such is the face of American politics, American policy, in the 21st century, lurid, self righteous and jingoistic, the face of rabid, belligerent sanctimony.

There is significant part of this crowd as all the throngs in attendance at these events who wish that, along with the flags there would be represented, with equal prominence, the cross, the symbol of the God that they believe has led them to ravage large portions of the world, to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents, to maim, to cripple and traumatize, and to displace millions more, to drive hundreds of millions of others to despise with a nearly everlasting hatred, the very symbols that they display in their leering, insensate, mocking pride.

If you can, imagine this scene, which has become so typical of these modern American political debates, rallies, or other functions, so carefully crafted, the throwing of red meat to the circus crowds, displaying for the cameras the totality of the zealous support of an admiring public.

Imagine, if you will, that the cameras have panned back, way back to display the crowd watching from the distance, from other shores, in other climes, crowds who lack the same enthusiasm for the gong banging thirst for empire of their gleefully celebrating oppressors now displayed on the television screens or newspapers in Baghdad or Amman, Lima or Jakarta, Islamabad, Mexico City, Agra or dozens of other locales on every continent.

Imagine what must occur in the minds and hearts of those who treasure other flags, other histories, those who treasure other Gods.

One man, in this crowd, a prominent figure, who in the course of the evening will take center stage to speak or debate, to encourage, cajole or inspire those who thirst for his version of this America does not wear a flag in his lapel.

The absence of this nearly obligatory symbol of patriotic obeisance on his very public lapel has set tongues to wagging in some quarters and caused a great sturm und drang among the more vitriolic talking heads of the mass media and their admirers.

He did not remove the symbol publicly, nor did he cast it into some dramatic fire, nor tread it under foot, he called no press conference to discuss the removal of this small pin from his coat, he simply decided that the time for meaningless chauvinistic displays, so prominent in the wake of the smoldering rubble of the Twin Towers should give way to real patriotism, to simple action, to meaningful discussion of what is right about this America as well as what is wrong.

When the criticism began, when the cynical questioning of his patriotism began to slide unctuously from the mouths of the self serving and opportunistic pundits of the corporate media, he mounted no stages to make a great defense of his simple act, he made no apology, he quietly stood his ground and said this:

“If anyone’s patriotism should be considered suspect, it’s those who want to send Americans off to die in a worthless and destructive war and those who want to eviscerate our basic political values by torturing, detaining people with no rights, and spying on American citizens with no warrants…” Barack Obama

And this:

“A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?”That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.” Barack Obama

And this from another time in our history, during the thirties when the patriotic torches were burning in Nuremberg and reaction was forming at home:

“When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany” It will not be marked with a swastika; It will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.” Professor Halford E. Luccock of the Divinity School of Yale University said yesterday morning in a sermon at the Riverside Church, Riverside Drive and 122d Street.”The high-sounding phrase `the American way’ will be used by interested groups, Intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, tear gas and shotguns, denial of civil liberties,” he said. …….

“For never, probably, has there been a time when there was a more vigorous effort to surround social and International questions with such a fog of distortion and prejudice and hysterical appeal to fear. We have touched a new low in a Congressional investigation this Summer, used by some participating in it to whip up fear and prejudice against many causes of human welfare, such as a concern for peace and the rights of labor to bargain collectively.”

As many know this era, this dark age of neo conservative creeping fascism, wasn’t the first time in our brief history that fear was cynically used to manipulate a nervously receptive population, nor is it likely to be the last. What the Cheney / Bush administration has accomplished in these few years is notable not only for its audacity but for the incredible level of our complicity, of our collective and individual silence.

It is not in the fires nor the explosions of the barricades where revolutions are realized, it is in the small and quiet acts of courage, in the voice that says a simple no to power, the single hand held high before the oppressive state. These are the tools of the patriot, no matter how he cloaks himself, no matter what he wears on his lapel.

Admittedly Barack Obama was not my first choice to represent my party in this battle to regain the presidency. John Edwards spoke words that were closer to those that were already in my mind and offered a version of America that I had also dreamed of and I have been torn between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama since Senator Edward’s withdrawal from the contest.

I think that I could make a good case for or against either candidate, they are both capable of turning from the madness of the last near decade and toward a new era of sanity and reason and they both are afflicted with the hairy warts of American politics. Both are capable of beating John McCain and preventing a disastrous continuation of the Cheney/Bush nightmare.

In the end, difficult as it is, I have decided that Barack Obama, because of a simple,yet profound and courageous expression of true patriotism, because of the political courage evidenced by his empty lapel and his refusal to apologize for it gives Obama the edge as my choice for President.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

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About BobHiggins

Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter and cabinetmaker. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing and editing and complaining. Ahh the Golden Years.
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4 Responses to True Patriotism: The empty lapel of Barack Obama

  1. Well hello stranger!

    Long time no see around here Bob.

    We’ve missed you. Great post even though we disagree on the better candidate! 😉

    Most important to me at this point is a Dem in the White House.

  2. ironxl84 says:

    That is one powerful piece of prose Bob.

    I, like Pamela have a preference for Hillary.

    Notwithstanding that, Obama would clearly be an improvement over a continuance of the myopic BUSHCO “vision”.

    It’s just that I find him to be an unknown, whereas Hillary could not be considered to be so unpredictable.

    Sure, he talks a good game – but can he actually bring about real change – or will his great gift for rhetoric meet the cold hard realities that without a unified party behind him, he may end up simply being another talking head?


  3. Do you really believe that we got all of the way to where we are because just GWB and Tricky Dick the Second snatched the nation and its government up into their hands and forced us all down a path that no one else wanted to travel? Because it’s only if you believe that that you would feel justified in concluding that we can just elect a new President and he will make everything better.

    Has, for example, the degree of involvement in the creation of our untenable circumstances by alumni of the Nixon administration been forgotten? And that there were legions of willing co-conspirators who learned about pulling the levers of power through stints under that Nazi Reagan and his successor, the President from CIA? Those folks and their fantastically wealthy enablers are not going to simply wither under the stare of a well meaning Democrat in the Whitehouse, and then all retire to sunny climes so that we can set about making our huge laundry list of well needed repairs.

    If we are going to clean this house we’re going to need to take out an almost unbelievable amount of trash. I mean, we ain’t going to get the job done by just splashing a little whitewash on the walls and throwing down some cheap carpet. We’re talking about needing a major renovation. The most extensive renovation since the original Founding Fathers first put the place together.

    Not meaning to denigrate the good Senator from Illinois, but we simply embark upon mission impossible unless we include a call for THE SECOND AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION as a part of the proposed action plan. Where did the system go wrong? Because if we don’t answer that, and then change the basic system in ways required to prevent a repeat, a repeat is something that becomes guaranteed. The people who caused the problem are not going away and they’re not giving up. They’ll bide their time, and do their funky little game playing to set the stage for their next try.

    On the other hand, if they had to learn how to function under a completely new set of rules, and if all of their recruits and their shortcuts were neutralized, we might well get through several generations before needing to take actions this drastic again. if we don’t Convene in WE THE PEOPLE UNITED, the time will come, (2012, 2016?) when we will once again wish we had.

  4. bjerryberg says:

    Very ironic post, probably, unintentionally.

    Obama campaign rallies with their Rock Concert ambience and mesmerizing sloganeering remind one a great deal of renowned film- maker Leni Reifenstahl’s choreographing of Hitler’s infamous Nuremberg Rallies.

    I do not think Sen. Obama is personally a fascist by any stretch–however the marketing of him this way gives me pause.

    And now the Washington Post and NY Daily News tout corporatist ‘non-candidate’ Bloomberg as the ideal running mate for Obama. Mayor Bloomberg, like his soul-mate 2nd generation Austrian Schwarzenegger, is the closest thing US politics has seen to Mussolini lately.