Gee, how did I miss Obama’s patriotism speech? If I’d heard it, I know for sure that I would have stopped giving him credit for being an intelligent human being. Here’s some of what he said, as noted by Larry E.:
Still, what is striking about today’s patriotism debate is the degree towhich it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more. In the early years of the civil rights movement and opposition to theVietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned thewisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic. Meanwhile, some of those in theso-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself – by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.
Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that dissent does not make one unpatriotic, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America’s traditions and institutions. And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about the war in Iraq, when those who opposed administration policy were tagged by some as unpatriotic, and a general providing his best counsel on how to move forward in Iraq was accused of betrayal. download here [pdf]
The betrayal is Obama’s. “… a general providing his best counsel …” Hah! I see nothing unpatriotic about a critique of Gen Petraeus that notes that it appeared that he had been bought by Bush and Cheney. I would agree with that analysis and I think it’s a betrayal. If some Americans feel betrayed and are agitating for a military man who is able to sustain his own opinion without selling out to the political goals of the Commander in Chief, I’d say they are patriotic by comparison. I kinda hate the whole “patriotism” game, but it is an American trope that appears to be unavoidable. This is America, love it or shut the feck up ya bunch ‘a poopie traitors.
Holy hells bells am I ever sick of the ahistorical, ignorant asses who characterize the movements of the ’60s the way Obama does here. He wouldn’t bloody well BE WHERE HE IS without the movements of the ’60s, which included the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT led by Martin Luther King, the PEACE MOVEMENT, which made it impossible for the Viet Nam war to continue, the FEMINIST MOVEMENT, from which Obama’s accomplished wife, Michelle, has benefitted and from which his daughters will benefit I sincerely hope. Jeeeebus Michelle Obama was educated at an Ivy League School and worked for a corporate law firm – THAT didn’t happen in the early ’60s – people may have loved Jackie Kennedy but she was no feminist – it actually wasn’t until HILLARY CLINTON that the stoopid role broke half-way open.
If not for the Black Panthers, the community work that Obama likes to play up (even though he only did it for three years) might not YET have been invented, to say nothing of school breakfast and lunch programmes, head start programmes, community health programmes, hostels and beds for the homeless and transient, food banks, rape crisis centres, shelters for abused women, Roe v. Wade ETC AD INFINITUM.
And US veterans of the Viet Nam war, very many of whom were involved in the peace movement when they came home, often received the ONLY attention they EVER got from student activists who gave them the models for self-help groups and welcomed them into their midst. Remember, PTSD wasn’t accepted then -those vets didn’t just get poor treatment, they got NO treatment. Dick Nixon never threw a SINGLE VICTORY PARADE for Viet Nam vets. I’m sure some of them were confused about the anti-war environment when they returned to the US – after all, who wants to risk your life or sustain permanent injury in a war that most of the citizens of your country think is useless in addition to immoral. For many, I’m sure it was damaging and alienating. Who advocated for the vets?
… the claim that antiwar activists “failed to honor the veterans” of Vietnam. That is bullshit. It was the antiwar movement (usually in cooperation with Vietnam vets), not the American Legion, not the VFW, not the bloodlust war hawks, who established the coffeehouses, the counseling centers, the job centers. It was the antiwar movement, not the American Legion, not the VFW, who condemned the VA for refusing to consider PTSD a real condition. Indeed, for several years the Legion and the VFW weren’t interested in reaching out to or even dealing with the “pot-smoking” Vietnam vets “who lost a war for the first time in US history.” Buying into the concocted rightwing meme that “the antiwar movement hated the troops” has had a real political cost over the years and it is a disgrace to see Obama embracing it.
The actions of some activists eventually ended the draft. A couple of priests, a Catholic nun and five other activists sparked that movement when they were jailed for defacing draft cards with their OWN BLOOD.
Flag burning can also be understood as an act of patriotism:
Flag desecration is recognized as an “epiphenomenon” that accompanies wars and other events that promote dissent by some citizens and “compulsory patriotism” by the state.
Sure there were fringe elements of the ’60s movements that fell into the very violence they demonstrated against. And yes, there were some kids who fell into the “counterculture” for the fun and the drugs and little else. But it is the height of anti-patriotism to fail to acknowledge the hundreds and hundreds of kids, black and white and Native American, who did more than write blogs about their beliefs. There were the freedom rides through the South:
… an interracial group would board buses destined for the South. The whites would sit in the back and the blacks in the front. At rest stops, the whites would go into blacks-only areas and vice versa. “This was not civil disobedience, really,” explained CORE director James Farmer, “because we [were] merely doing what the Supreme Court said we had a right to do.” But the Freedom Riders expected to meet resistance. “We felt we could count on the racists of the South to create a crisis so that the federal government would be compelled to enforce the law,” said Farmer. “When we began the ride I think all of us were prepared for as much violence as could be thrown at us. We were prepared for the possibility of death.” 
The Freedom Riders never made it to New Orleans. Many spent their summer in jail. Some were scarred for life from the beatings they received. But their efforts were not in vain. They forced the Kennedy administration to take a stand on civil rights, which was the intent of the Freedom Ride in the first place. In addition, the Interstate Commerce Commission, at the request of Robert Kennedy, outlawed segregation in interstate bus travel in a ruling, more specific than the original Supreme Court mandate, that took effect in September, 1961. The Freedom Riders may not have finished their trip, but they made an important and lasting contribution to the civil rights movement.
Kids were murdered at South Carolina State University after a demonstration demanding the integration of a bowling alley in Orangeburg. Kids were murdered by the National Guard while demonstrating against the Viet Nam war at Kent State University in Ohio. Native Americans died at the siege at Wounded Knee Pine Ridge Reservation:
“There was a time in 1973 when the possibility of change presented itself. People seized that moment. And those moments can happen at any time. I hope I’m part of more moments like that.”
These were not patriots?
These committed individuals, these collective actions, have been criminally forgotten or stereotyped out of existence. In those days, there was a politics of hope and change for which millions of people put their bodies and their lives right out there ON THE LINE. We ought to be PROUD of that heritage. Barack Obama does all those people a huge disservice in co-opting their words without one iota of their intelligence and commitment.
I no longer see the difference between John McCain and Barack Obama except that Obama has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the millenial generation of so-called Progressives. I think it will actually do more harm to America if it elects Barack Obama. It will take that much longer for them to figure out that they’ve voted for a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that much longer for the people to take decisive action against the Emperor and for the American Empire to fall. He’s actually a dangerous man. At least with McCain, you know what you’re going to get. BARACK OBAMA’S NOT WEARING ANY CLOTHES, guys. He’s parading around like the next emperor apparent and he’s completely neckid. He’s sounding an awful lot like Newt Gingrich:
“From 1965 to 1994, we did strange and weird things as a country. Now we’re done with that and we have to recover. The counterculture is a momentary aberration in American history that will be looked back upon as a quaint period of Bohemianism brought to the national elite”—the notorious “counterculture McGoverniks,” an elite who “taught self-indulgent, aristocratic values without realizing that if an entire society engaged in the indulgences of an elite few, you could tear the society to shreds.”
That is, I’m sorry, I can’t resist, an abominable lie. If people believe it without questioning, perhaps the result will be deserved, though that sounds more vengeful than I’d like.
Here’s a critique of Obama’s patriotism rant that I can’t beat: Lotus. Glenn Greenwald’s also has a few comments, here
Before I leave off, I’ll share with you a description of the 1960s that I think actually makes some sense, just so ya know:
A generation that, as I wrote to a friend some years ago, lived with
the sense that you could make a difference, that your dreams could be lived out, that they really could come true. For all the sexism we came to acknowledge in the counterculture and the peace movement, people were trying to live more egalitarian lives. For all the undercurrents of racism we dug out of white activist’s relations with black groups, people were trying to work it out and live more justly. For all the awareness of our umbilical cord connections to the consumer society, people were trying to live more simply, with greater ecological awareness. There was a sense that you could make it better both in yourself and in others by both your social example and your political actions.