July 4, 2005

Reflections on Patriotism

Filed under: Politics — PolitiCalypso @ 11:14 pm

In the several months since this blog started, events have occurred that could shake the American political scene for months or even years to come. It seems a fitting close to Independence Day — and a fitting entry to this blog — that these events should be expounded upon. They serve to illustrate the difference between true patriotism and the cynical use of "patriotism" for political ends, and shore up exactly who is doing what.

For example, yesterday the President compared the American Revolutionary War to the current war in Iraq, his political brainchild, support for which is flagging despite such attempts to manipulate Americans into being gung-ho for it as they were in 2003. Although there is propaganda for both sides during any war, the Revolutionary War was not the result of a lie. It was not a war of unfounded fears, but rather a result of the combination of abuses of power by the British government, an innate desire for autonomy on the part of the American people, and growing economic self-reliance of the then-Colonies. In sharp contrast, of course, the Iraq war was based on a lie. It took a colossal lie by the President and his cronies, using the fear of nuclear/chemical/biological apocalypse on American soil, to garner enough support to make the war politically viable. As the now-notorious "Downing Street Memo" shows, the Neoconservatives were arranging for intelligence to be "fixed around the policy." (Despite the American media’s ignoring this memo, it has not been forgotten by Senate and House Democrats. About a dozen, at least, have signed onto a petition by Senator John Kerry to investigate the memo’s allegations, and Rep. John Conyers has been pushing for investigations on his blog for weeks, as well as in the House of Representatives.) Rather ignoble and unpatriotic — lying to America about such things, causing the deaths of innocent (and actually patriotic) hundreds who believed that they were protecting their nation, creating a new pool of recruits for terrorist groups — all for short-term political ends. No, this war cannot be compared to the Revolutionary War.

Equally cynical is the notion that the Senate is expected to resign its Constitutional imperative of executive-branch oversight and rubber-stamp Presidential nominations for judgeships — particularly, with Justice O’Connor’s announcement of her resignation, Supreme Court nominees. Yet that seems to be what some right-wing Republicans expect. Now we have threats from the brokers of the filibuster compromise, as well as arbitrary definitions from Republicans involved in that compromise as to what the "extreme circumstances" consist of. "Disagreements with a judge’s ideology aren’t extreme circumstances," we hear from the Right side of the aisle. Ah, so if a nominee doesn’t respect the law and wants to rewrite it according to his or her ideology, that’s not extreme? As I mentioned in my blog entry on the compromise, a judge who supports torture isn’t extreme? And, since this is the issue of concern, how about a judge who for "religious" reasons doesn’t respect the rule of law as defined in Roe v. Wade? Last time I checked, right-wingers were using the term "activist judges" to describe those who, in their view, "rewrote the law from the bench" to a more liberal standard — who, interestingly, sometimes overturned old cases to expand personal freedom. Such has been the history of the courts in the United States until recently. However, overturning a case and rewriting the law from the bench in order to limit personal freedom isn’t extreme in America, by their standards.

And of course — how could I forget, in a column about patriotism, the antics of Karl Rove, lately accused openly of leaking covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name and compromising her global network — which, ironically enough, dealt with weapons of mass destruction. Many rank-and-file Democrats had suspected for months that Rove either ordered the leak or perpetrated it himself. Although he hasn’t, of course, been convicted of anything, at this point it’s a matter of who to believe: Ambassador Joseph Wilson (Plame’s husband) and the press, who would have everything to lose from making an accusation against a high-level official that they could not prove, or Rove himself, whose sleazy political tricks are known even among Republicans (although they often rejoice in them). The less-cynical might want to believe that a party whose members wrap themselves in the American flag would distance itself from a person who would commit a blatantly unpatriotic and felonious act, but nope — Senate and House neoconservatives are standing by Rove. They have made their choice now and will reap what they have sown.

After the fireworks subside, after the red, white, and blue decorations are taken down and put away for another 11 months, after we shower off the sweat of the day and burn off the food and drink we consumed, we shouldn’t forget the spirit of the holiday. That includes holding accountable those who cynically use patriotic emotions and imagery for unpatriotic ends, and taking a stand against the ones who commit acts that would dishonor the name of the United States and tarnish its history.

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