July 2, 2006

The 4th, the Times, and patriotism

I approach this particular holiday better than I used to. I avoid the blatant jingosim by watching movies and eating good food. Then, depending on how tired we are, SOF and I take the dogs over to campus to watch the fireworks.

I think I turned off the 4th during the first Gulf War when the overt patriotism was a little more than I could take. Add to that car dealers using images of Pearl Harbor to capitalize on anti-Japanese sentiment (remember when the Japanese were taking over this country?), and I developed a pretty cynical view toward supposed patriotism.

That cynicism feels pretty well-founded now, especially with the Republicans in charge. Call them "latch-key" Republicans because their grownups have left them in Washington with no supervision. And, unfortunately, a few Democrats seem to have followed their idiocy.

Take the furor over the NY Times. Please. Frank Rich nails it:
"The assault on a free press during our own wartime should be recognized for what it is: another desperate ploy by officials trying to hide their own lethal mistakes in the shadows. It's the antithesis of everything we celebrate with the blazing lights of Independence Day"

Speaking of Independence and patriotism, Isaiah Poole's excellent essay on the flag is well worth the read. On multiple points.

On this Sunday, a good reminder about our supposed Christian heritage, and a reminder that our faith warns us about worshiping idols:

Back in Sunday school, we were regaled with Bible stories about idol worship. You see, one sure way to make the Creator of the Universe mad was to imbue something with powers that actually resided in the Creator alone. The Old Testament is filled with stories of wrath directed at people who substituted fealty to a transcendent God with worship of their own creations.

Symbols are, of course, another matter. We use symbols all the time to represent concepts, values, events, actions and things. Some symbols we are moved to treat with great respect, because we value what the symbol represents. But the symbol, no matter how much we respect it, remains just that—a symbol.

The Fourth of July is an excellent day to ponder the distinction between symbols and idols. Many residents will hang an American flag outside their home on this day to show their love and respect for America. But many of us who revere the symbol will recall our disgust that what the symbol represents is being debased at an accelerated pace. Meanwhile, many conservative lawmakers this summer and fall would have us idolizing what is, once the reality behind the symbol is lost, just a piece of fabric. [emphasis mine]

Well put. Symbols represent something. Once we elevate the symbol above what it represents, we lose the meaning.

And for those who like to bluster about the flag and patriotism, this:

Patriots honor the country’s core values. Idolaters worship symbols. Fortunately, during the flag debate in the Senate, a few senators showed they know the difference. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a first-termer from Delaware, put it this way: “I believe we desecrate our flag and what it symbolizes when we send American troops off to war without the body armor that they and their Humvees are supposed to have."


The idols in the Bible were presented as objects of scorn because they were often used by immoral leaders to magnify their power at the expense of the people. I will honor the flag this week, but only because I honor this nation’s core principles of liberty and justice even more. Idols, on the other hand, are to be tossed in the fire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. Preach on Brother Streak.