Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Saturday, October 22, 2016

For every American who venerates the ideals set down by this country’s founders in the Declaration of Independence, July 4 is a day of reflection as well as celebration. For me, this holiday has also become an occasion to point out that liberals and progressives cherish those principles, along with the symbols that represent them, just as fervently as our conservative compatriots.

So over the past several years, I’ve written an annual Independence Day column examining the politics of patriotism – and exploding the myths behind the right-wing monopoly on patriotic expression like so many festive firecrackers.

Looking back over American history, it isn’t difficult to argue that the Sons (and daughters!) of Liberty were the progressives of their era, fighting to end monarchy and aristocracy, in bitter conflict with Tory conservatism. Nor is it hard to show that the abolitionists whose movement sparked the Civil War were the progressives of their time, battling the revanchist conservatism of the Confederacy. Or that the liberals of the New Deal era, struggling to save the world from fascism, confronted entrenched resistance from prominent rightist and corporate leaders — sometimes in league with the nation’s foreign enemies — whose heirs later founded the modern conservative movement.

In all those historic turning points is embedded a fundamental truth, that the right’s claim to patriotic exclusivity is and always was ludicrous. Repeating that  every year is a necessary corrective as the wingnuts wrap themselves in Old Glory, pretending once more to be its sole owners.

But July 4, 2015 is a little different.

Following the massacre of nine innocent citizens by a thug named Dylann Roof at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, the national discourse has turned toward an important issue raised annually in those July 4 columns. At long last, the Confederate battle flag, a banner of racism, segregation, secession, and yes, treason, may be removed from public display in state Capitols across the South – because Roof waved that flag while stomping and burning ours in the pictures posted on his website. A long overdue movement toward that flag’s interment in museums, where it belongs with all the other regalia of the old slave regime, has won support from the same kind of politicians who once enabled its disgraceful flaunting.

In South Carolina, Republican governor Nikki Haley, recognizing the imperative of this moment, stood with Democrats and African-American leaders as she called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds. According to the Associated Press, she can expect enough legislators in her party to vote for that change. In Mississippi, Republican legislative leaders are calling for the Confederate symbol to be struck from their state flag. Jeb Bush, who removed the Confederate flag from public display when he was governor of Florida, finally spoke up in support of Haley’s initiative. So did Mitt Romney. Walmart, a company based in Arkansas, has announced that it will no longer market items bearing that emblem.

And those Republicans have spoken up despite polls showing that most members of their party, especially in the GOP’s Southern heartland, still condone the display of Confederate symbols. Southern chapters of the Tea Party cling to the Stars and Bars, while ventilating the usual swill about “states’ rights” and the Constitution. They have closed ranks with the fascist right, including the usual suspects in neo-Nazi cells, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, whose racist propaganda inspired Dylann Roof.

Obviously the Tea Party’s self-proclaimed super-patriots lack enough wit to notice the embarrassing irony of their position. It is not possible – indeed, it was never possible, as Robert E. Lee and other honorable Confederate veterans swiftly acknowledged – for anyone loyal to this country to salute that standard or any of its variations. And it is troubling that most of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates cannot yet find the courage and decency – the patriotic morale – to stop pretending otherwise.

On this day, however, in Lincoln’s own spirit of charity toward all and malice toward none, we ought to embrace those Republicans who have reaffirmed their loyalty to the flag that represents all of us. Today we should stand together — as President Obama suggested in his remarkable eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Mother Emanuel — to honor the flag that flies over the “United States of America.”

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Theodora30

    Yesterday I saw a truck flying a large U.S. Flag of one side and a Cnfederate flag on the other and all I could think was how confused the dude driving is. I wanted to tell him to make up his mind – does he want to be loyal to this country or against it?
    It drives me nuts that these people dare to lecture the rest of us about patriotism when their heros wanted to dismantle this country. It drives me even crazier that this is rarely pointed out so thanks for including treason in your list of what the Confederate flag really stands for.

    • Theodora30

      I just read that CNN has a poll asking people if they saw the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride or racism. Why not include treason? Too impolite?

    • Independent1

      I’m not sure what the CNN poll showed, but what’s especially disappointing to me, is that a recent Rasmussen poll, purports to show that a plurality of Americans, believe the Confederate flag stands more for ‘Southern Pride’ than it represents the treasonous attempt by the South to inflict on the entire country, the South’s hypocritical, bigoted desire to continue reaping profits by turning other humans into slaves. How can so many clueless Americans NOT GET IT???

  • FireBaron

    I was reminded the other day that during Klan rallies in the 30s, they flew the US flag. They did not start using the Army of Tennessee (CSA) Battle Flag until the start of the “Civil Rights Era”. I guess they wanted to be refereed to as patriotic racists, not treasonous racists.

  • “Today we should stand together — as President Obama suggested in his remarkable eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Mother Emanuel — to honor the flag that flies over the “United States of America.”

    Unfortunately, while you were writing this, members of the far-right were screaming their heads off that it’s time to wage a new Civil War in order to put a stop to gay marriage.

    As you noted, our entire nation’s history can be summed up as an extended conflict between progressives making progress and conservatives digging in their heels and threatening to murder anyone who crossed them.

    Today, it is no different. Progressives have made strides with nationalized healthcare and marriage equality, and the conservatives have once again responded that it’s time for civil war and/or mass executions.

    That is not to say that we should not try to come together as one nation. Only that, when we do so, we should not be surprised when the response is hostile, even violent. Instead, we should be prepared.

  • Darsan54

    Perhaps, we were more generous with the treasonous South than we should have been. Wounds needed to be healed and justice restored, but neither happened and we are stuck with the awful consequences today. If Lincoln had been allowed to live, perhaps a more comprehensive solution could have been found. But the pride of our vanquished don’t see any sins and continue to fight the wars past.

  • charleo1

    I wasn’t a person to pay much attention to politics until 9/11. I voted, usually Left, if election day didn’t pass before I realized they were having one. And like most of the Country, after the attacks, I rallied around our President. The fact he wasn’t the guy I had voted for was of no consequence at all. It was simple. The Country was in trouble, I love my Country, and the idea that politics would enter into any of that, seemed a traitorous thing to even contemplate. I listened to Chris Christy’s announcement the other day of his decision to volunteer his services to the Country as President. And in doing so, like all of his opponents, asked the Country to unite, and work together. Pointing out, that that was the only way we ever get anything done. A plea to come together, and work on solutions to the Country’s challenges. As I said, I wasn’t a political person until 9/11. But was very much engaged by the fall of 2008. When the Country found itself still embroiled in two, long expensive wars. The World’s economy seemingly coming apart. With nearly a million Americans being idled each month, trillions of dollars of their life’s savings being destroyed, their homes in foreclosure. It was just at this time that another newly elected President was thanking Americans for their trust in him in such troubled times. And in his acceptance message, implored all Americans, this that voted for him, and especially those that did not, to put away the partisan politics for now That what their Country needed most from them now, was their patriotism.

    • Independent1

      It’s truly unfortunate that as Joe pointed out in his article, that patriotism to people like Chris Christie and the majority of Republicans, isn’t about country, it’s all about self!! What they can gain by pretending to be Christians and pretending to be patriotic. We can only wonder today, just how much astronomically better off Americans would be today, if only the right had heeded what President Obama had pleaded for in his acceptance speech 6 plus years ago; to put aside our selfish wants, and instead be truly patriotic and work together for the betterment of America.

      • charleo1

        Well said. And sadly very true. The Right professes to be patriotic, professes to set the moral standards. But, the one thing they didn’t quibble about, is they all hoped President Obama would fail. Even if it meant the Country also had to fail. I only have one word for that. Unforgivable.

        • Independent1

          Absolutely!! What we need is to get Michael Moore to create a documentary that highlights the differences between Democrat and Republican governances over the past 100 years – where every Democrat has outperformed every Republican with respect to jobs growth, GDP growth and Stock market performance. Together with haw the GOP over the past 100 years has worked to hold back America’s progress into the future. America today trails the world on its infrastructure enhancements expecially high-speed rail; it lags the world in longevity because of the appalling results of life expectancy in red states, it lags the world in healthcare outcomes once again because of the appalling neglect Republicans give to healthcare delivery systems and on and on.

          Too many Americans are living in a la la land about how great everything is in America. The country needs to be made aware of just how far the GOP has held America back from truly moving into the 21st Century. Michael is the only one I can think of who could do a good job of educating the country as to how disastrous Republican governance of America has been since Teddy Roosevelt.

          You’ve probably seen this graph but I’ll post a couple of them again, just to show that every Democrat since Hoover has outperformed every Republican (including Reagan who was nothing more than a mediocre president despite right-wingers want to make him a saint – his 8 years were clearly worse than Carter’s who the Republicans constantly want to denigrate.).

        • Independent1

          Posted the wrong graph; the one below shows how Reagan trails even with five year averages; The one I posted in mistake shows how it was Reagan who started the skyrocketing of income inequality.

  • 13observer

    The Confederate Flag is a symbol of many things as are many flags around the world. All that happens in a country both good and bad still bears a flag regardless of the history behind it and does so with the belief that we can overcome our shortcomings and thrive. We can’t erase history simply by removing a flag from public view. Some suggest the Confederate Flag is a symbol of hate, racism and the like however, if this is true then by removing it may allow us to forget the shortcomings of some and allow history to repeat itself. By trying to ban flags or guns for political motives just demonstrates how we as a society want to “feel good” about ourselves by phony worthless actions to claim that “we are down with it” pertaining to the procuring of the American-Afro experience. Abolishing the “democratic” party would be a good start to removing a racist symbol that was very anti-American Afro in the not-so-recent past ….but hey…. the Confederate Flag is apparently somehow different………. all things considered of course!

    • chino49p

      By your own standards, the repubs should be abolished because they are the party of “anti-American Afro” RIGHT now. Anything to do with the confederacy should be confined to the historical museums. It was a dark time in the history of this nation that the southerners decided to commit treason–nothing to be proud of in that. They were standing up for states rights to own other human beings–the Negro, as chattel–nothing to be proud of in that. It is no accident that the flags of the confederacy and the nazi emblems find a welcome home with the white supremacist–they are symbols that affirm thier racist mindset. Germany had enough sense a long time ago to know that the nazi symbols should not be used because they represented evil. The same is true with the confederate emblems.
      It is much more than a feel good gesture. Dishonorable actions should not be afforded honor. Removing the emblems that honor the dishonorable will not cause us to forget “why” they existed in the first place, but allowing them to remain does give aid & comfort to those who still espouse those racist viewpoints as is the reason the confederate emblems were brought out in force during the civil rights movement of the late 50’s and 60’s. The racists brought them out as a direct protest to the fight for civil rights of mostly Negro people yes, but all minorities had to fight against white supremacy. It is the reason the white supremacist–kkk, arian nation, ccc, ncc, tp’s, repubs and others “proudly display” confederate emblems today.

      • 13observer

        So what about guns then? Are we to get rid of them in the name of all they killed? If so, how about automobiles and gays with AIDS …. think of all they have killed. What is your “spin” on that?

        • chino49p

          I don’t have any spin period. Are you insane or off your meds? Guns don’t have anything to do with it. They are inanimate objects that don’t “stand symbolically” for good or evil but can be used by humans to do good or evil depending on the humans mindset.
          I have been a gun owner since I was 18, and have several right now. I have a concealed carry permit and believe in responsible gun ownership. It is insanity from the right wing nutjobs that has you thinking the gubmint is going to take away our guns. Get a grip.
          What about automobiles, gays with hiv ? Why don’t you just add in drugs, baseball bats, knives, alcohol, etc–etc? None of that has anything to do with racist symbolisms. I bet your head is spinning right now. Better grab hold to something solid.

          • 13observer

            Sir, I beg to diffa! Everytime a mass murder occurs, the anti-gun crowd makes guns the argument. If you don’t believe there are people that would outright BAN ALL GUNS then you are not reading your paper! No one is trying to take your Social Security or Medicare either.

          • Suralin

            There are indeed some people who would outright ban all guns, but they’re a tiny minority, even within the Democrats.

            They’re not even a terribly vocal minority, at this point, because even common-sense things like background checks (to make sure, say, murderous psychopaths don’t get hold of sniper rifles) get shouted down at the slightest suggestion.

          • 13observer

            Gays were once a minority too but hey, look at what happened. Just a foot in the door is all it takes. If you knew the criminal lifestyle you would realize they don’t play by the rules and will get weapons from other criminals for the right price whom are not insane. Criminals have access to EVERYTHING period!

          • Suralin

            Gays are *still* a minority. They’re maybe 3-5% of the population at the absolute maximum. I get what you meant tho, the pro-gay (or at least, not-antigay) crowd has grown immensely.

            But i reject any equivalence between the burgeoning LGBT rights movement (in which full rights have been granted to people who had been denied them) and the small, waning movement to ban guns (which would *reduce* individual rights, and for which both the Constitution and the Supreme Court have consistently been a roadblock rather than an enabler).

            Personally, I’m not anti-gun by any means. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that trying to ban *anything* that there is significant demand for (whether that’s guns, drugs, abortions, or alcohol) simply doesn’t work. Stockpile howitzers if you want, I don’t really care as long as you’re not attacking people with them.

            TL;DR version: Chill out, man. The courts have ruled in favor of gun rights very consistently, and I don’t see that changing. And the idea of overturning the 2nd Amendment through legislative action is utterly laughable; it’d require 3/4 of Congress, not just the 60 Senators to overcome a filibuster.

          • 13observer

            Please know I used gays as an example only. I believe we should honor their rights just like gun rights.