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Monday, October 24, 2016

When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I always remember what my late father taught me about love of country. He was a deeply patriotic man, much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to mock as “jelly-bellied flag flappers.”  It is a phrase from a Rudyard Kipling story that aptly describes the belligerent chicken-hawk who never stops squawking – someone like Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.

Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theatre. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small, eagle-shaped pin, known as a “ruptured duck” – a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.

Would such a gesture resonate today? Right-wingers have long sought to establish a monopoly on patriotic expression. On this holiday, when we celebrate the nation’s revolutionary founding, we need to remind ourselves just how hollow that right-wing tactic is and always has been. Only our historical amnesia permits the right — infested with neo-Confederates and other dubious types — to assert an exclusive franchise on the flag, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the whole panoply of national symbols. In the light of history, it should be plain that progressives are fully entitled to a share of America’s heritage; indeed, perhaps even more than their right-wing rivals.

Let’s begin at the official beginning. Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.

How else to describe Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, the revolutionary idealists who declared their contempt for monarchy and aristocracy? It is true that many of their wealthier and more cautious comrades in the Continental Congress disdained Adams as a reckless adventurer “of bankrupt fortune,” and Paine as a rabble-rousing scribbler. Of course popular democracy was a wildly radical doctrine in colonial times, only tamed in the writing of the Constitution by the new nation’s land-owning elites and slaveholders.

The right-wingers of that era were the Tories — colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, opposed to change, and, in their assistance to George III’s occupying army, exactly the opposite of patriots. Only after two centuries of ideological shifting can Tea Party “constitutionalists” claim that the republican faith of the Founding Fathers is “conservative.”

The Civil War was just as plainly a struggle between left and right, between patriots and … well, in those days the Confederate leaders were deemed traitors (a term avoided since then out of a decent concern for Southern sensibilities). Academics dispute the war’s economic and social basis, but there is no doubt that the 19th-century left sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while its right-wing contemporaries fought to extend slavery and destroy the Union.

Reverence for the Confederacy remains an emotional touchstone for right-wing Southern politicians and intellectuals (not to mention the Ku Klux Klan, assorted neo-Nazis, and many activists in the Tea Party). All of these disreputable elements denigrate Lincoln, our greatest president, and promote nostalgia for the plantation, sometimes known as “the Southern way of life.” The latest example is Chris McDaniel, the defeated Tea Party candidate for the Senate in Mississippi, a flag-waver if ever there was one – except when he was delivering fiery speeches to the secessionist Sons of Confederate Veterans. At the risk of offending every “conservative” who runs around with a Stars and Bars bumper sticker, it is hard to see how his conduct qualifies as American patriotism.

Still another inglorious episode in the annals of the right preceded World War II. The “America First” movement that opposed U.S. intervention against Hitler camouflaged itself with red, white and blue but proved to be a haven for foreign agents who were plotting against the United States. (Philip Roth brilliantly depicted this sinister campaign in The Plot Against America.)

Although Communists and pacifists had opposed American entry into the war for their own reasons, the broad-based left of the New Deal coalition understood the threat from the Axis very early. After Pearl Harbor most conservatives honorably joined the war effort, but some continued to promote defeatism and appeasement. And the historical roots of postwar conservatism — the “Old Right” of Joseph McCarthy and Pat Buchanan, the Buckley family and yes, the Koch brothers — can be traced to those prewar Nazi sympathizers.

What does true patriotism mean today? Do you truly love your country if you are a corporate leader hiding billions of dollars in profits offshore or insisting on the declining wages that have ruined the American dream? Do you love your country if you demand the right to pollute its air and water and despoil its countryside, no matter the cost to future generations? Do you love your country when you scheme to deprive your fellow citizens of the right to vote, which so many died to preserve?

Somehow the wingers righteously wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if our heritage belongs to them alone. On this holiday, and every other day, it surely does not.

Photo: Mike Mozart via Flickr

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  • sigrid28

    Another way to celebrate: take in the complete six-part series depicting the life of John Adams, beginning at 10:15 a.m. on HBO CST (here it’s Channel 550

    • latebloomingrandma

      I’ve watched it several times, and always get teary eyed at the swearing in of George Washington.

  • WhutHeSaid

    Independence Day is a good to remember what America really was and is: An experiment in a liberal new form of government.

  • ps0rjl

    Nothing gets my goat worse than watching all these patriots(politicians especially) wearing flag lapel pins. The vast majority of those of my age did their best to avoid service during Vietnam. Or worse yet having some pundits such as Ann Coulter calling all us liberals treasonous and yet never having worn the uniform of our country. I admit I was an anti-war protestor during Vietnam but I also served my country then too. I do enjoy watching these old men get together today whenever some business offers them a free breakfast for their service. No we still do not all think alike about politics but one thing we have in common is that as mere boys we stood on the wall and said to the enemy “Not on my watch!”. Those old men who stand around at these gatherings are our countries true heroes. Whenever you get the chance, go to one of these gatherings and see these old men who don’t need flag lapel pins to show their patriotism. Sorry for preaching. Have a happy Fourth of July.

    • idamag

      That is so well said.

    • Allan Richardson

      The sad thing is that even those political leaders who would not have worn flag pins otherwise, because they believe their actions show their love of America, feel that they are “obligated” to do so, lest the hatemongers have even more excuses to disrespect their honest patriotism. When EVERYONE in government and politics HAS TO wear a flag pin, it no longer means anything.

  • Jambi

    Ted is a “has been”, ranting, raving idiot…

  • latebloomingrandma

    I read something once that aptly describes how conservatives and liberals differ in their love of country. (paraphrasing) Conservatives love the country like they love their Mom. Don’t criticize Mom–I have the best Mom ever and you better not say anything bad about her if you know what’s good for you.
    Liberals love the country like they love their spouses. They may love them to death, but boy, sometimes you just want to smack them across the head.
    Let’s keep working on building that more perfect union!
    Happy 4th and enjoy the fireworks wherever you are. John Adams said so!

    • Allan Richardson

      Or, liberals love America like a parent loves his kids. Sometimes you have to give them a time out or a good lecture.

  • Thank you for doing your part to remind conservatives that, throughout our entire American history, conservatives have been on the wrong side of it.

    First they fought against the formation of the Union, then they fought to destroy it.

    They were anti-war against genuine threats to the world like the Nazis (and in many cases, pro-Nazi outright), but called us traitors for not supporting wars against third-world non-aggressors like Vietnam and Iraq.

    And at every major turn in our democratic process, they were against expanding it. They fought against rights for blacks, rights for women, rights for immigrants, and even today have no problem whatsoever insisting that voting should be a right exclusive to rich landowners.

    It’s time for the Tea Party to admit, not only that they are opposed to everything America stands for, but that they have ALWAYS been opposed to everything it stands for.

    • Allan Richardson

      And don’t forget Mexico. As painful as it would be, if we gave back to Mexico the territory we took from them, our illegal alien problem and our right wing idiots in politics problem would both be half solved!

  • charles king

    Thank You Mr. Joe Conason those are my senments I tank you again because these are words that the young American’s should know about their country. This is your country Not some one with MONIES claiming their rights. My parents had Ten Sons and two Daughters and eight of their sons has fought three war for their country and their Democracy. Let the young people know that they better get their Democracy back. Critical Thinking is needed for the young American because today (Capitalistic Pigs, Plutocracts, Do-Nothingers Republicans and Democracts, Etcs. of all shades) with MONIES are trying to divide the Domane but as long as the people do some critical thinking and use their vote wisely every thing will be alright. The VOTE is still Supreme so vote those sorry-asses out of office. We know Who? they are so Vote them out. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. MR. C. E. KING

  • ExRadioGuy15

    I’m surprised that Joe Conason essentially uses the “false equivalency” argument when he claims in the article that, “Let’s begin at the official beginning. Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.”
    Conason goes on to correctly point out something I’ve said and say when the Fascist GOP Cons claim that our Founding Fathers were Cons: “the ‘Cons’ back then were the people loyal to the Crown of England, called and STILL called ‘The Tories'”. Joe: I got a news flash for ya: The Tories WERE the colonial elite! To suggest that “elitists” can be “left-wing radicals” fails to recognize the political realities, either back then or now. Elitists are Conservatives. Conservatism can be boiled down to three things: maintenance of the status quo if it favors them (and it usually does); resistance or outright blocking of change/progress (except the first thing; change or progress can only benefit THEM and no one else) and a term the media use called “Neoliberalism”, the Cons’ lust for the acquisition of wealth and power and the fact that they’ll do anything to get and accumulate more of it. On that last point, the late John Kenneth Galbraith summed it up best in 2002: “the modern Conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for the superior moral justification for selfishness”. That also proves that Conservatism is a Fascist political ideology. Sure, there are rich Liberals and Progressives. But, the fact that they’re rich is not the determining factor to they being “Elitists”; the determining factors are the three I listed above.
    Don’t be fooled, people: the GOP have joined the following regimes in the exclusive club of Fascist ideology: Papadopoulos (Greece), Salazar (Portugal), Suharto (Indonesia), Pinochet (Chile; supported by the CIA—ssmdh), Franco (Spain), Mussolini (Italy) and, most notably, the most brutal Fascist regime since Feudalism became Fascism after the Industrial Revolution: Nazi Germany.
    The GOP are ruled by an FCP—Fascist Christian Plutartheocracy. The more political power the GOP get, the closer this country comes to becoming an FCP….

    • Independent1

      When we’re criticizing the “elites”, lets be careful not to paint all the wealthy people in America with the same brush.

      By in large, the truly wealthy in America, those who came about their wealth honestly, through their own hard work, are in fact, liberals. This is demonstrated in Congress where the legislators who represent the vast majority of voting districts in America where the truly wealthy live, are in fact Democrats.

      The majority of wealthy ‘elites’ who are fanatical conservatives, such as Adelson and the Koch Bros and others, are America’s wealthy who have come about their wealth either via dubious means (like Adelson who runs a Casino and Romney who gained his wealth by destroying American companies and shipping millions of American jobs overseas), or like the Koch Bros. who were handed their wealth on a silver platter from their parents and know nothing about what it means to come by your wealth through hard work. Which is one reason why conservative wealthy “elites” act like spoiled brats!!

      • Allan Richardson

        And many of our founders were, in fact, wealthy enough to QUALIFY as elites, but were radical in that they did not hold themselves up AS elite because of their wealth. And while it is true that the majority of our citizens at that time did not have as much education as they did, they wanted to make education POSSIBLE for everybody, so that anyone who CHOSE to do so could vote intelligently. And over time that “anybody” expanded to non-land-owning white men, to men of any color, to women, and to the younger adults 18-20.

        As for our conservative “patriot” friends, Texans like Molly Ivins and Ann Richards had their number: they were born on third base and the brag about hitting a triple.

  • angelsinca

    What better way to celebrate the independence of a greatly diverse nation than to denigrate a huge portion of it. Not. Sad to say but The Memo’s featured article misses the mark for patriotism, entirely.

    Peace to all that want a better America for everyone.

    • 1standlastword

      What a superlative example of the Sunday go to meetin’ disposition: Be your brother’s keeper on the Lords Day then bash his head six days around the week to Sunday…I love it!

      • angelsinca

        ‘bash his head’? what are you talking about. Please read the article from the pov of being a conservative. Hope you have a swell celebration of Independence.

        • Independent1

          Tell me nutcase! If a band of hoodlums stormed into your house and trashed it from one end to the other, would you stand up and sing their praises in court asking the judge to forget about all the damage they’ve done to your home??

          Well, from the standpoint of many Independents and Liberals, that’s exactly what today’s conservatives are doing to America – they’re trashing it!!!!!!!!!

          And we’re not going to stand by and let them get away with it!!!!!!!

      • idamag

        You gave me a titter on that one.

  • Charlotte Marks

    Your father sounds like mine – he was a WWII veteran who always said “when a Republican is in the White House, working people suffer.” And I’ll always remember him asking, in genuine puzzlement, after stumbling across Limbaugh on the radio, “why is that guy so hateful?”

    Reagan getting misty over the Founding Fathers always cracked me up – like he wouldn’t have been appalled at a bunch of radicals. All those conservatives would have been Loyalists.

  • joe schmo

    All scare tactics by your bias media…..

    “What does true patriotism mean today? Do you truly love your country if you are a corporate leader hiding billions of dollars in profits offshore or insisting on the declining wages that have ruined the American dream? Do you love your country if you demand the right to pollute its air and water and despoil its countryside, no matter the cost to future generations? Do you love your country when you scheme to deprive your fellow citizens of the right to vote, which so many died to preserve?

    Somehow the wingers righteously wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if our heritage belongs to them alone. On this holiday, and every other day, it surely does not.”

    Do you really consider yourselves patriots? Bad word isn’t it. Welll we can also thank the Unions and government intervention for the Corporations. Here we go with the environment again. Don’t you realize we need a balance and what about China and South America….no one seems to comment on how polluting they are. NO ONE IN THIS COUNTRY INCLUDING CONSERVATIVES WANT TO POLLUTE THIS COUNTRY, that is utter nonsense. However, we believe in a balance and common sense which you all don’t seem to be able to come to grips with. What about that future generation. We see all that brainwashing in the schools has paid off because future generations don’t know a thing about American history and what about that debt they have to pay off.

    ….and then there’s this:

    “Virtually everyone alive today was born into a world in which the US was “#1”, the largest and most important economy on the planet. Hardly anyone can imagine anything else.

    Yet ironically, as many Americans are celebrating Independence Day today, it is the last holiday that will pass with the US being the world’s largest economy.

    China is set to surpass the US in a matter of months. And this shift of wealth and power is, by far, the biggest story of our time.

    WOW…..wonder who created this….Clinton to loser Bush to loser Obama. Thank you Dems for making the gap even wider….. God bless America.

    • Allan Richardson

      Don’t thank Dems, thank Nixon (about whose trip to China an OPERA has been written) and “aw shucks I’m just an old cowboy” union busting Reagan.

      • joe schmo

        Geez, NIXON….seriously. Too long ago. Reagan, not! Got better when he was in office and we had a whole lot more pride in being American. We were actually not ASHAMED of who we were. Didn’t hear the Libs complain too much now did we?

        Everything started going south when Clinton came into office and then it was down hill from there. The .com’s were an offshoot of the Reagan era. It made Clinton look mighty good. For a while.

        • Independent1

          What utter crap as usual!! America’s worst president ever, Ronnie baby, started the destruction of Amerca with his wild financial fantasies like the trickle-down lie, and tax cuts really spur the economy and unions are evil and by cutting the max tax rate more than in half which actually stalled the economy.

          If you had one half a brain, you’d realize that it was Carter who presided over the sharp increase in jobs growth with more than 10 million jobs created during his 4 years, which kept on going for a while into Ronnie’s tenure until he cut taxes and jobs plummeted (about 12 million jobs were created in his 1st term as a carry over from what Carter started) and then plunged to a meager 4 million jobs in his 2nd term because by cutting tax rates so sharply he stifled job creation (the rich and corporations withhold investing in expanding companies and creating new ones when tax rates are low because there’s less risk in just reaping income from monies in investments than there is in taking the risk in creating new jobs).

          It wasn’t until Clinton pushed up the tax rate again that the economy took off and saw the most prosperous 8 years in American history.

          Nice try clueless but your idiocy just keeps coming out with everything you post!!!!!!

          • joe schmo

            .com’s were due to Reagan giving everyone a ‘piece of the pie.’ Clinton just got to reap in the rewards.

            Reagan made famous what he called the “economy pie.” The economic pie represented the entire American economy. Reagan criticized government for taxing productive Americans to pay for every slice of pie that the government took and then used in ever moreinefficient ways. All of this slicing left less of the economic pie for
            ordinary, taxpaying Americans who were earning their piece of the pie the old-fashioned way–with hard work.

            Instead of following that failed mode, Reagan believed that we grew the economy–and increased the size of the pie–by helping the unproductive become productive.

            He said: “The weakness in this country for too many years has been our insistence of carving an ever-increasing number of slices from a
            shrinking economic pie. Our policies have concentrated on rationing scarcity rather than
            creating plenty.”

            Instead of fighting over who gets the last piece
            of shrinking economic pie, let’s help America produce a bigger pie so that everyone will have a chance to be better off.

            One can imagine what Reagan would think of the spend-happy and micromanagerial “elite” in Washington today. When Reagan was elected in
            1980, most Americans could look to a future in which their children would live better than their parents, and thenational debt was less than a trillion dollars.

            Reagan might have been criticized often for doubling the national debt (due in large part to a
            Democrat-controlled Congress) from less than a trillion dollars to$2 trillion–but his successors have now taken it to over $17 trillion,
            with many in Washington now saying it would be “irresponsible” not to keep borrowing. Unlike the Reagan era, most Americans do not see a future in which their children will do better
            than they have. But too many American aren’t dreaming about the future–they’re fearing it.

            Supply-side economics is just common sense

            Here’s the really fascinating part–the part liberals remain clueless about: if the federal government really wants to “stick it” to rich folks and confiscate more of their hard-earned money to fund their insane spending sprees on counterproductive social programs then they should lower, not raise, taxes. Before President Reagan instituted the Reagan tax cuts, the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 18 percent of all federal income taxes. The top marginal rates then went from a suffocating70 percent down to 28 percent. And what was the result? Their portion of
            the national tax bill actually doubled–they paid 36 percent of federal income taxes and produced 23
            percent of the nation’s income. As President Reagan explained, “A few economists call this principle supply-side economics. I just call it
            common sense.”

            OK brainiac, I don’t think you were too worried about Reagan when he was in office because we all still just had it too good.

            Oh and what’s this….even the Canadians proclaim Obama a loser….. What’s the matter with us…I mean you. Conservatives already know the truth. Hello 3rd world….here we come…..

          • flyinjs

            Reagan was known for a coined phrase “Voodoo Economics”

          • joe schmo

            LOL, didn’t hear you people complaining when things were satisfactory to good did we? Your just jealous that a Conservative President was soo successful, very well liked, and he was known to be one of the best presidents America ever had.

            Can’t say that for our latest blunders:
            Bush (psuedo Republican) and Obama.

  • Pope losing Hope

    This article is inaccurate and in fact she quoted terribly wrong information. “there is no doubt that the 19th-century left sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while its right-wing contemporaries fought to extend slavery and destroy the Union”
    But here is truth Slavery: Democrats Fought to Expand It – Republicans Fought to End It
    Etched in history is the fact that the Democratic Party, through its racist agenda and “States’ Rights” claim to own slaves, sought to protect and preserve the institution of slavery from 1792 to 1865, thus keeping enslaved millions of blacks. The Republican Party was started in 1854 as the anti-slavery party, fought to free blacks from slavery and championed civil rights for blacks.
    The Democratic Party enacted fugitive slave laws to keep blacks from escaping from plantations; instigated the 1856 “Dred Scott v. Standford” decision which legally classified blacks as property; passed the Missouri Compromise to spread slavery into 50% of the new Northern states; and passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act designed to spread slavery into all of the new states.

    • idamag

      And when the Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act, the south went Republican.

      • ralphkr

        That is because all the Dixiecrats (DINOs) could now come out into the open and run as Republicans instead of running as Democrats and voting with the Republicans in Congress.

    • Allan Richardson

      But since the Civil War was over, the parties switched sides. The GOP was founded on a platform of (1) abolish slavery, (2) run the economic system for the benefit of the wealthy “robber barons” and not the workers, and (3) forcefully “encourage” a conservative Puritan lifestyle. Democrats were originally the party of the Southern oligarchs (who taught their fellow white men without money to hate black people, so they could count on their assistance in recapturing runaway slaves, while paying them less money for their work BECAUSE there were slaves to do it for free). After the war, for a brief decade, the black men who had been freed from slaver and COULD vote outvoted the white men who had fought against the Union and, because of laws passed by radical Republicans in Congress, mostly could NOT vote as they were judged traitors. This resulted in a mostly black and mostly Republican political climate in the South, promoting policies that TODAY’S DEMOCRATS would have approved: education for all, help for working people, non-discrimination, etc.

      Then Reconstruction ended, Southern white Democrats took over again and found ways to stop the black vote, and most other normal public human enjoyment by black people. HOWEVER, in the Northern cities, workers who were trying to unionize, many of them immigrants or sons of immigrants, of multiple ethnic groups, formed the non-Dixie Democrats, who over time came to revere their diversity. Although they did not, for a century, try to FIGHT the Dixiecrats (whom they needed in Congress), except where they had power (note that FDR built the Pentagon, in VIOLATION of Virginia law at that time, with non-segregated restrooms, using the federal supremacy on federal property, for example), they gradually developed an anti-hate ethical viewpoint. When, in the 1960s, the New Democrats DID try to extend non-discrimination to the South, the pro-discrimination Southerners, along with the pro-corporate and pro-Puritan (and until recently, anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish) voters in the South, SWITCHED BRAND NAMES. So today, ALMOST ALL (I won’t say all because there are a few exceptions) voters and politicians who have racist attitudes and promote racist policies are Republican. So when you talk about what “the Democrats did” back then, you are talking about what TODAY’S REPUBLICANS would have done in those days.

    • ralphkr

      No, Pope, you have completely warped left and right in your post. In the 1800s the Republican Party was the radical, left wing party and the Democrats were the reactionary right wing party.Lincoln was our first president to express admiration for Karl Marx’s writings and Lincoln did succeed in having many of Marx’s principles enacted such as outlawing slavery. By the time of Teddy Roosevelt (the last good Republican president) the Republican party had slid so far into the mire of conservatism that Roosevelt left the party to start his own party.

  • idamag

    Phoney flag wavers who think that shows the extent of their patriotism. Love of country says you will defend and protect its government. If there are flaws in the government due to some very un-American people who manage to get into it, then change it while you still have a vote. Defend every citizen’s right to vote.

  • Buzz Waldron

    . This article wasn’t for “all persuasions”… guess that’s why it appears on the 3rd instead of the 4th…

  • StubbornlyRational

    Pretty pathetic that Joe can’t resist posting his divisive rant about “right-wingers” on a day when we should try to come together. If Joe has a triple-digit IQ, he’d realize that hypocrisy runs rampant on both sides of the aisle. As we speak, Obama wantonly subverts the law of the land to pack the country with illegal aliens in the hope of enhancing the future Democrat voting base.

    • Independent1

      Oh really!! Is that why his administration has rounded up and deported more troublesome illegal aliens (those damaging our country and costing it billions) than any previous president??

      And since your so mealy mouthed, let’s here about all those laws that Obama is SUPPOSEDLY SUBVERTING!! Come on!! Let’s here you spell them out!!

      If Obama’s been subverting an unusual number of laws by having issued the lowest number of Executive Orders (167) to get his way of any president in office since 1900 except Bush Sr. who only served for 4 years, then how much was Teddy Roosevelt (arguably the best Republican president since Lincoln) subverting the laws by signing over 1800 EOs?? Or Calvin Coolidge another GOP president by signing over 1,200 EOs, or Eisenhower another GOP president by signing more than 400 EO’S? or Nixon by signing more than 300 EO’s? Reagan by signing more than 375 EOP’s? or Bush jr, by signing more than 250 EO’s?

      When are you clueless conservatives going to realize your demonstrating your total cluelessness by even suggesting that Obama is over extending his presidential authority???

  • Dom Perinyong

    I think we can all agree that Hussein Obama is a delusional menace.