Democrats must reclaim patriotism and affirm its true meaning
Yes Professor Reich, but how dow we get the Democrats to improve their messaging? My suggestion is to take the word ‘Democrat’ out of messaging and use ‘Majority of Americans’ in messaging, memes, sound bites, video clips and whatever other messaging avenues are used. In my humble opinion, this would diffuse the negativity/weaponization the R’s have created around ‘Democrats’. It would make arguing against ‘The Majority of Americans’ much more difficult. You can do simple searches starting with the words ‘Majority of Americans’ and get numerous great headlines that are indisputable.
After all, the majority of Americans voted against Trump in 2016 and 2020. We truly are the majority of Americans and our messaging should reflect the power of our majority and ride this wave.
Richard Nixon started the practice, if I remember correctly ,of wearing a Flag pin on his label. I thought the affectation ridiculous. Why would a President have to flaunt his patriotism ? Guess Tricky Dick had something to cover up, one of a multitude of insecurities.
His practice has escalated in succeeding decades. Politicians posturing with Democracy’s symbols, hiding their ignorance of its values and how it functions . Trump’s bunch are the worst of the hypocrites we have had to endure, hiding their ignorance behind symbols while their actions expose the vacuum of their thinking. Their profession of Christian belief is just as telling. Tolerance is the bedrock of both Christianity and our Democratic process. And these autocrats have none.
Simply saying the "pledge of allegiance" is an act of fascism because it makes people pledge allegiance to an ideology and the phrase "one nation under god" was slipped in by Christian nationalists long ago and has no place in government. just like "in god we trust" which used to be E pluribus unum.
Why don't Christian apologists follow the teachings of Jesus? Jesus taught and lived inclusiveness, ethics, and respect for people. Christian nationalists and evangelicals do not. Jesus would be rejected and persecuted by many of today's Christians. "If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."
Christian Nationalism is not Christianity either.
If you are a true patriot, you want to be of genuine service to your country, to its citizens. Honesty and integrity is part of that. Grandstanding and calling names is not. The old biblical, saying “by their fruits you shall know them” comes to mind. If you are a true patriot, there is the no need to wrap yourself in the flag, or carry out ritualistic “proof“ that you are patriotic. The proof is in the pudding! I.e. the actual results of your behavior.
I think Justice failed us when the reversal of Roe v Wade happened , supported and passed by those who, in their confirmation hearings lied about their intent, calling Roe 'settled law' ; and this obviously religious decision passed, against what is in the Constitution. Now. they again cross a line, requiring displays of 'patriotism' , and eventually the recitation of the 'Pledge of Allegiance', with its "under God" statement. What next? genuflect before the 'Speaker'? Cover your arms if you are female? I think if this atrocity 'passes' into rules ; The display of images of Seditionists using flags to assault our Capitol police should be allowed as a counterpoint to the lies, to show the hypocrisy of it all. Every representative who voted against Biden's certification should be out of government!
Patriotism is an odd and twisted concept. In many countries, including our own, it becomes a chant of "I'm better than you are", which is a stance best left on a grade school playground. The immaturity of "American Exceptionalism", which is functionally equivalent to "Christian Nationalism" (an oxymoronic phrase), degrades the other by proclaiming our de facto superiority. This is a patriotism we need to avoid.
So what would a healthy patriotism look like. Perhaps it one based in an ethic and is willing to accept the risk of being seen as woke. Caring for people (equity), caring for land (ecological health), and seeking fairness in our pursuit of integrity, stability and beauty (see the Land Ethic of Aldo Leopold). We can't let patriotism have primacy over our care for the earth and our neighbors, it has to rise from that care. True patriotism also allows others to have their own patriotism as partners on the planet that we all share. If this is the patriotism you seek, then I can stand with you.
But I reject patriotism that excludes the other. Sadly patriotism has become a poisonous word when wielded by many as a political sword to keep the other at bay, whether it is based on color, history, accent or religion.
The Republicans are putting their colleagues in the position of being forced to perform 'patriotic art' : displays like puppets ; echoing the pressure on those in team sports who have valid reasons to push back on 'blind patriotism' of flag salutes and posing during the National Anthem ; making a mockery of freedom, while defiling and cheapening true fealty to our Constitution and the principles of the founders. They completely disrespect the religious beliefs they pretend to know and respect as well.
Fine sentiments, but by themselves insufficient. Remember how Joe McCarthy was humbled. To my mind, the way forward is to attack hypocrisy, cruelty, and pomposity--trademarks of today's Republicans. Each expose will weaken the Republicans. It is not necessary for Democrats to wrap themselves in the Stars and Stripes. It is only necessary for Democrats to expose Republicans who so wrap themselves as self-seeking charlatans and sycophants.
Let the Democrats in Congress take turns reading from the Founders. The Federalist Papers and the deliberations over the Constitution underline the absolute good of separation of church and state, not just for the benefit of the latter, but even morefor the benefit of the former. Steve Schmidt and Heather Cox Richardson do a great job of bringing these historical perspectives to current events in their Substacks.
Political parties that wrap themselves in the national flag are not to be trusted.Look at Putin trying to reclaim an empire.All the European nationalist parties are racist movements funded by nefarious means and that has included the oldest Political party founded in the world namely the British Conservative Party. Being proud to be American means tolerance and sharing resources too.
I’m curious, did they recite the Amendments as well? They’re a part of the Constitution as well.
Wonderful article! We all need to call out the right wing nut jobs from narratives that are lies.
As usual, you hit the nail on the head in this apt and appropriate piece, Professor Reich. I am so glad you brought the topic of patriotism up.
My own mother used to have a flag just outside the front door and told herself she would hang it back up when the former guy was gone. Today the precious banner still sits in the hall closet because it has become tainted forever by those who most flaunt it.
I am afraid the voters who condone the horribleness of the most unpatriotic in office are so blinded by their own twisted “patriotism” that the only thing that can be done is recruit more and more young educated people. The educated have got their number.
From October 2020 / The New Yorker:
The town of Palm Beach, Florida, limits its flagpoles to a height of forty-two feet, and its flags to four-by-six feet. In 2006, Trump, at his private club there, Mar-a-Lago, erected a flagpole that stood eighty feet tall. He raised a flag that measured at least fifteen-by-twenty-five feet—a square footage greater than that of some New York City apartments. Neighbors complained; Trump defied municipal orders to scale back, then sued the town for twenty-five million dollars, claiming infringement of his constitutional and civil rights. He reportedly argued that he needed such a mammoth flag in order to “appropriately express the magnitude” of his “patriotism.”
I'm not one that hangs the flag in my front yard like a couple of my "patriot" neighbors. But recently I acquired a long collapsable pole that I really have no use for, I decided to hang onto it in hopes that the rule of law will be upheld in this country. The day that Donald Trump is put away is the day that the pole will go up with a proudly displayed American flag high over my house! If the rule of law is restored in this country, it will then again be the U.S.A. until then...well, it simply isn't.