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It's My Flag Too!
March 6, 2003
By a_random_joel

There has been an upsurge in nationalistic censure the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Joseph McCarthy, as this country tumbles, stumbles and bumbles towards war. Despite the fact the that our nation is deeply divided over the issue, the hawks - particularly the ideologues on the right - spit and scream vitriolic sentiments towards those who simply seek more time, more facts, more support and more options before starting a deadly process which cannot be reversed once set in motion. They are harpies, not hawks.

Those who question another man's patriotism are admittedly putting their own patriotism in the spotlight; those who seek to set a standard had better be prepared to live up to it. The epithet "Un-American" is frequently used. I do not understand this criticism. By virtue of being born or naturalized to this country, one is American, regardless of opinion or political ideology. By virtue of living in a free (a popular word these days) democracy (also popular), we are taught that we, as Americans, are granted certain inalienable rights. These rights are supplemented and defined by a core framework of American ideals called the Constitution, the first amendment of which addresses the vitality of free speech, thought and expression in a free and democratic American society.

To intimidate, threaten, or slander Americans for expressing their opinion on perhaps the single most important issue of the day is the very essence of "Un-American." While those who stand opposed to the war do not agree with this action, there are no calls to silence or censor those who do support it. Generally speaking, the anti-war side is wise enough to understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that the merits of one's arguments should be enough to persuade reasonable people that the position is logical. In contrast, those who support this war typically engage in other methods to achieve their agenda. In and of itself, this is a blow to their credibility and ability to communicate effectively.

After the devastating events of September 11th, our nation responded with a tremendous surge in goodwill, sympathy, and patriotism. I was on the phone to Red Cross, who told me that they had received so many calls, they literally could not take my blood! I bought a nice Old Glory sticker, and slapped her on my back windshield. Most of my neighbors did the same. In the time that has passed the sticker has faded, but my patriotism has not. But my views about others' patriotism did.

I saw a lot of other faded stickers. I saw a lot of tattered window flags. I came to realize that being a true patriot is not as easy as it appears. Slapping that sticker on my car took all but two seconds. Is that all that is required of me? Chanting "U-S-A" at a sports event - is that the measure of patriotism?

I am reminded of a quote by Samuel Johnson - “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I saw a host of commercials using American symbolism to promote a given product. And perhaps, most cynically, I witnessed an administration that decided to use this event, and this upsurge in patriotism, to advance their political agenda.

Only recently have the Democrats begun to find a voice. Throughout the first year after 9/11, they united and displayed their patriotism and gave virtual carte blanche to this administration. One can only wonder if Republicans would have been as gracious had Al Gore been in Bush's position. Their behavior throughout this whole episode is the only answer I need. Their behavior during Clinton's terms affirms this. How odd that at other times of conflict - Desert Fox, Somalia and Kosovo, there was no patriotic outpouring of support for an elected President, or troops in the field. How odd that the man who poses such a termendous threat now, Saddam Hussein, did not pose such a grave threat then - even though Bill Clinton is today being blamed for not doing enough! Perhaps our uber-patriot friends need to look in the rear-view mirror.

The hypocrisy exhibited would be comedic if it were about any other issue besides war. The foreign "diplomacy" we see today further underscores the conclusion that the pro-war ideologues care nothing for freedom, democracy or patriotism. Amongst the few key allies we have recruited for this incursion, their peoples have voiced strong opposition to their respective nation's policy on this issue. And this administration trivializes them!

This administration also derides other nation's who have listened to their people and have not succumbed to this madness. Yes, we sure set a great standard for democracy! But, we should not be surprised, as this same administration has also managed to squander the tremendous goodwill and affection generated throughout the international community after the events of 9/11.

Just recently, the democratic Turkish parliament, according to the sovereign rules of its Constitution, and in accordance with the will of its people, chose to decline to offer itself as a springboard for American forces into Iraq. And what does the great No-Recount Administration ask for? A recount; actually a revote! Truly democracy in action. This is made more laughable by the fact that Turkey shares a border with Iraq, and is thus much more at risk from Hussein than America is.

It is clear now that true patriotism involves standing up for one's ideals in the hopes of bettering this great nation. It is easy to go along with the crowd. No sacrifice is made. But standing up for a conviction that is unpopular is difficult. Putting one's reputation on the line, risking alienation from co-workers, friends and neighbors, being slandered and called names, even being physically intimidated, these are no small sacrifices. Our nation has a proud heritage of dissent, from the actions employed by our Forefathers to give birth to this nation, to the Dream of Dr. King.

I am tired of seeing our flag, our Constitution, and our legacy being hijacked. Those men of past battles who sacrificed life and limb did not make distinctions in whose liberty they defended. Now those of us who seek to avoid the loss of further life and limb of our servicemen, are being told that we do not support our troops! As much of a stink conservatives raise about two words in the Pledge, "Under God", they seem to have a hard time remembering the words that close the Pledge - "With liberty and justice FOR ALL".

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