February 22, 2008

In defense of Michelle Obama

From my good friend Ubub comes this spectacular essay on the difference between love of country and pride in our country. Because, as this writer points out, one is not the same as the other. We love people around us who do things we are not proud of. And at the same time, there is much to be proud of in our country's history. Our Constitution. Our attempt to make humans equal before the law. Our ability to end slavery and segregation. Our efforts around the world helping disaster victims and the poor.
I take no pride in the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees from the eastern United States, in defiance of the Supreme Court and all human decency, though I do feel some pride in those who lined the road as theypassed and gave the Trail of Tears its name with their weeping. Where is the reason for pride in the near extermination of the bison as a means of starving the Lakota into submission? Unlike Michelle Malkin, I feel no pride in the internment of Japanese Americans, nor do I feel proud of the witchhunts of the First World War and the Cold War.

In my own time as a voting adult, I took no pride at our retreat from ending poverty, from our loss of will to protect the environment and the subordination of civil rights to narrow partisan advantage in the 1980s I took no pride in our willingness to coddle and enable the most fiendish blood-soaked dictatorships if they proclaimed themselves anti-Soviet.

In the 90s, I watched in angry, embarrassed shame as our political system ran amok. Where Barbara Jordan had expressed sorrowful indignation in impeaching a president for actively subverting the Constitution, I watched heedless hacks gleefully impeach another president for lying about a blowjob. (And actually, I didn't exactly crack out the red ink for my pride diary the day that lie under oath was admitted either.)

And today, I take no pride in in elections won through fear-mongering, no bid contracts to contributors and a great city still in ruins years after the storm.

And above all, today, here and now, I take no pride Abu Gharib or in an unjust war launched on a tide of fear. I feel no pride in Guantanamo, in the use of torture or in the convening of kangaroo courts so unjust that the chief judge and even the chief prosecutor have rebelled against them. And while I do not flinch from the ugly fact that war is sometimes necessary, unlike far too many on the right, I take no pride in body counts.
Michelle Obama speaks for many of us, I think, in that we want to be proud of the country we love. It is very hard in Bush land. But we want something better. Those who attack Michelle seem to prize the bumper sticker patriotism that is, quite frankly, not only the "last refuge of a scoundrel," but the easiest goddamn thing in the world. Flag waving is easy. Actual patriotism--which includes accountability and integrity--is much harder.

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