Friday, November 09, 2007

Who's Really Burning the Flag?

As a fan of The Young Turks, I peruse their website and today producer Jayar Jackson (nicknamed "The Reverend") posted a good blog titled Voyeristic Voting Leads to Presumed Patriotism.

Jayar was responding to the right-wing nuts who are criticizing Barack Obama for holding his hands in front of himself while listening to the National Anthem instead of having his hand over his heart. He conncected this latest outrageous attack of false patriotism to the previous attacks on Obama for not wearing an American flag lapel pin.

Logic should scream that Barack Obama shouldn't have to tell you that his grandfather taught him the Pledge of Allegiance when he was 2 years old. Common sense should prevail when you wonder if his missing American flag lapel pin allowed over 3,800 U.S. soldiers to be killed in Iraq on false pretenses. Questioning if he will restore habeas corpus, privacy, and civil rights to all American citizens, including ones that have sex in their own homes differently than him is a nice place to look first. Will the healthcare puzzle that many other countries figured out be solved? How about whether or not our troops that the Republican Party claims as their own will begin to be treated with the dignity, respect, and basic treatment that they deserve when/if they return home? Do our third world-like cities such as New Orleans have the capabilities to survive another Hurricane Katrina? Will it take over two more years of filth, disease, and random violence to begin to revive our lost city? What steps will he take to stop the terrorist-recruiting and anti-American practice of torture that yields false information? Is the candidate going to threaten another sovereign country with unprovoked attacks because of what their leader likes to say about others?

If you think the answers to these questions lie in his American flag pin, whether or not he places his hands on his chest, butt, crotch, or stomach during the national anthem, or if his name comically sounds similar to that of a Muslim, then have fun in your fantasy world called the Matrix. When you see an agent, run, Neo, run!

At the end of his blog, the first comment from reader named acroso notes, "Obama supports flag burning too." with the link to a 2006 statement why Obama supports legislation to make flag burning illegal but not a Constitutional Amendment.

"And when I became a Senator, I swore an oath to protect the Constitution. Under that oath, my first allegiance is not to a political party, or to an ideology, or to a president, or even to popular opinion, but to the Constitution and to the rule of law.

"The Framers made it difficult to amend the Constitution because our founding document should not be changed just because of political concerns or temporary problems. And even the strongest supporters of this amendment are hard-pressed to find more than a few instances of flag burning each year. Those problems were left to be solved through legislation, and I support legislation introduced by Senator Durbin that makes it illegal to burn the flag without changing the Constitution. The Constitution has only been amended 27 times. These amendments include guarantees of our most basic freedoms, the freedom of religion, the right to a trial by jury, the protection against cruel punishment."

After reading the statement of Obama in the light of Jayar's comments, I posted this response.


Reverend Jayar, you can write. I hope this was written before Screen Writers Guild strike so the conservatives won't accuse you of being a scab.

If anyone, soldiers included, thinks that our soldiers are fighting a war to protect our flag, then they are greatly mistaken. The flag is a cloth symbol for our national fabric that is woven from the Constitution. It is the Constitution that needs protecting, not the flag.

Though Barack Obama says flag burning is a rare event, he is only talking of literal flags and flames. But in truth flag burning is a daily event. Today it is the conservatives and neo-cons who are "burning" the meaning of the flag every day at the very time they are holding it aloft, because they are waving the flag in order to tear out pages of the Constitution that they don't like, not to protect the Consitution and our AMerican freedoms. Every single neo-con and right-wing reactionary who wears a flag on his or her lapel is burning the flag with the flames of their false patiotism.

Here are some of my favorite quotes on the difference between true and false patriotism:

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
- Hermann Goering, Luftwaffe Commander, Nuremberg Trials 1946
- from "Nuremberg Diary" by G M Gilbert (Signet, New York, 1947)

"There is an important difference between being patriotic and chauvinistic. The patriot places his country within the context of international conflicts; the chauvinist is a "vain country bumpkin" who believes that the world ends within his country's borders."
~ Marginal Notes on the Crime" by Celia Hart (August 25, 2004)

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else." -~Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it "
--George Bernard Shaw

"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons."
--Bertrand Russell

"A politician will do anything to keep his job even become a patriot."
--William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) US newspaper publisher, Recalled on his death 14 Aug 1951

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
Author: Samuel Johnson
Source: Boswell's Life of Johnson

"In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last refuge of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first."
~Author: Ambrose Bierce

"This heroism at command, this senseless violence, this accursed bombast of patriotism--how intensely I despise them!"
~Author: Albert Einstein

"One of the great attractions of patriotism - it fulfils our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous."
- Aldous Huxley

"Patriotism has become a mere national self assertion, a sentimentality of flag-cheering with no constructive duties."
~Author: H.G. Wells (Herbert George Wells)
Source: Future in America

"True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else."
- Clarence Darrow

Lastly, here's one to consider for the those false patriots who support the occupation of Iraq. It was said during the time of our Revolutionary War by an Englishman responding to questions from his fellow Lords about why the American insurgents continued to attack the English Redcoats:

"If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country I never would lay down my arms,--never! never! never!"
~Author: William Pitt, Earl of Chatham
Source: in a speech 1777

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