Monday, October 20, 2008

Proudly Unpatriotic

I just read an article on Politico discussing Cindy McCain’s emerging new role in the campaign as she transitions from the reserved but supportive wife with minimal involvement, to another republican pit bull with lipstick. It’s noble of her to step up her efforts and help her husband try to resuscitate his ailing campaign. But her approach just reinforces the increasingly evident fact that the GOP just doesn’t get what this election is all about.

After two weeks of dismal polls you would think the republicans would have figured out by now that vitriol does not trump substance and angst does not substitute for relevancy. Sure, there is a certain “base” of conservative voters that love nothing more than to work themselves up into a hysterical frenzy, shouting epithets like “Terrorist!” and “Socialist!” or even “Muslim!”. There is no doubt that these folks eat up the pit bull tactics but really, were these people’s votes ever in question? Does stoking the emotional fervor of a group who was already going to vote for you anyway really accomplish anything politically?

Cindy McCain made the statement “I have always been proud of my country”, implicitly taking a jab at Michelle Obama. Well of course it’s always been easy for her to feel proud of her country. She is a child of privilege. She’s white. She’s never been made to feel like less of a human being because of her socio-economic status or skin color. In short, her country has always been very good to her. Other Americans can’t say the same thing but that doesn’t make them less American. Turning a blind eye to reality is not a patriotic act. This country is great but not perfect and it doesn’t make one a traitor to acknowledge the imperfections and even to express a little righteous anger when you’ve been on the wrong side of our nations flaws.

The right wing implicitly tries to label anyone who disagrees with their narrow perspective as un-American. Apparently they would have us live in a homogenous society where nobody questions the traditional values of the state and every good and patriotic citizen conforms to the status quo. But wait a minute…doesn’t that smell a little like communism?

Despite our alleged “Christian values”, this nation has been responsible for a number of stunning acts against humanity. I wonder how the conservative traditionalists reacted to the first person who spoke out against slavery. Time and again I’ve wondered how Christian America accepted slavery as a legitimate social arrangement. Actually, I don’t wonder. I can hear it now as the first few brave souls who questioned slavery were labeled anti-American, unpatriotic and even un-Christian. Interestingly, the first people that did speak out against slavery were Quakers from Pennsylvania – or, as the fundamentalist Christians called them – hellbound sinners of a false faith.

I’m digressing but it bears mentioning that the Bible and religion in America have been used to justify numerous atrocities, from slavery to war to not allowing women to vote. Somebody stood up to question each of these and in each case was labeled as a threat to normal and decent society and yes, as unpatriotic. They were labeled as dangerous radicals and were not only verbally attacked but were physically attacked and even killed…by good, upstanding and patriotic Christian citizens.

Am I unpatriotic for bringing these things up? Am I unpatriotic for questioning the actions of my government and acknowledging injustice and inequity when I see them? I wonder if a man who acknowledges that he has a drinking problem should be labeled as self-loathing for recognizing his addiction.

What the republicans and the far right fails to recognize is that admitting one’s faults and failures is a strength not a weakness. It’s how you get better. It’s how America became great in the first place. We’ve made some mistakes in the past and we are making some in the present and the true patriots are the people who can recognize this and acknowledge when change is needed. There are people who fear and will fight a change in the status quo. These are the people at the top, the elite, the Cindy McCain’s.

Apparently there are two kinds of elite when it comes to the political argument. There are the Cindy McCain’s and the George W. Bush’s who were born into wealth and privilege; they are elite. And then there are the other ‘elites’. The Michelle and Barack Obama’s who weren’t born into any kind of privilege and worked against all odds to obtain degrees from prestigious universities –institutions normally reserved for the first kind of elite – are the second kind of elite. It should not be surprising at all that the second kind of elites would be more prone to making valid criticisms of their country. It hasn’t coddled them because of their birthright but in fact has done the opposite. Does this make them unpatriotic? I’d argue that the answer is no. It makes them honest. The truth isn’t always pretty and as a rule, the truth is going to upset someone.

America can still be a great country. I’m not proud of what has become of us over the past eight years and if it makes me unpatriotic to criticize and hold accountable those who were responsible, then let me state here for the record that I am proud to be unpatriotic. This country is growing and changing right now and it’s going to make some people very uncomfortable. That first breed of elites will fight change tooth and claw but the rest of us…well, we will welcome it.

Cindy McCain, call me any name you like. You and I live in two different Americas and we have two very different definitions of patriotism.


notamobster said...

Exceptionally well stated, sir.

Inre: those who first spoke out against injustice (slavery/ womens sufferage, et al) is one of my top 5 most cherished persons of all time... Thomas Payne. He died alone, a pauper, but managed to keep his soul/humanity intact. One of my heroes... A socialist. Imagine that.

bandcdad said...

I have more faith in either of the candidates than I do for the parties they represent...Not perfect, but truly brave people to expose themselves to this process..

the Silverfish said...

Saying the Obamas are honest is a bit of a stretch don't yuh think?

Barack won't even admit to where he was born , but it sure as hell wasn't in the US.
Perhaps it was Ireland where he drove out the snakes, now that I could believe.

Ben There said...

Nota - Thank you and I'm starting to think I need to read some Thomas Paine. I know who he is but haven't read him.

bandcdad - It's hard to imagine how or why anyone would subject themselves to the task of POTUS.

silverfish - I don't think anybody is 100% honest. My comment about honesty was in reference to a willingness to publicly acknowledge the mistakes of one's country.

Candycane said...

Another great post....."the truth will upset someone"- I love this. How crystal clear you make things. I really think you should be a professional writer. I might just submit your stuff at the star tele. LOL
oh and Cindy McCain, I know "her" very well, I'm related to about 10 of them and that is just my mother's side of the fam.

notamobster said...

check your email, sir
You're about to feel some Paine ;)

Ben There said...

This is appropriate to my post and more evidence of these assholes at work:

I'm so sick of the right wing that I'm going to start doing everything left handed.


Candice - Thank you for the compliment but I honestly can't imagine anything more tortuous than 'having' to write, for money or whatever.

Nota - I don't see anything in my email as of yet.

notamobster said...

I was sending you the complete writings of thomas paine in two volumes, but your email service said they wouldn't accept them. Too large. You can find the info here:

I have the book:

"The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine" by Phillip s. Foner that I tried to send. Anyway, all of the writings are on that page. I STRONGLY recommend "The Agae of Reason", "Common Sense", "The Rights of Man", "Letters to The Citizens of the United States" ...hell, all of them. He was an incredibly funny, razor sharp-witted, silver tongued man. And my hero.

Ben There said...

Nota -

I'm there. Sounds like some good stuff. Thanks for the recommendations.

Candycane said...

ben, you're retarded, submit your stuff to readers digest, moron, idiot.
just kiddingggggg

Ben There said...

Candice - I resemble that remark.

A said...

It is funny to read you are not proud of the past 8 years in government and yet I remember arguing with you about voting for Bush. Yet you did both terms. It is so refreshing that you have educated yourself on the issues and have opened your eyes and even mine. This election we don't have to argue. How nice....

Ben There said...

A -

Unfortunately the democrats have run complete idiots the past two elections(Al Gore & John Kerry). They finally have a decent candidate. I just didn't have it in me to vote for either one of these two pontificating clowns. Plus, I bought into some of the right wing puffery that I now fight against every chance I get. In hindsight, as bad as Kerry or Gore were, they would have been better than Bush. But in all fairness, after what the republicans have done, I'd probably vote for Homer Simpson for president as long as he wasn't republican.

Anonymous said...


Ben There said...

ubbblee -

Welcome to my blog. No worries, I don't discriminate against Parkinsons patients. Stop by anytime.