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“This Land Is Your Land”: A More Honest Look At What Patriotism Really Means

As we head into this July 4th weekend, I’m thinking about the fact that a lot of liberals struggle with the whole idea of patriotism. That’s because the word has often been associated with the air-brushed view of this country that omits the struggles and focuses mostly on symbolism. President Obama’s speech at the 50th anniversary of the Selma march gave us a more honest look at what patriotism really means.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place? What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience. That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance. It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents: “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

In honoring a true patriot, that is exactly how Bruce Springsteen described Pete Seeger at his 90th birthday celebration. Bruce used the occasion to recount the time he and Pete sang together at Obama’s first inauguration – when he took the opportunity to tell an overjoyed Seeger, “You outlasted the bastards, man.”

Bruce’s description of Pete tells us what a true patriotic hero looks like:

Despite Pete’s somewhat benign grandfatherly appearance, he’s a creature of stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won’t let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger to the heart of our country’s illusions about itself…He reminds us of our immense failures as well as shinning a light towards our better angels on the horizon where the country we’ve imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us.

So as you enjoy your holiday weekend, take a few minutes to enjoy this patriotic song (all 4 verses).

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 1, 2016

July 3, 2016 Posted by | 4th of July, American Values, Patriotism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Staying True To Our Traditions”: President Obama Reminds Us Of Our Better Selves

Our airwaves have been filled lately with calls for war crimes from the likes of Donald Trump and hate-filed screeds against Muslims as Republican candidates for president try to one-up each other on how tough they can sound about dealing with terrorists. Following the shootings in San Bernardino, that has only escalated.

Meanwhile, the American public hasn’t been privy to much of a reasoned discussion of what we can (and can’t) do about ISIL and the threat of terrorism. That is why President Obama chose to give a speech on the topic last night. It was a reminder that yes, we are fighting ISIL by:

1. Launching airstrikes against ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers,     infrastructure.

2. Training and providing equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces  fighting ISIL on the ground.

3. Gathering and sharing intelligence to stop ISIL operations.

4. Pursuing a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.

But perhaps even more importantly, President Obama articulated what we shouldn’t do when it comes to dealing with terrorism. First of all, “we should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. That’s what groups like ISIL want.” Not only that, it wouldn’t work – as we saw in Iraq.

But secondly, he took on the fear-mongering against Muslims directly.

We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want…

It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL…

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges – whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks – by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people. So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.

For those who were willing to listen, President Obama was basically cutting through all the noise to remind the American people of our better selves. In this season of campaign promises where candidates are expected to outline how THEY can do better, he might be the one person who is best positioned to do that.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 7, 2015

December 8, 2015 Posted by | American Values, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Muslims, Terrorism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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