As a devotee of Bush-ite policies, syndicated columnist Mona Charen should be well versed on the use of patriotism as a tool to further ones own political agenda. The neo-cons have made it a science. In her January 16th article in the Courier titled “Patriotism Exploited on the Democratic Side”, Ms. Charen wrote that Senator Clinton’s heartfelt, choked-up moment in New Hampshire (saying “I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don’t want to see us fall backwards.”) was “a pretty patriotic note coming from a Democrat”. Excuse me? Since when is one political party more patriotic than the other? She explains…”From the party that is so often focused on America’s racism, inequality and international lawlessness, it was downright jingoistic.” Here we go again. From the far right that has co-opted the American flag as their own icon of their version of patriotism we have the never ending refrain that it’s unpatriotic to criticize the government and the President especially in times of war. (That belief, by the way, is one of the reasons this administration has created perpetual war.)
As the Republican presidential candidates have shown us, you can trash talk Congress all you want, at least when it has a Democratic majority, but don’t criticize our beloved nation itself or George W. Should we express our gratitude for all that’s right with America? Absolutely, and perhaps the left should do more of that. But, should we also focus on what’s wrong with America in hopes to set it right? Absolutely.
So, Mona Charen thinks it’s unpatriotic to talk about racism in America. Take off those blinders, Mona, you know the ones that allow you to only see out of the right eye. And take out that ear plug in your left ear. You’re only seeing and hearing half the story, the one on the right but not the one on the left. Racism exists, Mona! I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but it does. And perhaps that’s one of the defining characteristics that separate the right from the left. The left has the courage and willingness to talk about the things that the right feels off limits just because it’s uncomfortable to talk about since it might point out actual shortcomings or failings of this great nation. Don’t be in denial, Mona. Remember Jena, Louisiana and Jasper, Texas? Inequality? Should we ignore that women still don’t get paid the same as men for the same work? Should the bottom-half of income earners just shut-up and wave their flags while their income remains stagnant and their top-half comrades’ income shoots up at a record pace? And how about that international lawlessness, Mona? You, like so many, just turn your head when the news gets a little uncomfortable for your wrapped-up-in-the-flag gang. When the U.S. supports a cruel dictator and sells him arms only to have him use those arms to commit horrible crimes against others you’re darn right I’m going to speak up and express my indignation. It’s not only my right, it’s my duty as an American citizen who votes these Congressmen and Presidents into power who then turn around and do some pretty disgusting things against the very moral fabric that our nation was founded on and usually just rationalize it as protecting “America’s interests”. Or is it protecting America’s corporate interests?
Why do our political leaders never seem to learn from their foreign policy fiascos? They gave support to “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets who in turn became what we now call Al-Qaeda. They gave support to the Shah of Iran whose rule was so brutal it led to the Islamic Revolution of Iran which has become a major factor in the rise of Islamic extremism. They gave support to Saddam Hussein, yes him, to fight those very Iranians who then used his American weaponry to invade Kuwait and commit genocide against his own people. How about the U.S. support of Pinochet in Chile? Suharto in Indonesia? And on and on and on…
Someone once said, “If you don’t speak out when it matters, when does it matter to speak out?” To not speak out, ever, is just plain lazy or apathetic. It has been said by author Scott Peck that the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy. In fact, to say it is unpatriotic to criticize the president, the government, or any political leader for that matter is actually unpatriotic itself. Our founding fathers encouraged dissent to the point where they guaranteed our right to it in the Constitution. It’s those who risk criticism by speaking out who are showing their true love of country, yes, patriotism.
A democracy has to have a well-informed public that speaks out against hypocrisy or it will have no integrity. “Patriotism Exploited on the Democratic Side”? I don’t think so. Look in the mirror, Ms. Charen. It’s when fear is invoked to rally people against a fabricated enemy and dissenters are labeled unpatriotic that patriotism is being exploited.
Ms. Charen also criticized Barack Obama for his desire to open dialogue with our enemies, something Bush has refused to do. A wise ancient Chinese General once said, “Know your enemy…keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” One of the huge failures of this ongoing catastrophe that we just refer to as “Iraq” was that Bush and Co. didn’t know their enemy before they attacked them. They seem to be trying to remedy that now but it’s a bit too late. As Colin Powell said, “You break it, you own it” and we’ll be stuck with this massive distraction from our critical domestic issues for many more years. When you talk to your enemy you might actually get to know them and understand them. But, it is much easier to use military force against someone you don’t know or even talk to. When you go to a surgeon he will recommend surgery. When you let a military-industrial-political war machine make your decisions, they will choose war. When the use of military force is the main foreign policy tool, when dissent is labeled unpatriotic, and when the rights of large corporations supersede the rights of the people, that is when democracy withers. When good people sit idly by out of fear or apathy and let the fear-mongers have their way, that is when fascism blooms.
Ms. Charen, I am glad that you recognize that Democrats speak out, and I’m glad to be one. Unfortunately our Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton, have forgotten that ideal and seem afraid to speak out and criticize those still in power in the White House on the really big issues that matter. We seem to have a single political party in Washington these days. True opposition candidates like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are shut down by the establishment. I weep for this country that I love if that does not change and change soon.