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History and politics [Aug. 23rd, 2004|10:40 pm]
[Current Mood |bouncypatriotic]

In my family watching the Olympics can be a fair amount of exercise, if the US is winning a lot. There's all that jumping up for the National Anthem. We stand at attention, hands on hearts, and sing along quietly.

The other day after we sat back down I mentioned to my sister and niece that when we were in Washington, DC, we got to see the actual Star Spangled Banner, the flag that hung over Fort McHenry while Francis Scott Key was a "guest" of the British, watching anxiously through a porthole offshore. And that we had seen the actual Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and God bless Dolley Madison, who was not only a gracious hostess as First Lady, but also a spunky woman with a lot of presence of mind. When the British marched on Washington, DC, she thought not just of her own escape but of her country and gathered up these precious documents when she fled across the Potomac and hid in the cellar of the home of a friend while the Brits burned the White House to the ground. When she returned to find nothing but ash and ember, she took up temporary quarters and continued to serve as hostess in her mean conditions, the picture of charm and political acumen. Dolley is an unsung American hero.

I mentioned my gratitude to Dolley, and that seeing the Bill of Rights actually made me cry. Amy looked at me with an odd frown. "But...you aren't a Conservative."

"No, I'm not."

"You're a very unusual Liberal," she said. "You're patriotic."

Wow. From the mouths of babes. With few words she encapsulated a big part of the Liberal problem: in our enthusiasm to make America better, we don't always celebrate how good it really is. We come across as critical instead of enthusiastic. Pessimistic rather than optimistic.

That's a problem. No one wants to continually hear about how they are falling short. It makes it easy for the right wing to paint us as down on America.

I love my country. I think it is a great place. I think it can reach even greater heights. It's my hope, my optimism, that make me want us to strive for more.

This land is your land
This land is my land
From the Gulf Stream waters
To the New York Islands
From the redwood forests
To the golden valley
This land was made for you and me

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-08-24 03:24 am (UTC)

Last verse

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

(from the full lyrics at arlo.net (http://www.arlo.net/lyrics/this-land.shtml))

Sorry, but I had to mention it. Like Republicans using "Born in the USA" as an anthem when it's really about how the common man has things tough, those who would use "This Land Is Your Land" need to remember it isn't just a paean to the glory of America. Which, in a lot of ways, makes it the perfect Liberal anthem-- a celebration of the good and an awareness of what needs to be improved.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-08-24 03:27 am (UTC)

Re: Last verse


Thank you. It's very true.
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[User Picture]From: cathouse_blues
2004-08-24 03:42 am (UTC)
It is once again (as it has for the vast majority of the period following Viet Nam) "chic" to sneer at patriotism, to talk about how shitty are the US, its politics and its culture - while making sure everyone knows just how much better it is in Sweden, Britain, Canada, wherevah. I'm sure those fine nations do have something to offer, and do do a few things better than we do, but gods bless it I'm tired of being sneered at by my own countrymen - especially those who serve so often as our so-called cultural elite. One of the biggest reliefs of settling back here in Indiana is that despite the state's history of electing moderate governors and liberal (sometimes VERY) senators, it's still a safe place to be openly patriotic. People here understand tears at memorials (and lords above know Indy has many very important ones) and flags dropped to half-staff (I was moved to see that the only flags that *didn't* drop to half-staff immediately after Ronald Reagan's death were the states' - they had to wait for an order - and the Greenwood Krispy Kreme on 135). Yes, I know; all of that is just an outward manifestation of what you should feel in your heart. It's more than just knowing all the words to "Grand Old Flag" and getting choked up when you see a VFW garrison cap. It's more like "My country, right or wrong". It's ours, dammit; we know what's wrong and we'll be the one to fix it - not some Irish pop singer or Canadian movie star. See, what those folks don't realize is that while they make such a point of what's bad, they're not telling us anything we don't already know; the fact that we can openly acknowledge it, argue about how to fix it all while acknowledging what we did 8right*, well, that's us. As a high school history teacher of mine tried to explain: "We're not perfect, but we're the closest thing to it so far - and we never stop trying."

I think there was a point in there, but it's long been lost in a too-tired rant about a very sore subject.

I really wish Alec Baldwin would just shut up and go away.
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[User Picture]From: kid_lit_fan
2004-08-24 05:10 pm (UTC)
It's more than just knowing all the words to "Grand Old Flag" and getting choked up when you see a VFW garrison cap. It's more like "My country, right or wrong".

The trouble with "my country, right or wrong," is it leads to jingoism and "Kill the ragheads," (without differentiating if they're terrorists, peaceful Muslims or Sikhs.) It is my country, right or wrong, but discusssing what's wrong with it is what makes it free.

I think it's the best darn country on the planet, but that doesn't mean that there aren't aspects of other countries that we could emulate.

Only vaguely related: In the face of people rushing out to buy flags after September 11th (Ronn Owens, a local centrist radio talk-show host said "We just wanted to look at a flag."), I heard "If you're so damn patriotic, why don't you already OWN a flag?" There's been a lot of bandwagon patriotism (I'm not accusing you."

I don't love our national drinking song anthem, it's hard to sing.
Oh! Thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I love "America the Beautiful," but it's hard to hear on smoggy days.

My favorite patriotic song, which was the big finale at my elementary school Bicentennial pageant, is the incredibly simplistic (and exclamation-point ridden!) "This is My Country"

This is my country! Land of my birth!
This is my country! Grandest on earth!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For this is my country to have and to hold.

This is my country! Land of my choice!
This is my country! Hear my proud voice!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For this is my country to have and to hold.

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[User Picture]From: lothie
2004-08-24 03:46 am (UTC)
"You're a very unusual Liberal," she said. "You're patriotic."

I've always been proud to be a patriot too. :)

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[User Picture]From: dingodonkey
2004-08-24 03:55 am (UTC)
I'm a conservative myself, and an ardent patriot. I would even refer to myself as a nationalist, although that's sort of a dirty word these days ;)

That said, I think it's sad that many liberals are perceived by many as unpatriotic. One of the most proud Americans I know is as far to the left as you can get, and is always pointing out shortcomings and proposing reform. But she still makes sure to show (but never flaunt) her love of this country. You'd have to be blind to miss it.

I don't know if the problem is that most liberals don't show their love of the country (which I don't doubt for a minute that most have) or that most conservatives refuse to see it. But it's definitely there and shouldn't be denied.

Anyway, hooray for Dolley Madison! I've been collecting inspiring stories of a lot of great unsung American heroes, and she's been on the list for a little while now.
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From: klig
2004-08-24 04:02 am (UTC)
We stand at attention, hands on hearts, and sing along quietly.

Really? (or more accurately, "Fair dinkum?")

That seems very strange from an Australian perspective. For most of us 'patriotism' is almost a dirty word, something we associate with Americans. Don't get me wrong, if you're proud of your country then good on you for being vocal about it. The Australian equivalent would be to drink another beer and chant monotonously "Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi!". :)
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From: klig
2004-08-24 04:04 am (UTC)
That said, I'm an Australian patriot, and like many Americans am outraged with what our governments do in our name. I think Australia is a fabulous place and I want people to know it. I also want our prime minister in a stew pot.

Oh, and most people here hate our national anthem. That's why we don't sing it.
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2004-08-24 04:14 am (UTC)
Liberals can be patriotic?

(Neo voice) Whoa...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-08-24 10:38 am (UTC)
"Take the red, white and blue pill."

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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2004-08-24 04:33 am (UTC)
I think you're exactly right. Liberals seem to be very quick to bash America and say we deserve to be hated because we suck (to paraphrase what I've been hearing since 9/11 especially). I fear that young people are not being taught to love our country any more. Yes, we have flaws, but the beauty of our system is that people are free to speak out about those flaws and agitate to see them changed. That very process can become hypercritical, though, as I believe it is now. I still wouldn't trade our form of government for any other. And despite what people say about our actions in Iraq, I think it is an act of absolute good to bring democracy to that country.
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[User Picture]From: amberfox
2004-08-24 04:35 am (UTC)
(Yeah, now if only they had water that was fit to drink, they'd be set.)
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[User Picture]From: amberfox
2004-08-24 04:34 am (UTC)
I always find it disturbing that people assume only conservatives are patriots. As if somehow, believing that this is not (yet) the best of all possible worlds meant that we want to destroy the world that it is.
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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2004-08-24 04:42 am (UTC)
I would also point out that, somehow, the word "liberal" got hijacked.

It makes me nuts that somehow "conservative" became "Republican." In my humble opinion, the government should get out of my face whenever possible. Any rights specifically stated in the Bill of Rights should not be infringed. The law should be the law for everyone. These are goddam conservative positions. Now, in the current environment, I am somehow a liberal when I point out that if the government has no business regulating the environment, then they have no business regulating my sex life. If no one can infringe the right to bear any gun one wants, then no one should be able to establish a national religion. Et Cetera.

This annoys me.
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[User Picture]From: ccr1138
2004-08-24 02:53 pm (UTC)
AMEN to that, brother! That's why I consider myself an independent, not a Republican. I vote for the most moderate candidates if there are any. I sympathize more with the Libertarian view than any, although the local party here is full of flakes.

It's the same for the Democrats. They're being pulled in all directions. You have the old supporters - labor and minorities and Catholics - who are mostly socially conservative. Then you have the new supporters - feminists and gays, for example - whose values and morals clash with the other group. You end up with an identity crisis. What do you do if you're a devout, black Christian who's against abortion and gay marriage, but for affirmative action and socialized medicine? There is literally nobody to vote for! So, you end up not voting at all. I think that's why our voter turnouts are so low. Part of it is apathy, but part of it is that people hate all the candidates and can't bestir themselves to cast a vote for any of them.
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[User Picture]From: thessalian
2004-08-24 08:15 am (UTC)
Now, my grasp of history isn't very good, but wasn't it the Canadians who burned the White House in 1812? Fine, Canada wasn't granted 'Dominion' status until about 50 years later, but I don't think any of them considered themselves 'British' at the time.

Sorry; patriotic Canadian and fan of Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-08-24 10:51 am (UTC)
Coud be. I don't remember that part - sorry!
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[User Picture]From: mtl
2004-08-24 11:38 am (UTC)

Thank you

for this insight into what it means to you to be American, to be liberal, and to be patriotic.

I appreciate this view.
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[User Picture]From: dream_labyrinth
2004-08-24 12:20 pm (UTC)
In Germany, the word patriot I suppose has already reached the status of an insult. The only time Germans dig ut their flags is for soccer championships or, a little less likely, for Olympia. Schools have flags, but they usually are stored in dome closet and whenever half-staff is ordered, they have to go rummaging through the cellars to find it. (And I'm quite sure that in the same closets you'd find every flag Germany used in the last century or so)
True patriots for me are people who love their country, and want the best for it. And that includes seeing its faults and its problems. I try to be that kind of patriot on two levels. I am a German patriot, and a European patriot.
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[User Picture]From: wolfshaman
2004-08-24 12:32 pm (UTC)
I love my country and served for four years in the military. I have always been a liberal and believed in individual freedoms. The problem that I see is the right wing is eroding our individual rights in the name of patriotism. The justification is security but the truth is that it just gives them more power. Patriotism is now used as a club and most liberals are not willing to be threatened. When we stand up then they bash us with the club. I know I want America to be a great place, I just think we neeed to do a lot of work to get back on course.
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[User Picture]From: on_reserve
2004-08-24 02:09 pm (UTC)
altho to refer to the jib-jab cartoon, this land *wasn't* made for white imperialists. there were people already living here. that line always struck me as kind of arrogant on the part of colonialists; the assumption that the new world was made for them.

anyway, i agree with your main point that there is nothing incongruous about being liberal and patriotic and it's only the conservatives who try to "own" patriotism.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-08-24 02:17 pm (UTC)
Consider that Arlo Guthrie wrote the song as a counter to "God Bless America," and the "you and me" he was talking about was the common man. I can see how it could be interpreted as imperialist, but considering the source I don't think it was meant to be at all.
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[User Picture]From: thewhitedragon
2004-08-24 02:29 pm (UTC)
I know plenty of conservatives who seem hell-bent on removing every right granted by the Constitution - that to me is unpatriotic. Heck, there's one of these types currently residing in the White House.

While I am registered as "Non-party/Independent", I do tend to side with liberal viewpoints as a general rule. The problem is that conservatives view anything that goes against their way of thinking as "unpatriotic" - but the greatest patriots in our history went against the government at the time. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr... the list goes on. It is not unpatriotic to question the leadership of the country or those who make the rules that are directly opposed to personal freedoms.

Sure I slam Georgie Boy on a regular basis, but not because he's president - because he can't seem to do the job he was elected appointed to do. He also seems to feel that the nation would be made better by the joining of church and state, something that I am extremely opposed to. He feels that people should all be treated equally... as long as they are good Christian heterosexual, flag-wagging, non-questioning cattle with a moral basis that matches his.

Americans are expected to speak out when they feel a change in the government is needed. Not doing so is what I feel is the most unpatriotic.

Call me a liberal GWB-hating Democrat. I'll just call myself a patriot. [smile]
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