Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Olympics, The Nobel Prize & National Pride: The GOP & The Death of American Patriotism

Once upon a time in this country, we were all Americans, and wore the title proudly. It was O.K. if we were different; in fact, it was considered one of the strengths of this great nation. My next-door neighbor could be a Republican, and I could be a Dem, and we'd still loan each other the mower and support each other's kids' fundraisers. We could even put opposing lawn signs up, and still be cordial. Everyone had the right to feel patriotic over our country's greatness; patriotism was not restricted by one party, claimed exclusively for their own. Our country's successes were all of our successes - that was what America was all about. Despite our differences, when our country won, we all won.

The Republican Party has been draping themselves in the flag since the Reagan era, claiming that the "my country, love it or leave it" mentality was the definition of patriotism. And as the Bushies came through the Oval, there has been a transformation toward intolerance. The Moral Majority, a vocal minority, wrapped the flag in conservative Christianity and suddenly "Onward Christian Soldiers" seemed like the new national anthem. What began as a movement that pressed Americanism into their religious/political agenda mold began rejecting anyone outside of that mold as un-American. And they dubbed themselves the new patriots, the only ones "protecting" America. This indoctrination soon extended to the GOP in its entirety, the "you're either with us or against us" mentality becoming the main beam supporting all else in the party platform.

Before we knew it, Sept. 11 hit, and for a brief period, it was all put aside as we became a nation once again. Everyone reclaimed the flag as their own. But that is to be expected in a time of crisis, that regular Americans always rally to band together during tragedy is not surprising. But as we found out more and more about the pretenses with which we were sold a preemptive strike, we became skeptical. And the divisions arose once again. Those who disagreed with the Administration's false intel, who did not believe that America stands for such wrongs as lying about intel to support an unjust war were branded un-American and reviled. This cycle continued on, with swiftboating and the stripping of our civil rights, the loss of freedoms granted by The Bill of Rights. The right to privacy and free speech, the right to assemble freely, and even due process began vanishing in order to "assure the nation's safety." Suddenly, you could be turned in by a neighbor as a suspected terrorist or monitored by the government at peace rallies, as if you were a "known communist" in the McCarthy era or on the "enemies list" in the Nixon era. Patriots supported whatever the country did. My country, right or wrong, the rallying cry of the right.

This horrific progression continued through both Bush terms. And along came Cheney to centralize as much power as possible in the Executive Office. Somehow, he was even able to rationalize that the Office of The Vice-President did not fall in the Executive Branch and was above the law. We were expected to accept regression to the Nixonesque idea that "if the President does it, it's not illegal." Signing Statements and Executive Orders became all the rage. And all the while, our country was using torture, and it was suddenly o.k. because it purportedly paid a dividend. The slippery slope has been breached, and the slide continues on the right, further and further into the self-serving, smug idea that it is acceptable to disturb town hall meetings with screaming. It was seemingly acceptable to lie and name-call instead of civil discourse, to wear guns at public events in a passive-aggressive display toward The President, and to yell and accuse The President of lying during speeches to the Joint Houses of Congress. How far will we slide? "How low can you go?" appears to be the rallying cry of the Republican Right, and their motto, "Might Makes Right," has become a call to violent action. They are unconcerned with the blood that is, and will continue to be, be on their collective hands.

Now we live in an era in which if you disagree with the GOP, then you are not a true American. We're living in a time when Republicans are expected to call their children's school to forbid the viewing of The President's speech. In fact, it has become desirable among the majority of the Republican Party not simply to obfuscate and obstruct progress for middle class and working Americans, but to literally root for the failure of our President. It has become bloodsport to cheer for the failing of America if The President is not from your political party. It is socially acceptable, no, encouraged, to wish for and promote, and yes, even cheer for the failure of America:

Not only are there folks cheering the failure of America as a nation, but they now are attempting to dispel the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the current sitting President of The United States:

The appalling idea that it is O.K. to wish for the country to fail miserably because it is the only way for your chosen party to possibly regain power is un-American. By definition. Let me restate that: it is morally wrong for Americans to wish for the failure of their nation because it is the only way for their own party to come into power. It is reprehensible, abhorrent and just plain immoral.

I can't recall a time when I saw eye to eye with either Bush. I despised the Shrub, who even made his father look good in comparison! And if Cheney keeled over today, I would not mourn the loss. But I also would not stand up and cheer in a public venue. The Democratic Party never encouraged an assassination attempt on either Bush, or their mastermind, Cheney, by encouraging the wearing of loaded weapons to Presidential rallies. We did not dispel debate or publicly label others who disagreed with us as enemies of the state, or call out either President Bush for the many lies they perpetrated on the American people by screaming epithets at them during speeches before Congress. We protested peacefully, worked through our representatives and the electoral process for change, and blogged about injustices we saw happening, because that is the American way to work for change.

Disagreement is tantamount to our system of government. It's why we have more than one party, and why we have three branches of government and the checks and balances put in place by The Constitution. It is American to disagree, but to work within the rule of law and elections to make change. But it is truly unpatriotic to cheer our country's loss of an Olympic bid. It is unAmerican to dismiss the decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for honoring the efforts of the United States to mend the horrible rifts in world diplomacy, all of which were created before President Obama took office, might I add. And it is not just irresponsible, but downright evil to encourage assassination attempts with incendiary remarks by the Republican-controlled media - or any media outlet, for that matter.

Is this really the America we want? I have Republican friends who are appalled at the actions they have seen in recent events. Some have even changed their party affiliation. Shouldn't the fact that only 26% of Americans self-identify as Republican send their party a strong messagea about its actions? I don't believe that we really prefer for our country to be thought of as thugs around the world, instead of, as French President Sarkozy stated, "it sets the seal on America's return to the heart of all the world's peoples." Do we prefer to undercut our national pride and encourage divisiveness with the poor sportsmanship that wouldn't even be seen on an elementary school playground? The most terrifying fear of all is that this hatred and division will not end until it has been acted upon in its extreme, in an assassination attempt or worse. The Republican party and its leaders in the media (Limbaugh, et al) will continue to stir up racist fear and anger for their own profit until we see disastrous results for our nation because of this death of true patriotism. And I am sorely afraid that they will stand up and cheer if an unspeakable tragedy happens.