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Tag: patriotism

What Patriotism Means -- And Doesn't Mean -- In America Today

Marking this year's Independence Day will feel different to most Americans because the yoke of an oppressive presidency has been lifted from the nation. Over the past four years we endured the rule of a man unfit for the responsibilities of his office, unwilling to honor the oath he had sworn to uphold the Constitution and unable to lead our diverse people as we seek a more perfect union. The end of that unwholesome episode is ample reason for celebration — and an occasion to reflect on what patriotism means to us.

No American president in memory has so starkly epitomized the distinction between patriotism and nationalism as former President Donald J. Trump. And what he has showed us, in his typically crude style, is that lurking behind the loudest manifestations of nationalism is usually a gross betrayal of American ideals. We have also learned important lessons, sometimes — but not always — uplifting, about the values held by our fellow Americans.

Trump's misuse of national symbols and slogans was embedded deeply in his presidential campaign and the authoritarian movement it spawned. Ignorant of the rules and protocols that surround our flag, he hugged it to himself as if it were his personal property. Contemptuous of our constitutional traditions, he told voters that only he could "make America great again." Oblivious to the historical meaning of a phrase used by Nazis to weaken our resolve against fascism, he proclaimed "America First" as the foundation of his foreign policy. Or perhaps he did know — as so many of his bloody-minded supporters surely do.

From the day that he opened his first presidential campaign with the utterance of racist tropes, to the day that he tried to hang onto the presidency by inciting an insurrection at the Capitol, Trump violated every principle that an American patriot should uphold. He sought the highest office with the assistance of a foreign adversary in a manner that his own campaign manager deemed "treasonous," and then compounded that offense. He repeatedly undermined confidence in our democratic system, an act he has vowed to continue until his final breath. He purposely damaged the alliances that have protected our security for 75 years. He spit on the principles of liberty that distinguished us and our allies from the regimes that aim to humble us and cultivated dictatorships because he adores that vile and alien form of government.

Unhappily we watched as Trump infected the Republican Party, which was founded by Abraham Lincoln, with the nationalistic bluster that is his political brand — and displaced its policies and principles with conspiratorial obsessions and a personality cult. The party that once prided itself on its support of national security, military valor and the rule of law has discarded those standards. Trump's nasty little minions disparage the U.S. Army, the FBI, flag officers and decorated heroes, merely to please their Dear Leader. Those debased displays have settled the question of whether conservatives are more patriotic than liberals, which I have sometimes contemplated in this space.

But we have also watched over the past four years as some lifelong Republicans confronted the truth about Trump and what his rise proved about their party. Forced to choose between party and country, many of them made the truly patriotic decision to fight against Trumpism, even if it meant turning their backs on longtime friends and joining with their former foes in the Democratic Party. With those courageous acts, they salvaged a measure of honor for traditional conservatism.

At the moment, Trump and his minions are once again brandishing "patriotism" and so-called "patriotic education" to demonize Americans who are willing to face the ugly facts about American history, from slavery and Jim Crow to the dispossession and genocide of native Americans to the bigotries that still deface our country. It's another big lie.

On this holiday, let's acknowledge that love of country need not be blind. Generations of Americans of all backgrounds — the Black soldiers who return home to communities that violated their dignity, the Nisei troops who defended a nation that interned their families, the Native code-talkers from impoverished reservations — have proved their loyalty over and over again, despite their own deep awareness of how distant we are from that more perfect union. My father was a soldier too, and I stand with them.

Know your country, love your country, and defend your country's ideals of liberty and equality against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Happy Fourth.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Fly The Flag! True Patriotism In A Time Of Chaos

I'm flying a flag these days. The Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, America's flag, OUR flag! I've strapped it to my 2011 made-in the-USA Ford Fiesta, and I'm zipping around town as proudly as anyone else in the red, white and blue Bubbaland of South Austin, like some modern-day Patrick Henry on wheels. As with so many others, I'm flying our flag out of an assertive, perhaps defiant pride. For I am proud, damned proud, to be an American citizen. And in this time of true woe and deep national divide, I'll be damned to hell before I meekly sit by and allow this symbol of our nation's founding ideals ... liberty and justice for all ... to be captured and defiled by reactionary autocrats, theocrats, xenophobic haters, warmongers, America Firsters, corporatists, militarists, fearmongers, political weasels and other rank opportunists.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

What No Patriot Would Ever Do

"Performative patriotism" is a fancy way of describing what my father — a veteran of World War II who rarely spoke about his service — called "jelly-bellied flag flappers." Dad always laughed at those phonies, but we now suffer a president who is exactly that type, only worse. And Donald Trump's flag-flapping fakery is no joke.

A performative patriot is someone who, like Trump, oversells his supposed love of country, his reverence for the Stars and Stripes and, especially, his indignation at those whom he suspects of lacking his deep fervor. Such a figure will, like Trump, attempt to market these counterfeit emotions for his own benefit. And like Trump, that loud jingo is someone whose character will lead to a betrayal of American values.

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The Opposite Of Patriotism

 

Vindication is not always a happy feeling, not when the nation is at such grave risk.

In years past, I’ve often devoted my Fourth of July column to observing that the right has no monopoly on patriotism. The Tories of the Revolutionary era, who demanded loyalty to the British throne, were the right-wing reactionaries of their time, as were the Confederates who sought to destroy the Union in defense of chattel slavery, and as were the America Firsters who advanced the interests of Nazi Germany against the security of the United States. I wrote those columns in memory of my father: a son of immigrants, a military veteran of World War II, a small business owner, and a passionate liberal.

Those same arguments are now embodied in the person and conduct of the President of the United States, an ostensibly conservative politician whose nearly every act violates the Constitution and betrays the national interest. Donald Trump, who is sometimes seen publicly pressing his corpulent figure up against Old Glory, is what my dad used to mock as a “jelly bellied flag flapper.” It’s a phrase from an old Kipling story about another character with an appalling impulse to aggrandize himself by abusing the flag. And now, on the national holiday, he is about to go still further to showcase his “patriotic” fervor.

Like Trump’s disrespectful assault on the flag, however, his plan to impose himself on the Fourth of July evokes nothing except an intense feeling of disgust.

Unlike any other president in history, Trump is determined to pervert the celebration of the nation’s independence into a promotion of his own unappealing persona. Against the better judgment of our general staff, he aims to fulfill his authoritarian fantasies with a lengthy military parade that includes tanks, mimicking the style of a tinpot dictator. He has ordered dozens of flyovers to accompany an idiotic address that he will deliver in front of the Lincoln Memorial, in which he will no doubt declare once more that he is the most accomplished president in history. He is handing out tickets for this taxpayer-sponsored extravaganza to his high-rolling donors.  No expense will be spared to make this draft-dodger, who dares to mock the service of real heroes, feel like a strongman.

Retired Major General Paul Eaton, who has devoted his life to military service, expresses succinctly the anger of so many like him:

“By roping our military into what has become a highly partisan July Fourth event that celebrates Donald Trump, our military is being cheapened. They’re being made to act like window dressing for a tinpot dictator wannabe. Many in the media may be fooled by the pomp and circumstance, and say the staging makes Trump look bigger. But…I can tell you it makes him look small and weak. And it makes it look like he has no respect for the proud tradition of our great military.”

While that contemptible tableau unfolds before the world, it is vital to remember how Trump’s behavior belies the red-white-and-blue fireworks and all the other showbiz “patriotism” on display. His specific offenses against constitutional order and national security are far too numerous to list here. He has repeatedly denigrated the military, intelligence and law enforcement officials who devote their lives to their country’s service. He has bowed and scraped and debased himself before the world’s worst leaders, whose bloody repression he evidently admires. He has refused to defend the country’s election system against foreign adversaries. He has undermined the alliances that have kept the nation secure for more than seven decades. Indeed, he has routinely encouraged the heirs of Nazism and fascism while insulting democratic forces everywhere.

But rest assured, he is truly a “conservative,” in the current and deeply distorted sense denoted by that term in American politics. He can suck up to the Russian autocrat and the North Korean despot all day every day, while conservative organizations and media outlets will only praise him. He can ignore the Constitution, a document that means nothing to him, and use his office to enrich himself, and the conservatives will make excuses. He can savage the free press, as he did with his buddy Vladimir Putin, whose regime murders journalists, and the conservatives will insist he was joking.

No, the right enjoys no monopoly on patriotism — and on this Fourth of July, their grotesque fealty to Trumpism will prove the point again, as noisily as a tank rumbling on a city street.

In France, A Grave Embarrassment For Patriots

Perhaps you recall the last time a French politician angered a certain kind of hairy-chested American nationalist. In February 2003, Dominique de Villepin, France’s conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs, cautioned the UN General Assembly about the sheer folly of invading Iraq.
“We all share the same priority—that of fighting terrorism mercilessly,” de Villepin said. “This fight requires total determination.” He added that “[n]ot one of us feels the least indulgence towards Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime.
De Villepin nevertheless warned that having conquered Iraq, the United States would then face “incalculable consequences for the stability of this scarred and fragile region.” He urged that UN Arms Inspectors searching for Saddam’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons be allowed to finish their job. Because he knew his audience, he also stressed his country’s eternal gratitude toward the United States:
“This message comes to you today from an old country, France,” he said, “…that has known wars, occupation and barbarity. A country that does not forget and knows everything it owes to the freedom-fighters who came from America and elsewhere.”
Even so, belligerent followers of George W. Bush erupted against “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” Furious nationalists dumped French wine into gutters. French fries became Freedom Fries. After I joked about “Freedom ticklers,” a reader sent me a photo of a vending machine in an Arkansas truck stop actually selling the fool things.
Today, hardly any serious observer doubts that the French were right. Bush’s Iraq adventure proved catastrophic: costing hundreds of thousands of lives, countless billions of dollars, inspiring ISIS terrorists, and spreading deadly ethnic and religious strife across the Middle East. Even President Trump now claims that he opposed the war, although like his apocryphal tale about Arabs celebrating 9/11 on New Jersey rooftops, it’s sheer make-believe.
If Trump had his doubts in 2003, he kept them to himself.
So now comes French president French President Emmanuel Macron, who delivered a forceful speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I by warning against a rising tide of nationalism worldwide which he deemed a “betrayal of patriotism” and also against “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.”
“Patriotism,” Macron insisted, “is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is treason.”
Treason against France’s governing ideals of liberté, égalité, and fraternité (liberty, equality and brotherhood), he implied (speaking in French). Putting race and ethnicity above citizenship is a cardinal sin in today’s Europe.
Because Trump was sitting there sulking like a child, American commentators assumed it was all about him. Because everything is all about Trump in his mind.
But Macron was also clearly referring to Vladimir Putin’s aggression, and to growing ethnic tensions elsewhere in Europe: Poland, Hungary, Italy, even in Great Britain. He was referring, in short, to the kinds of ideological and racial hatreds that led to the terrible cataclysm of “the war to end all wars” and the exponentially worse World War II that followed it. He was defending the international organizations devoted to avoiding a repeat: the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union. Imperfect all, but maintaining peace and prosperity across Europe, the U.S., and Canada for seventy years.
The distinction between patriotism and nationalism was perhaps most persuasively made by George Orwell. Writing in the shadow of World War II, he insisted that “[b]y ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.”
Nationalism, on the other hand, Orwell defined as “the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad,’” but also “….of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”
“A nationalist,” Orwell continued, “is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige….his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.”
Sound like anybody you know?
In Paris, the American Achilles went AWOL—skipping a solemn ceremony commemorating the dead of Belleau Wood for fear of getting his hair wet. Nicholas Soames, a conservative British MP and the grandson of Winston Churchill, tweeted:“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.”
As a patriot, I am embarrassed for my country.

On July 4, A Message For Patriots

Americans will mark this Independence Day with family, food, and fireworks as we always do — and yet for many of us, these celebrations now occur under a shadow of doubt. Not doubt about the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but the officials sworn to uphold them in Washington, starting with Donald J. Trump.

The most recent Gallup poll reveals a record decline in the number of fellow citizens who say they feel proud of our country, a dispiriting statistic that can only be attributed to the inimical performance of Trump as he dismantles our traditions, violates our laws, disdains our customs, divides us from each other and our allies, and shames us before the world.

Trump’s ignorance of constitutional principles is so glaring that former judge Andrew Napolitano, the very conservative senior legal analyst on Fox News, has denounced his authoritarian thrust. His government of kleptocrats and nepotistic appointments more closely resembles a corrupt 18th century court than a modern democratic government. His foreign policy, destructive of American principles, alliances, and prestige, often appears to serve the interests of a hostile foreign power rather than our own.

And perhaps worst of all, along with his sons and political associates, he has promoted the very worst elements in American politics: the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and every category of bigot, all echoing “Make America Great Again.” Of course neither Trump nor his lackeys on the far right can fulfill that promise (although their immediate departure from public life would help).

Everyone who has studied history knows that right-wing extremists always insist on posing as supreme patriots — even when they are consciously committing treason. During the years that preceded our entry into World War II, the Nazi agents working to foster hatred and protect Hitler were constantly parading around with swastikas and American flags. We saw the same revolting spectacle last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, when neo-Nazi gangs defiled the flag again.

Such fascist elements are not alone in seeking to monopolize the symbols of patriotism.  Many Republican“conservatives”– who too often enable the most unsavory and bigoted figures in their party — will likewise claim to be the only true patriots.

So every Fourth of July, in memory of my veteran father, I remind myself why that assertion rings so hollow.

We don’t need to imitate the exclusionary style of the right; we need only insist that liberals and progressives are equally entitled to share in the nation’s heritage — and far more entitled than Trump’s friends on the far right. In honor of this national holiday, the place to begin this argument is at the official beginning, with the first Independence Day.

While right and left were not yet the categories that defined politics back then, there can be little doubt that freethinking radicals as well as landed elites were behind the Revolution, and especially the writing of the Declaration of Independence. More than a few, notably Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams, were uncompromising opponents of aristocracy — an attitude that sometimes troubled their wealthier comrades. But George Washington himself ordered Continental Army officers to read the eloquent immigrant’s  pamphets to his troops.  

On the “right” were the Tories — colonists who feared change and bowed to the British crown while assisting the occupying army of George III. They were not regarded as patriots, to put it mildly.

The next great historic test was the Civil War, another struggle between the left and right, or between patriots and …a conspiracy of traitors, as the leaders of the Confederacy were deemed at the time. Whatever economic interests may have motivated hostility between North and South, the movement on the left to abolish slavery and preserve the Union confronted a conservative aristocracy that fought to preserve slavery and dissolve the nation in disgrace. Today the Confederate legacy is mainly an obsession of Southern politicians like Roy Moore, as well as neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other extremists (who despise Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party).

The first global confrontation between democracy and dictatorship tested American patriotism again. Eighty years before Trump adopted “America First,” it was Hitler’s witting and unwitting allies in the United States who adopted that xenophobic slogan. Costumed in red, white and blue, the America First movement became a powerful instrument for foreign agents plotting against the United States. Is that tragic history repeating itself now as farce?

 As we mark the founding of our country this year, we can only renew our vigilance, and our commitment to vindicate the ideals that truly make America great — even under a government that dishonors them every day.

Danziger: Oh Say Can You See?

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.