It seems fitting that so many news stories leading up to the 4th of July involve issues of patriotism. The question of whether or not newspapers should have published classified national security information raises the question, among others, of whether the American media should be patriotic and choose sides. For many years, this was not even a question. Recently, however, it has been the subject of much debate. Following 9/11 there was even controversy over some news anchors who chose to wear American flag pins on their lapels.
Many on the left have cited patriotism as the basis for their questioning of the war and of the administration. Most recently Richard Stengel, Managing Editor of Time invoked patriotism:
The line between dissent and disloyalty, between harmful revelations and vital ones, is murky. Often we never really know. But I would argue that the judicious questioning of the conduct and morality of war is the furthest thing from disloyalty: it is an expression of deep patriotism and the essence of responsible citizenship.
While some on the left are embracing patriotism in an attempt to explain their actions, others recoil at the very notion of patriotic expression. According to recent entries, some at Daily Kos don’t want to appear patriotic, lest their patriotism be interpreted as support for a president they hate. It goes beyond the President himself for many though, and extends to the military and American society in general. As one Kos diarist put it, “How could I in good conscience stand to embrace the lyrics “I’m proud to be an American” in the very same week we learned U.S. soldiers raped an Iraqi woman then murdered her and her family to cover up the crime?”
When it comes to patriotism, I guess it is easier being conservative. As best I can tell, patriotism is pretty straight forward and uncomplicated for most of us on the right. It is for me, anyway. Maybe I am just not nuanced enough to have a problem with patriotism. I have enough sense to know that even if a few soldiers are found to be guilty of horrible crimes, they do not represent the vast majority of the very wonderful men and women wearing the uniform of this country. It is important that we thank those doing such a great job and let them know we appreciate it. I also recognize that even though this country is not perfect, it is far superior to any other. That fence so many people want built is certainly not intended to keep people inside the country.
For those on the left worried that if they wave a flag tomorrow they might be thought to be supporting the President of the United States, or the U.S. military, or American capitalism, relax. Fly the flag, sing some patriotic songs, shoot off some fireworks, eat some hot dogs. I did when Bill Clinton was President and no one that I know got the impression that I was endorsing him. One thing it seems most everyone, right and left, can agree on is the beauty of the U.S. Constitution and appreciation for the freedoms we are so blessed to experience. I encourage everyone on the right and left alike to celebrate what you find great about this country.
Update: Betsy Newmark took this subject and ran with it. She takes a look at some survey results regarding patriotism that are very interesting.
Update II: This post at Sweetness & Light about Cindy Sheehan’s take on the Star Spangled Banner is another example to add ot those of the Kos crowd.
This is cross-posted at Right Wing News where I am guest blogging today.