Barack Obama has been accused of being un-patriotic, and therefore, anti-American, because he doesn’t like the American national anthem, doesn’t like saluting the American flag, and doesn’t like wearing American flag pins.
Which definition of patriotism are we using here?
According to [ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/patriot ], a patriot can be:
1.) a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
2.) a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government
I think it’s obvious that while most conservatives and Republicans, including John McCain, would regard themselves as personifying the first of these two, many, if not most liberals and Democrats, including Barack Obama, would lean towards the second definition to identify themselves as patriots, as would I. This is because the second definition allows you to remain an independent individual who is able to question the government and it’s motives and actions, whereas with the first definition, you pretty much have to do what you are told, regardless of any ethical, moral, or logical objections.
Now that we have established that there are two types of “patriots”, perhaps you can see how having moral objections to ceremonies worshiping symbols doesn’t mean that a person hates their country, but only necessarily implies that they either are not big on symbolism and ceremony, which is a trivial, cosmetic, personal choice that should not be a big deal to anyone, or that they refuse to put faith in symbols and ceremony unless certain conditions are met wherein those things are backed up by methods and actions that they can believe in.
I personally disagree with some of the content of our anthem, and no longer salute the flag, and refuse to wear red white and blue symbols of an American ideal which is far from our American reality, but that does not make me a terrorist or a traitor or a threat to our national security.
Maybe, like me and many other American citizens today, Barack is ashamed of what our country has become, and finds it hard to submit himself to displays of blind, unquestioning patriotism to symbols that now represent a nation far removed from what it was supposed to be.
Perhaps, as I do, Barack has ethical objections to some of the content of the anthem. In particular, I take offense to the lyrics “Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave … O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”, due to the bitterly poetic irony that our freedoms are being stripped away by our own government and the corporate and foreign interests which seem to have far more power over it than “we, the people” do, and as such, we are no longer nearly as “free” as we were when this song was popularized. And as or bravery, is empire building for profit an act of bravery? Is attacking a stone aged people who use sticks and stones and old, malfunctioning Russian guns and missiles with our vastly superior technology so that we can meddle in the affairs of a region to control the oil interests of our ruling elite really that brave?
Of more likely, he finds the fourth verse, which is far less well known than the first, to be problematic to him personally:
“Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
America is supposed to have separation of church and state and be a multi-cultural melting pot with freedom of religion. These lyrics imply that God (the Judeo-Christian God, I assume) not only endorses America above all others (which is laughable), but actually helps us to achieve military victory in violent conflict with other nations. Perhaps Obama, as a Muslim, or if he is a Christian, as a person of middle eastern and Muslim descent, feels, as I do, that this kind of Religious-Patriotism is a dangerous thing that promotes violence between faiths and cultures. I don’t think God supports one party in a war any more than choosing a side in a football game, despite what players seem to think.
The Pledge of Allegiance asks one to be even more unquestioningly obedient to the actions of one’s government, while also being exclusively monotheistic:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”
I for one will not swear my allegiance to any one. I choose to lead rather than follow. I choose to be “free” and “brave” and make up my own mind by observing and thinking and feeling, rather than by being told what to believe and accepting it because some authority declares itself an authority.
And how is their liberty and justice for all, when only the two corporate candidates are allowed in the debates because the corporate sponsors are afraid that someone might say something anti-corporate and pro-people and incite a riot. Not very free or just, huh? How is their liberty and justice for all when the rich buy their way out of prison, and usually even out of trials, for conspiracy, mass-murder, and theft of billions of dollars from millions of people, while the poor rot in jails for far lesser offenses, like using herbal pain relievers that God made for them rather than support pharmaceutical companies that poison the masses?
I was an Eagle Scout, and used to be all about flag etiquette and the other symbolic aspects of being a so called “patriot”. Then I grew up and learned that the America I live in doesn’t always represent truth, justice, and freedom. I realized that powerful financial interests had long ago taken over my homeland, and turned it into an uncaring, unfeeling, corporate behemoth stomping on the weak at home and abroad in the endless pursuit not of happiness, but of the almighty dollar and the power that it brings over others.
Perhaps Barack, as I do, takes such great offense to some of the things that America has done and is doing, to people of other cultures and colors and faiths, and even to it’s own poor and working classes, that he doesn’t want to salute the flag or wear flag pins or whatever other ceremonial patriotic gestures that the average person does, until these injustices are corrected to his satisfaction. As a man who talks about hope and change and fighting against racism and intolerance, I would be willing to bet that he has intentions of making America a place that he and I and other similar minded folks can once again be proud of.
Maybe once we stop letting the rich drive the workers into poverty, and stop having privatized corporate wars for profit, and start acting like a moral, ethical nation again, I could bring myself to wear a red white and blue flag pin. Maybe Obama will too…