Monday, February 09, 2009

Does Patriotism now come under the liberal column?

I always found it unsettling that in the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was considered the less patriotic of the candidates. Kerry who served two tours in the Vietnam war was considered somehow less American than Bush who dodged the draft and went AWOL from his Air National Guard duties.

One of the many things that was laudable about Barack Obama’s campaign, as Michael Kazin writes in the Washington Post, was that he recaptured the label of patriotism from the Republicans and made it a liberal trait again. Granted, he was aided by an even worse four years with Bush in office, an Iraq war that had escalated to the point of colossal failure, and an imploding economy. But then again, he ran against someone who has long been touted as the quintessential American hero. Regardless of what one thinks of McCain, I think almost everyone agrees that he is a true patriot.

Obama, as Kazin writes, made “compassion for the underdog” an American thing again. He carried his campaign on the shoulders of the same theme of uniting the country and restoring its values with which he first burst on the political scene in 2004. And it resonated with the people.

All that is well and good, but what is frightening is that Democrats seem to constantly have to prove their love for their country. Somewhere along the way, “unconditional” faith in everything your government does – be it start a pointless war, assume that global warming is not man made, threaten to thwart civil liberties – has acquired the label of patriotism.

The Bush administration, with all its secrecy and lies, seems to have established that dissent is not a patriotic faith, even if that dissent means questioning a war that majority of Americans agree was wasteful and unnecessary. Even if that dissent comes after being in the line of fire, realizing the unfairness of it, and protesting it after your return. Few would deny that one of the things that derailed Kerry in 2004 was the Bush campaign’s rehashing of his anti-war protest as contempt against his country.

While putting your life on the line for your country is second to none as far as patriotic acts go, when did having the best interests of the nation at heart, and questioning decisions gone awry become unpatriotic?

Obama managed to be on the side of dissent, and yet make it a patriotic viewpoint, aided by the mood in the country. This was not for lack of effort to prove otherwise from the McCain camp. Be it trying to pin unpatriotism by association through Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, Michelle Obama’s off –the-cuff, yet very tenable remarks about her long-awaited pride for her country, or Obama’s refusal to wear a lapel pin, Republicans once again tried to invoke the patriotism argument. The most laughable allegation came from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who infamously claimed that the Obamas were anti-American and couldn’t be trusted in the White House.

Despite those efforts, however, Obama's call to let America be America again worked. In addition to his message, the very fact that he is an African American has reminded people of the true ideals of this country being about justice and liberty. As many newspapers around the country reported, Democrats literally went from hiding their flags to waving them proudly after the election.

But perhaps, the most fascinating thing about his campaign was not its Americanism, but its globalism - the 200,000 strong rally in Berlin, campaign volunteers from around the world helping out here at home, and the accolades that poured in from the most unlikely corners after his victory.