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“Jelly Belly Flag Wavers”: Remembering Why The Right Doesn’t Own The Stars and Stripes

Like many men who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my late father never boasted about his years in uniform. A patriot to his core, he nevertheless despised what he called the “jelly-bellied flag flappers.” But in the decade or so before he passed away, he began to sport a small, eagle-shaped pin on his lapel, known as a “ruptured duck.” Displaying the mark of his military service said that this lifelong liberal loved his country as much as any conservative — and had proved it.

Are such gestures still necessary today? For decades right-wingers have sought to establish a near-monopoly on patriotic expression, all too often with the dumb collusion of some of its adversaries on the left. But on July 4, when we celebrate the nation’s revolutionary founding, I always find myself pondering just how fraudulent and full of irony this right-wing tactic is. It is only our collective ignorance of our own history that permits conservatives to assert their exclusive franchise on the flag, the Declaration of Independence, and the whole panoply of national symbols, without provoking brutal mockery.

But we need not play their style of politics to argue that the left is equally entitled to a share of America’s heritage — indeed, in the light of history, perhaps more entitled than its rivals. So let’s begin, in honor of the holiday, at the official beginning.

Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.

What other description would have fitted such figures as Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, who declared their contempt for monarchy and aristocracy? Their wealthier, more cautious colleagues in the Continental Congress regarded Adams as a reckless adventurer “of bankrupt fortune,” and Paine as a rabble-rousing scribbler. Popular democracy was itself a wildly radical doctrine in the colonial era, tamed in the writing of the Constitution by the new nation’s land-owning elites and slaveholders.

The right-wingers of the Revolutionary era were Tories — colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, fearful of change and, in their assistance to the occupying army of George III, the precise opposite of patriots. Only from the perspective of two centuries of ideological shift can the republican faith of the Founding Fathers be described as “conservative.”

The Civil War, too, was a struggle between left and right, between patriots and … well, in those days the Confederate leaders were deemed traitors (an epithet now usually avoided out of a decent concern for Southern sensibilities). Academics will argue forever about that war’s underlying economic and social causes, but it was the contemporary left that sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while the right fought to preserve slavery and dissolve the Union. Today, reverence for the Confederacy remains the emotional province of extremely right-wing Southern politicians and intellectuals (as well as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi skinheads, and not a few members of the Tea Party). These disreputable figures denigrate Lincoln, our greatest president, and wax nostalgic for the plantation culture.

At the risk of offending every furious diehard who still waves the Stars and Bars, it is fair to wonder what, exactly, is patriotic about that?

Yet another inglorious episode in the annals of conservatism preceded the global war against fascism. The so-called America First movement that opposed U.S. intervention against Hitler camouflaged itself with red, white and blue but proved to be a haven for foreign agents who were plotting against the United States. While Communists and some other radicals also initially opposed American entry into World War II for their own reasons, the broad-based left of the New Deal coalition understood the Axis threat very early. Most conservatives honorably joined the war effort after Pearl Harbor, but more than a few on the right continued to promote defeatism and appeasement even then. And with all due respect to neoconservatives and other late-arriving right-wingers, the historical roots of postwar conservatism — the “Old Right” of Joe McCarthy and Pat Buchanan, the Buckleys and the Kochs — can be traced to those prewar sympathizers of the Axis.

The criminal excesses of the Cold War in Vietnam and elsewhere, so eagerly indulged by the right to this day, alienated many Americans on the left from their country for a time. Conservatives seized the opportunity presented by flag-burning protests and other adolescent displays to marginalize their ideological opponents as un-American, although only a tiny minority dove off that deep end. But how many conservatives like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh beat the Vietnam draft while liberals like John Kerry, Al Gore, and Wesley Clark all served? And who truly protected this country’s best interests back then — the politicians who dispatched 50,000 young Americans to their deaths in the rice paddies, or those who dissented?

It is a lesson we didn’t learn in time to save us from another debacle in Iraq, when dissent was again vilified – and again proved more sane and patriotic than the bloodlust of the chicken-hawks.

Yet somehow our wingers always manage to wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if it belongs to them alone. But on this holiday, and every day, it assuredly does not.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, July 2, 2013

July 4, 2013 Posted by | Independence Day | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong”: Gun Advocate Plans July 4th March In Washington, With Loaded Guns

A former Marine, candidate for Congress, and self-defined libertarian radio talk-show host has sparked some controversy over a Facebook event gone viral. Adam Kokesh, host of Adam vs. The Man, created an event on Facebook entitled, “Open Carry March on Washington #OpenCarry130704” to promote an individual’s Second Amendment rights. In a July 4 march from Virginia to D.C., the participants will pass Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House—all while carrying their loaded guns.

According to the Facebook page, over 30,000 people have been invited, more than 1,500 have confirmed they will attend, and nearly 1,500 have declined — and the numbers are continuing to grow.

Virginia’s lenient gun laws grant protestors the right to publicly load their guns within state lines. Since Washington, D.C. has strict gun laws, law enforcement may be able to arrest any Open Carry March participants if they cross state lines with their loaded guns.

The description on Kokesh’s Facebook page states, “This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”

Kokesh said that the event website needed 10,000 supporters and at least 1,000 confirmed marchers by June 1st for the march to take place. This goal was met Monday afternoon, when Kokesh posted an update confirming that he’d reached the required number. “Now that it’s undeniable that this is going to happen, allow me to make clear how. There will be coordination with DC law enforcement prior to the event,” he wrote. “Failing to provide that commitment to safety, we will either be informed that we will only be allowed up to a certain point where we would be arrested. If this is the case, we will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will procede [sic] to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery.”

Kokesh is a former Marine who received a general discharge, one step below an honorable discharge, after wearing his uniform to an anti-war protest. His radio talk show on Russia Today, a Russian-sponsored network that is critical of American policies, was canceled after he supported and fundraised for Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. Kokesh stands for anti-government policies and his past run-ins with authorities show he is not afraid to make a statement for the sake of his political cause—in fact, two of his latest tweets include: “It’s time to abolish the US federal government,” and “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”

There is no doubt that Kokesh’s views have become a bit extreme and radical—marching across Washington D.C. militia-style is just one way his ideology is sadly rubbing off on right-wing gun nuts across the country who relentlessly believe the government is trying to take away their guns. It is still uncertain if Kokesh will actually go through with the march, or if the event will achieve what he hopes. After all, arguing to uphold one law he enjoys by breaking another and triggering arrest wouldn’t make him a hero or patriot — it would make him a criminal.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 6, 2013

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Course Of Human Events”: The Declaration Of Interdependence

 

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Okay, the Declaration of Interdependence sounds a lot like the Declaration of Independence.

By saying that it is a self-evident truth that all humans are created equal and that our inalienable rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our Founding Fathers were telling us that we are all in this together, that we are interdependent, that we have a moral duty to protect these inalienable rights for all humans. President Lincoln, perhaps above all others, was instrumental in making clear that the second sentence of the Declaration was “a moral standard for which the United States should strive,” as Wikipedia puts it.

The double appeal to “Nature” — including the explicit appeal to “the laws of Nature” in the first sentence — is particularly salient. For masters of rhetoric like the authors of the Declaration, a repeated word, especially in an opening sentence, is repeated for the singular purpose of drawing attention to it (see “Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1“).

Yes, the phrase “laws of nature” meant something different to Jefferson than it does to us (see here). But as a living document, and as a modern Declaration of Interdependence, the words have grown in meaning.

It is the laws of Nature, studied and enumerated by scientists, that make clear we are poised to render those unalienable rights all but unattainable for billions of humans on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions. It is the laws of Nature that make clear Americans can’t achieve sustainable prosperity if the rest of the world doesn’t, and vice versa.

Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — the toughest inalienable right to maintain is “the pursuit of happiness.” Certainly, the catastrophic global warming we know we face (thanks to our understanding of the laws of nature) threatens life and liberty (see “Memorial Day, 2030“).

But if we keep listening to the deniers and delayers, if we fail to sharply reverse our current emissions path nationally and globally, then we are headed toward 5°C (9°F) planetary warming by century’s end and 850+ ppm — with sea level rise of 4 to 6 feet or higher, rising perhaps a foot a decade or more for centuries, the U.S. Southwest and one third of the Earth’s habited land a permanent Dust Bowl, half or more species extinct, and much of the ocean a hot, acidic dead zone (see “Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water“).

Not bloody many people will be pursuing “happiness” under those conditions. They will be desperately trying to avoid misery, when they aren’t cursing our names for betraying our moral values.

If we don’t aggressively embrace the clean energy transition starting immediately with the climate bill in front of Congress — and help lead the entire world to a similar transition — then the Ponzi scheme we call the global economy will probably be in some stage of obvious collapse by our 250th anniversary, July 4, 2026.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And so “happiness” is repeated also, underscoring its importance to the Founders. “Life” and “Liberty” are really the very minimum we owe our fellow humans. We have a moral obligation to work toward freedom from want and care for all.

The party of Lincoln has, tragically, abandoned the values embraced and articulated by its greatest thinker and rhetorician — and those embraced and articulated by our Founders in the Declaration see (WashPost: “The GOPs climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion”).

When is the last time a major conservative politician ever talked about “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” except to mock the entire notion (see Gingrich sums up GOP ethos: “I am not a citizen of the world! I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous”).

We live in unique times. We must all hang together or we will surely all hang separately.

Happy Interdependence Day Century!

 

By: Joe Romm, Think Progress, July 4, 2011

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Liberty, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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