Monday, July 28, 2008

A Blog Interrupted

Monday nights are usually a good time to get some blogging done. The work week begun, more right-wing outrages built up over the weekend to expose and respond to, few distractions....

Ouch, Soriano just hammered that pitch off of Sabathia...lucky it was just a double...that’s the hardest smack I’ve seen off the Big Guy...OK, pop-up...maybe we’re alright...oops, that’s a run...

It has been determined that, for the third time in a row, the presidential election is to be a referendum on the Democratic candidate. Thus does the Dem candidate get held to a higher standard than the Republican. You expected Junior Bush to be stupid, you expect John McCain to be lame and you always expect the Democrat to be a serious person and a public-policy grown-up as opposed to a sound-bite spouting hack. Once it’s set up this way, all the Republicans have to do is pick apart and exaggerate real and imagined minor flaws in the Democrat. Once they make you feel uneasy enough about the person you agree with the most, they win, but only by default.

Is Braun going to start getting the Barry Bonds treatment the rest of the year? None of those pitches were close...OK, Prince, way to work it, baby...Hart has been so clutch all year...yipes, not this time...

And so we will be treated for the next 100 days to the shotgun approach, with the right-wing trying to find or invent something, anything, to make you feel bad about Barack Obama. The Rev. Wright thing got some major traction, raising Obama’s negatives 15 points or so – and they are going to keep working it as the election gets closer. But the thing they have really committed to recently, from the top dirty dogs Limbaugh and Hannity to lowly compliant local bloggers is this whole Obama-as-Messiah nonsense. The word has gone forth, as they say, to drive people away from Obama by portraying him as full of himself and his supporters as naive, starry-eyed dupes.

Double-ouch...Soriano seems to have CC’s number tonight...can we walk him next time?

Being a savior or messiah is not anything Obama or any of his supporters has ever claimed or wanted, but the truth has never got in the way of a talking-point the GOP thinks will play with uneasy voters. Right now, they are in saturation mode, where they hammer the lie from all corners of the echo-chamber. The national wing-nuts now call Obama "messiah" at every mention of his name. In print, right-wing columnists and bloggers can barely conceal their glee in capitalizing "the One" and "He".

Come on, you guys, it’s Ted Lilly, fer cryin’ out loud, not Cy Young...

Beyond ridiculous are the attempts to put the Obama story into faux biblical language. Some British knob – in a Rupert Murdoch rag, natch – not only wrote a long imaginary passage about the path of "the Child", he read it into a microphone for the benefit of (double-natch) Fox Noise. It was looked on by Charlie Sykes, who pretended to be wildly amused, and Patrick McIlheran, who hilariously opined that the Murdoch lackey had produced "the most brilliant words out of Berlin".

Nice defense in the last couple of innings...jeez, it’s the 6th, let’s get something going...Yeah, J.J.! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!...Braun! Baby! What a stud...OK, now I feel better...Corey Hart...what did I say about clutch??...

Milwaukee’s local right-wingers have of course rushed to contribute to this group fictional effort to diminish....Hang on a minute...

One out, bases loaded, Lee and Ramirez...let’s see what you got, CC...ugh, full count to Lee...double play ball!...what the hell, Rickie!!...

Milwaukee’s local right-wingers have of course rushed to contribute to this group fictional effort to diminish the stature of the Democratic candidate. One of the first to raise the phony religious specter about Obama was the current holder of the McBride Chair at formerly respectable WTMJ, James T. Harris...

Branyan!!!

...who used his I’m-a-right-wing-black-guy license to christen him the "Chocolate Jesus" (since appropriated by the Texas Hold ‘Em Blogger and others) and to try his hand at the drafting of supposedly Obama-esque bible verse. And Rick Esenberg embarrassed himself with his own attempt at Obama-as-Messiah ridicule this past weekend.
  • "Barack, being called to redeem the world by the will of God and our brother Chris Matthews, to the ones that have awaited me in the Tiergarten that is in the city of Berlin, called by me to be more than they have been and to arise from their indifferent lives, together with all those in every place yearning to be My Ones and to learn of what change they should believe in, My peace and that of your mother Michelle be upon you, this is the moment and Ja, k├Ânnen wir."

Good grief, what a lot of noise. "Yearning to be My Ones"? "Your mother Michelle"? Where is the truth that supports the satire in any of this ungodly mess?

Damn, that's what happens when you walk guys...How many hits has Derrick Lee sliced to right that way?...Come on, Billy, go get that ball...Damn...

Somewhere, this attempt to ridicule Obama by pretending that he thinks he's the messiah must test well. I guess it sets them up to deride Obama's eloquence by smirking that it came from the Mouth of the Annointed One. But I think the very strangeness of the unhinged campaign shows a grasping-at-straws desperation.

I suppose it's too much to ask for a Marmol break-down tonight. Wait, there a walk! Kapler swings...Back, back...nope. But it is great to see that play-off atmosphere at the ballpark, even if there are too many Cubs fans. We'll get 'em tomorrow...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Plaisted Writes, Sykes Reads, Commenters Fail

I seemed to have struck a few sensitive nerves with my last post about "thug" being the new N-word. That’s OK. I’m all about striking nerves – especially those of people who get whiny and defensive when challenged about their deliberately divisive and, yes, racist political tactics. The reaction in my comments, right-wing blogs and even a radio show said a lot more about them than it did about anything I was saying.

My headline was deliberately provocative, and I was pleasantly surprised while driving in to court when I heard no less (and no more) than the Journal Company’s full-time GOP message-boy, Charlie Sykes tease listeners with the question "is ‘thug’ the new N-word?" before his show on Tuesday morning. Tracking Rick Esenberg’s predictably critical post almost word-for-word (including the oh-so-clever "Plaisted should talk about name-calling" line), the unoriginal Sykes read about half of my post to his unfortunately large audience, while setting up his (really, Esenberg’s) punch-line that I had used the word "thug" in a different context 6 months ago.

Listening to it later on the podcast, I couldn’t help but enjoy Sykes’ reading of my own words to a statewide audience. I am always fairly self-critical, but I have to say that my turns-of-phrase bore up pretty well under Sykes’ speed-read, even if he was strategically skipping over some of the good parts (like my still-unmet challenge to those who predicted Big Trouble at the free summer festivals after RiverSplash to explain all those peaceful, incident-free festivals since then). There was something surreal about hearing Sykes read my observation that "right-wingers play these race-baiting games and then act offended when someone calls them on it" while he was in the process of playing these race-baiting games and acting offended because I had called him on it. But then Sykes, who glibly race-baits as good as anybody (such as calling Al Sharpton a "pimp"), is the king of the smug dismissal, his elitist nose high in the air as he sniffs at mere mortals who don’t have the benefit of his 50,000 watt radio presence and right-wing "think"-tank funding.

Although Sykes’ snarky games are sometimes inadvertently enlightening – like him referring to me only as a "lefty lawyer" for the first five minutes of the bit, mentioning my name only when springing Esenberg’s supposed gotcha – the increasingly hysterical comments to the post by mostly anonymous right-wingers (now at 46 comments and counting) are even more revealing of the defensiveness and pretzel logic of those who would defend racist name-calling by a fellow-traveling blogger. The strategies implemented by the commenters – including (especially) their cowardly anonymity – are not unfamiliar and display a tiresome broken-record sameness that infects their uncreative ilk.
  • "We call all kinds of people thugs": Republican-for-hire Brian Fraley steps in first to inform me that, since he and others (over)use the world "thug" to describe all kinds of foreign bad-guys and violent criminals like the Jude cops, they are immune from accusations of racist language for using the word to describe a black politician who is doing something politically that they don’t like. This is like saying, if they use the word "queer" to describe curiously weird phenomenon, then it’s OK for them to go around using it to describe gay people. As always, it is all about context, combined with harsh intent. Exaggerated scuffles in the Courthouse notwithstanding, Lee Holloway has done nothing to earn the use of a term otherwise reserved for brutal dictators, violent cops and gangbangers. It was used by Eggleston to smear Holloway and diminish his status as a man and a human being in order to beat him on a political issue, which is the definition of a politically-motivated racist tactic.
  • "Hey, Plaisted, you used the word ‘thug’ once, so na na na boo boo": Like I said: context and intent. When I accused some national commentators of infecting the MSM with right-wing quasi-intellectual thuggery, it was not in a racial context and an attempt to describe, not to smear. Rick Esenberg, right-wing Milwaukee’s chief apologist, pulled a not terribly clever google (Plaisted + thug) and proclaimed me a hypocrite for complaining about someone else using the same word. But Rick – Milwaukee’s chief Obama-phobe who will find all kinds things to worry about from everything that comes out of Obama’s mouth, former church or campaign – will give the benefit of the doubt and find any way to excuse all right-wing racial smears. As usual, he dodges his own responsibility for enabling the racial tactics. "I wouldn’t call Holloway a thug," he says, which sounds a lot like his comment that he "would have strongly counseled against" Gableman’s racist Willie Horton ad during that sad campaign.
  • You have appointed yourself the language police; crying "racist" all the time is like crying "wolf": Hey, I’m not the damn police. Like I said, they can do what they want; I’m just encouraging them to take some ownership of their own tactics and quit being so defensive when challenged. As for calling them on their racist tactics too often, well, maybe they are giving me too much material to work with. I do have a zero-tolerance for this sort of thing. If I sit around and wait for them to agree with me...well, it ain’t going to happen.
  • Many Democrats were racists in the South before the Civil Rights Act: Well, sure, but what has that got to do with a) this discussion and b) with the world as it is today? The Republican’s Southern Strategy under Nixon -- to peel southern racists away from the Democrats by portraying them as a bunch of N-lovers -- put an end to that a long time ago. The GOP now proudly owns those people and that tradition, and they can have it.
  • Personal/Professional attacks on me: The last refuge of the desperate anonymous wing-nutter. Hey, did you hear I’m a criminal defense attorney and represent, er, criminals? The nerve of me saying anything about anything. My favorite is the guy who claimed that he "looked up" my "record" and claimed that I had "lost" 20 cases in a row. When I pointed out that such a search was a) impossible and b) just flat out wrong, he backed up to say that he didn’t like my suits. Sometimes I like to let this kind of desperation develop and just watch them trip over their own words. It makes such a nice splat when they hit the ground.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Thug" is the New N-Word

The right-wing blogs and radio hosts have circled the wagons and spun into hysterical defense mode after real journalist Jim Rowen called out one of their lesser members for calling County Board Chairman Lee Holloway a "thug" last week. Rowen correctly pointed out the "race-baiting" use of the epithet and generally bemoaned the "heavily-racialized public debate that is endured here". In a follow-up, Rowen links to this helpful discussion of the modern use of "thug" to attack African-Americans from the Atlanta Constitution.

The talking-pointed responses from fellow-travelers of the offender – Steve Eggleston of No Runny Eggs – include predictable denials of the intended racist use of the word, predictably-inflated episodes trying to establish that Holloway really is a thug, a hilarious linguistic review of the origin of the term (from a murderous "Hindu cult" in India) and blah de blah blah.

Rowen is right. "Thug" is the new N-Word, usually trotted out by right-wingers only in the context of African-Americans who are doing something they don’t want them to do. [Eggleston tries to provide cover for himself after the fact by presenting people like Hitler and Stalin as examples of "thugs", which again makes one wonder how Holloway got in that catagory.] Unapologetic racists like Mark Belling brag about using the term and dare others (usually politicians) to do the same. The last time we heard the "thug" blather was after the late-night RiverSplash violence earlier this summer. There was no doubt Belling and the others who are always there to capitalize on racial divisiveness were talking about black people causing the incident, although that fact was suspiciously missing from any straight news. In the deliberately race-baiting atmosphere of what passes for right-wing "thought", "thug" is shorthand for blacks behaving badly.

[By the way, whatever happened to the other "thuggery" that the right-wingers predicted was going to happen at free festivals all summer after RiverSplash? I seem to recall Bastille Days being particularly at risk, but it went off without a hitch (with a wonderfully diverse crowd, at that). To say the least, this is not the first dire prediction made by the right that didn’t come true; it also is not surprising that none of them bothered to note how peaceful the rest of the summer festivals have been.]

It is one thing for right-wingers to call out-of-control kids on the street "thugs" – unfortunately, Mayor Tom Barrett has taken up their divisive challenge to name-call – but it is quite another to insert "thug" as the middle name of a strong, African-American elected official who has proposed something (a tax increase) they don’t like. As they always do, afraid that they will fail on the merits of their arguments, they conduct ad hominem personal attacks and, where possible, throw a little racist sentiment in there to boot.

One thing I never understood is why right-wingers play these race-baiting games and then act offended when someone calls them on it. They should be proud of their clever divisiveness. They should stop hiding behind code words – after all, their favorite black guy just loves to use his self-hating license to use the N-word whenever he can. Come on, right-wingers! Stop hiding behind the skirts of your pretended outrage. Show us how race-neutral the term "thug" really is – show us what racist thugs you can truly be.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Breaking News: Bush Devalues Life

The Bush administration has decided what an American life is worth and, guess what – it’s less than it was before.

Thus does the Bush legacy continue: the dollar, your house, our international standing and dignity...you name it and it has been diminished by what will be known in the history books as the Bush Disaster. After all that, why not the value of life itself? I mean, have you felt at anywhere near 100% while living through this crap for the last seven-and-a-half years?

Of course, the "value of a statistical life" as determined by the Environmental "Protection" Agency (there will be a ceremony to remove the quotation marks on January 20, 2009), like everything else in the politically compromised Bush bureaucracy, has little to do with real life and much to do with the manipulation of information to reach specific big-business goals before the Bush gravy train leaves the station. By valuing each individual life at $7.22 million rather than the former obviously inflated figure of $8.04 million in order to measure the cost-effectiveness of measures that, well, might prevent the killing of humans, the industry flacks in the severely-compromised EPA are able to squeeze an extra $820,000 of leeway to avoid expensive regulations that might save those unfortunate enough to be considered too invaluable to save.

It seems to me some have suffered – at least – public relations difficulty by playing the same not-worth-it analysis when it comes to human life. The Ford Motor Company famously placed a $200,000 value on a human life in 1968 when it came time to calculate whether it was worth it for the company to keep a rolling bomb called the Pinto on the streets (Ford’s answer: yes, it was worth it, and, oh, sorry about your dad.) Maybe the Bush figure is just $200K adjusted for inflation.

Actually, given how the Bushies have treated life as so damn cheap anyway, I thought the EPA figure was a bit high. How does that figure work into our continuing tragedy in Iraq? Let’s see...$7.22M x 4,125 dead soldiers = $29,782,500,000. Holy shit. Does that get added to the national debt, too, now, or what? I think the $7.22M figure is just to make the Bush people look generous and good – they sure didn’t treat all those poor people in New Orleans like they were worth more than a plugged nickel after Katrina.

The only human organisms which they even pretend to give any value at all to are fetuses, potential life that must take precedence over all other considerations, including (especially) those of the fully-grown adult mother. Maybe this is one way to fire up the religious zealot wing of the EPA (every agency now has one) and get them to actually protect the environment. Who cares about the ten thousand post-born threatened by some pollution or other – a hundred or some of them may be carrying the Sacred Fertilized Egg. Screw the adults, but save the Potential Children!

Who knows how the EPA came up with this particular figure (my guess: it was one of ten numbers stuffed in a hat), but you’d think it would be some kind of average. Otherwise, there would have to be some sliding scale, depending on whether the EPA administrators are fond of the settlers in one area or other. If I were to engage in this kind of morbid god-playing (I wouldn’t), I would value my son, family, friends, clients and the Milwaukee Brewers (minus a couple of late-inning relievers) a lot higher than your average man-on-the-street, while still holding them in fairly high regard ($20M at a bare minimum). On the other hand, if there was an environmental regulation somewhere in North Carolina that kept only racist/homophobic pig Jesse Helms alive for an extra ten years, I could have lived without that rule – or at least not enforce it. I understand the Naval Observatory and other undisclosed locations darkened by Dick Cheney over the years have some environmental hazards here and there (if they didn't before, they do now), but there’s no use letting those go – Cheney has an unfortunate knack for getting young people to do his dying for him.

Of course, by law, the EPA cannot play the same kinds of games with the other endangered species they are supposed to protect – not that the current regime wouldn’t like to. The spotted owl, the snail darter...neither would get you more than a buck-two-eighty on the open market, and they can’t even vote. But, unlike humans, they are (for now anyway) priceless in the neglectful-by-design eye of the Bush EPA.

But humans...let’s see how this works: let's say a regulation would save 100 lives ($722M worth-o-people), but industry claims it would cost a couple billion or so to comply. Sorry, suckers. You’ll eat chalk (or whatever) until you choke...or end up in the hospital, and don’t come crying to us for your damn medical bills.

This is economic Darwinism at its finest and government at its worst. Those at risk fall at the mercy of the cost of cleaning up the poisons left by others. Perhaps some of the deluded creationists are hoping that humans would use one of the adaptations in Darwin’s evolution, which is for endangered organisms to simply move out of harm’s way. Can’t afford a U-Haul? Tough. "If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population," said Dickens’ Scrooge in one of his more prescient, Cheney-esque moments. It’s called personal responsibility, pal, now go get some. Maybe the government can hand out $40 coupons for a trailer, like those things they are handing out so poor peoples' TVs work after February (as they say, stay tuned for that damn mess next year).

There is a limited amount of time for still-president Bush and his greed-headed acolytes to play these kinds of games with people’s lives. Everything they do now is just an example of what we should not even try later. Like every other agency, the EPA will have to be cleaned, fumigated and re-built from the ground up after the Bushies are gone. And the first thing to go should be the actuarial tables with the careful calculations of what a human life is worth when it comes to environmental protection or anything else.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What So Funny, Part 2

My post about the interracial harmony at the Earth Wind and Fire show at Summerfest seemed to strike a nerve with Rick Esenberg over at his Shark and Shepard blog. The good professor ignores my main theme, accuses me of making several others and generally misses the point. Well, at least I got his attention.

To say, as he does, that my primary takeaway from the event was "pride" that I didn’t "get mugged" is ridiculously simplistic and wrong. I didn’t expect anything but good to come of the night. My point was that the right-wingers on the radio and blogs (not necessarily Rick’s – like his eternal defense of the WMC, he takes on the defense of others, pro bono) would ignore such an interracial event unless something went horribly wrong. Then, we would hear all about it for days. All it would take is one shoulder-bump and angry glare at, say, Charlie Sykes or Mark Belling, if they were there, and it would lead to a week-long campaign of hand wringing and lectures about racism being understandable and black people getting what they deserve. As it was, no conflict, no story. Now, let’s beat up on Eugene Kane for defending the residents of N. 28th St. as victims and not purveyors of the violence in their own neighborhood.

It is "vainglorious", according to Rick, that I would revel in the beauty of those moments on the lakefront that brought us all together. "Dude, it was a concert," he scoffs. I didn’t get into it in the post, but the concert itself was just a notch above Vegas-pedestrian – for the most part, we carried the magic moments by playing the records in our heads. But, except for drawing us there, the music emanating from the stage had very little to do with it. The magic at the event was about us as people; as Milwaukeeans, for those of us who were. It was a family event – my kid, my brothers’ and friends’ kids, mingled with kids and adults from different backgrounds and we all came away with a nice glow of the shared experience.

It didn’t have anything to do with politics, except to the extent that the right-wing regularly politicizes racial division – the same politics of Fear played nationally by their Rovian counterparts. This was not an Obama rally, although it could have turned into one easily, with a little prompting from the stage. One of my friends who was there is a conservative big-shot at one of the major business law firms in town and the only thing controversial we got into was our relative waistlines. When I dismissed those who weren’t there and wouldn’t acknowledge the positive event if they were, I wasn’t talking about all conservatives – just those who exploit tragedy to inflame racial tension. There are thankfully few of them, but, unfortunately, they all have radio and blog platforms.

But, in the end, I think what really gets Rick is my "vainglorious" striving for a better world and my willingness to recognize it when I find it in small moments on a summer night at the lakefront. I still haven’t gotten an answer to the question I asked him yesterday in my comments: What is so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Monday, July 07, 2008

EW&F at Summerfest: Peace, Love and Understanding


The gloom-and-doom radio and blog wing-nuts who celebrate every inner city tragedy and interracial dust-up with sanctimonious hand-wringing and calls for change are going to have a hard time dealing with what happened at Summerfest last night.

When ‘70s soul-and-funk icons Earth, Wind and Fire appeared on the south end of the grounds Sunday night, so did an impressively-diverse overflow crowd of middle-aged music lovers, their children and grandchildren. Summerfest was created back in the late ‘60s as a bring-us-together event in the wake of the riots that marred the city in the summer of ‘67, but, with music acts creating often-racially exclusive niches, it seldom serves as a melting-pot. All that was different last night, as the sweet harmonies and thumping bass of what is left of EW&F tore through the warm night air, causing voices to rise and feet to move in joyful communion.

The space was jammed tight and it was hot. This is the sort of "tinderbox" that could lead to trouble if people were not as positive as they are, if given a chance. An eclectic mix of white and black Milwaukeeans moved slowly throughout the crowd, politely and positively making way for total strangers. There haven’t been this many black and white people bumping into each other since...well, since when? How often do thousands of us share the same space, much less in a free-for-all random admission situation? It was a rare event and spectacularly uplifting. And, you know what, [insert name of favorite race-baiting wing-nut here]? Not one flare of racial heat, not one flash of anger. The police did not need to be called, except to drop their batons and join in dance and song.

How many of us knew each other, but just didn’t recognize each other 30 years down the line? I probably knew many of these brothers and sisters back in the day; in high school, in the discos, at Peaches Records, where I worked in the mid-‘70s. I recognized the friendly smiles, the joy in music, the dance steps, the sing-a-long voices. We walked the grounds and connected with eye-contact, nods and winks; connected in ways we can’t be in our busy normal lives, where we get so isolated from each other and some of us imagine we are against each other, when we really aren’t. The illusion of racial animosity – exacerbated, as it is, by greedy hate-mongers on mainstream radio and elsewhere – falls away at times like this. The more chances we have to spend time together, the more we are not distant strangers to each other, the less we can attach our fears and insecurities to people we don’t know or understand.

We came – we sang – we danced. We laughed out loud at each other’s lame steps during "Boogie Wonderland" and stood shoulder to shoulder, swaying and singing to "That’s the Way of the World". "Where is that harmony?" asks Nick Lowe via Elvis Costello in the always-prescient "What’s So Funny (About Peace Love and Understanding)", but we found it this night. The night of unity and love put the lie to so much of the manipulative right-wing world-that-isn’t. They will squawk all this week about the shooting deaths on the north side, choosing to play up one sad story instead of reveling in the thousands of positive stories from a joyful interracial commingling at Summerfest.

Let ‘em. They missed it and who needs them anyway. Those of us who believe in the vibrancy of diversity will keep moving forward, leaving the professional haters in the dust of their own pathetic divisive agenda.

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.

UPDATE:



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