Phony Patriotism At The Democratic Underground

I decided to head over to the Democratic Underground to see what team DU thought about the events of the day, when a picture of a burning flag caught my eye. It went along with an editorial entitled, “Of Bonfires, Flags, and America the Beautiful” by Max Black. This being the DU, I immediately started thinking it was some columnist praising flag burning as a way to protest the United States of Amerikkka, but lo and behold, I was surprised.

Black started off by talking about going to an American Legion post and watching a flag burning ceremony (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a proper way to dispose of a worn American flag). There were vets , girl scouts, & cadets there and they were carrying out the ceremony, doing the Pledge of Allegiance, & playing patriotic songs.

As I’m reading the column, I’m actually sort of surprised. I was ten paragraphs deep into it and there was no bile being spewed, no sneering at the flag, no oaths to take “our flag back from George Bush and John Ashcroft”. It wasn’t bad and it got even better when I got to this part….

“What I didn’t expect was the wave of emotion that rolled through me like heat from the bonfire, now reaching high and heavy into the sky. The mask of cynicism and cheap irony I wore seemed to burn away along with the flags themselves. I stared into the fire, watching these hundred or so flags burn away into ash and nothingness; the crowd stood silent around and behind me, staring, like me, into the flames.”

I have to tell you, I was very pleased to see this sort of piece on a left-wing website, especially the DU. I say that because I LIKE people who don’t mind waving a flag every so often and who might get a little emotional in a situation like that. I don’t consider that to be a liberal or a conservative thing, I consider it to be an American thing.

But that’s when this piece started to go horribly wrong. In the next paragraph, I ran across this line…

“I have never been angered by video of foreigners burning American flags in protest against the actions of this country; more often than not, I understood their grievances and sympathized with them, even if I thought the flag-burnings themselves were childish stunts for the TV cameras.”

Hmmm…so he’s sympathizing with the grievances of people who are burning American flags? O…..K., I just sort of wrote that line off. I mean we were on the DU here, right?

So then there were another couple of pretty good paragraphs and that’s when the editorial was revealed for what it was; the sort of cynical attempt to play on people’s patriotic feelings that liberals constantly seem to be accusing conservatives of every time we wear a flag pin or suggest that school children should say the Pledge of Allegiance. Just take a look at the boorish way Black tries to directly tie patriotism into his political goals…

“But we were all Americans, standing together, observing in sacred silence the passing of these flags into honorable, flame-shrouded retirement. And I began to think of our current leaders and their actions, taken in the name of this country. Soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan every day in flag-draped coffins, killed not for the honor and glory of the United States, not for the cause of democracy, peace, and freedom, but for these men and women’s dreams of avarice and power. Killed for corporate greed. Killed for oil. Killed for a mad dream of global domination that is already coming to pieces in their grasping, lying hands.

And I knew that the enemies of this country were not those desperate, maddened foreigners fighting for their own deluded dreams of glory and religious domination. The most deadly enemies of this country were those self-same men and women lolling on the couches of power in our nation’s capital like so many Caligulas, sending our loyal children off to die for their own demented purposes. And I knew that the reverse was also true: that the most powerful enemies of these power-mad satraps and oligarchs gorging themselves on American largesse in Washington, and in the capitals of our fifty states, were not foreign terrorists or foreign governments, but the citizens of our own country. The Americans that stood alongside me that November night watching the ceremonial burning of our nation’s flags as we retired them from honorable service. All of us, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, Christian and not, Republican and Democrat and independent.

Be warned, George Bush. Take heed, Rumsfeld and Rice and Cheney and Perle and all of your cronies in the halls of power. The real Americans, all 284 million of us, are your enemies, as you are the enemies of America. We are coming for you. We will pull you out of your gilded holes and expose you for the traitors and criminals you are. We will reverse your schemes of power and domination, and restore this country to its place as the world’s leader of democracy and freedom. And our flag will wave proudly over the ashes of your ambitions.”

If you want to see a textbook example of someone “wrapping themselves up in the flag” for politics sake, you don’t need to look any further than this revolting column.

You know, this may surprise Max Black and people who think like him, but there are a lot of people in this country who don’t view patriotism as some cheap political ploy. There are a lot of Americans who put flags on their cars, listen to patriotic music, and sometimes get a little choked up when they hear the “Star Spangled Banner” not because they want to score political points, but because they’re expressing their genuine affection for our country.

Max Black could learn a lot from people like that, especially if he stopped trying to pretend he’s one of them.

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