Like many Americans, I hung our country’s flag on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then several flags have worn out and been replaced and retired. But it may finally be time to furl the latest flag and put it away for good. That seems to be the patriotic thing to do. At least according to Barack Obama.
Recently, a reporter asked Obama to explain why he doesn’t wear an American flag pin in his lapel. “Right after 9/11, I had a pin,” he said. But he took it off, because the flag doesn’t represent “true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.” Furthermore, “I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism,” Obama concluded.
The senator’s comments bring to mind the famous G.K. Chesterton quote: “My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case,” he intoned. “It is like saying my mother, drunk or sober.” That seems to indicate that showing true patriotism means withholding your support when your country (or your mother) engages in activities you don’t wholeheartedly support.
But most people would support their mother whether she was drunk or sober. In fact, they’d probably lend even more support if she was drunk, because that’s when she’d really need extra help. Of course, supporting her includes trying to change her destructive behavior. A supportive child would certainly take away her car keys and attempt to convince her to stop drinking. But even if she refused all help and continued to drink to excess, few children would ever withdraw their love or stop trying to help her.
Patriotism should work the same way.
The United States has plenty of faults. Our federal government is too large and intrusive. It spends too much. It’s not doing enough to seal our borders. But being patriotic means supporting your country even while speaking out about its missteps, and while working to correct them. It doesn’t mean putting the flag away while waiting for some perfect future to arrive.
Sadly, Obama seems like a staunch patriot when compared to other Democrats. A recent FOX News poll found that 19 percent of registered Democrats think the world will be better off if the U.S. loses in Iraq. That’s one out of five Dems, rooting for us to lose.
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