Friday, July 04, 2008

Loving America on the 4th of July

As usual on flag-waving holidays, the wing-nuts were out this morning showing us how much they care about the good old U.S. of A. and we don’t. Milwaukee’s king-of-all-media (by default), the sanctimonious Charlie Sykes, used his vanity-blog to link to an unaccomplished bunch of right-wing lawyers who hit us over the head with this nugget of wisdom:

"One of the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives, perhaps the most important one politically, is what they think (or how they feel) about the United States. Conservatives think the U.S. is a great country. Liberals think it is a deeply flawed, but redeemable, country. Radicals think it is hopelessly bad and should be destroyed or remade."

What a load of hooey. Oh, if only the world were as black-and-white as the nut-rights pretend to think it is. Unable to succeed on the strengths or defend the weaknesses of their own ideas and failed politicians, they try to put their would-be ideological opponents in boxes and straight-jackets, holding themselves out as the only ones with Virtue, Truth and Beauty (not to mention god) on their side. Since everyone else is Bad, they must be Good. Only conservatives think the United States is "a great country", you see. And everyone else – well, why even discuss them on this famous anniversary of our glorious Declaration of Independence?

It should surprise no one – least of all Sykes and the PowerLine bloggers, who secretly know better – that liberals also think that this is a Great Country, not only in terms of its status in the world, but in terms of what it is and could be. In fact, I would say that liberals love and embrace a more honest, diverse version of the nation than the red, white (heavy on the white) and blue cartoon version favored by those who, like the false patriots of, say, Fox "News", use the primary colors of the flag and their daytime anchors’ lipstick to dare anyone to see nuance or shades of grey. Liberals love not only the brave leap of faith taken by the Founders when they broke from England but the development of the country into a dizzying tapestry of backgrounds, cultures and promise (read: freedom).

But, does the right-wing really think the country is really that "great"? Conservatives have no less complaint with the state of the nation than any liberal does; in fact, they are far more likely to get disheartened and bitter if they aren’t dictating the terms of the nation’s progress. It is they who often see the country going to hell-in-a-handbasket – in fact, they created the term. And their complaints are about things that are much more entrenched, unstoppable and woven into the nation’s fabric – like diversity, equal rights, stable and unashamed gay relationships, opportunity-through-immigration, etc.

Liberals, on the other hand, complain about process more than anything else. Persuaded by knowable facts (as opposed to the anti-science, fact-phobic Bushies), we have faith in systems and in the strength of the nation to change to face new realities. We even have faith in democracy, Florida 2000 notwithstanding. We don’t think the nation is "deeply flawed, but redeemable"; we love our country the way it is, but don’t always like what it is doing.

The conservatives’ purported love of country is often strictly situational and manipulative. If they are in charge, oh, they love the country so much. On the other hand, during the Clinton years, they almost burned down the Constitution with a ridiculous partisan impeachment just to accomplish a defeat of a popular politician that they could not beat at the ballot box. How much did they "love" their country then?

But it doesn’t do any good to play the same sorry game they pull out on flag-waving holidays (and, now that I think about it, every other day of the year). I’m as sure they love their country in their own way as I am that they will not admit that I do, too. Even if I took on the phony symbols of their paper patriotism – flag-label pins, magnet ribbons, (ugh) Lee Greenwood – they would still deny my love of country, insist I think the country is "deeply flawed", maybe even slide me over into the "radical" category, who want the nation "destroyed or remade" (again, sounds more like right-winger Timothy McVeigh and the Posse Comitatus than anyone I’ve heard of on the left). They just won’t take "yes" for an answer.

Late this holiday afternoon, I strolled up a couple of blocks to catch the Shorewood July 4th parade, a tradition that includes decorated kid’s bikes, Little Leaguers, bands, funny cars and fire trucks. Villagers lined up all the way up and down the newly-streetscaped Oakland Ave. (H/T: Village Board and Shorewood BID Director James K. Plaisted), four- or five-deep, drinking in the beautiful day; waving flags, cheering every parader, feeling the nation-love. Imagine that...a thousand or so liberal Shorewood residents – not a sour-puss in the bunch – out there with their kids and everything, celebrating the nation’s birthday. It looked like anything you might expect in Brookfield, West Bend, Mequon or those other bastions of self-proclaimed patriotism – maybe better. It was an idyllic setting, it felt good, and we are all going to meet again at Atwater Park tonight to dig some celebratory fireworks.

Here’s a suggestion for Sykes and the other only-we-are-the-nation-lovers: Next year, why don’t you get in a convertible (hey, we aren’t that far from TMJ studios) and ride down the street with a megaphone, telling us all how you love America more than us, how we think America is "deeply flawed". Oh, and don’t forget to dress up appropriately – after all, every parade needs a clown.


...the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight...

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