Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The First Time

Rethuglican shills are attacking Michelle Obama for just discovering her pride in America, unlike the rest of us who have always been proud of America. Of course, the Obama campaign quickly rephrased her remark to erase the image that the wife of a very presidential candidate does not worship at the alter of the American national image.

Since I am not Michelle Obama, I won't even try to say what she was thinking. I can say that I believe she was mostly correct in her view of American history. She erred in not recognizing the many proud moments in our history (Declaration of Independence, Abolition, New Deal, Marshall Plan, etc) but in thinking of her own lifetime (beginning in the mid -1960's) about an issue that affects her and her family very personally, she may well have felt for the first time that the nation was rising above its inherent racism.

Of course,to the Rethuglican and wingnut mind, America has no flaws and anyone failing to recognize that fact, or worse, call attention to any flaws is clearly someone who hates America. Look for more of the same as the campaign progresses.

In my fantasy world, Michelle Obama would have said why she felt this pride for the first time, expressing here belief that America is changing in a profoundly positive way. (Remember, this is my fantasy so I can write her dialog here.) She needn't go on about why she has not always been proud of America but it would be wonderful to hear her remind the nation about the dangers of racism and her hopes for overcoming racism.

For my own part, I have not always been proud of America in my lifetime. I am not proud of Vietnam or my own part in it. I am not proud of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor am I proud of American support for totalitarian and repressive governments that steal from own their people and attack others. I am not proud of the Central American wars in the 1980's. I am not proud of the our lingering racism. Looking at our history, I am not proud of the genocide that removed indigenous Americans from their land. I am not proud of slavery. I am not proud of Manifest Destiny. I am not proud of the America's brutal war against Philippine in surgents in the early 1900's.

It's easy enough to recite a litany of America's failures. (EEK! He used the "F-word"!). My pride in America tends to be more from history than my own lifetime. The Marshall Plan and I came into the world about the same time, so it counts although it's always felt like history to me. Same with the Berlin Airlift. I am proud of the nation's progress toward civil rights and am especially proud of the many Americans who risked their lives to end racial discrimination. I am proud of the many Americans who demanded an end to the Vietnam war and the (finally) courageous Congress members who ended the money that kept the war going. I am proud that Congress members of both parties forced Richard Nixon to resign because of his abuse of power. (Conversely, I am not proud of the current Congress that refuses to impeach CheneyBush for far, far more grievous offenses.) Closer to the present I find fewer points of pride but then I could just be myopic.

By now you should get the picture that my pride in America is not unadulterated. It's a mixed bag of hope, achievement and imperfection. This mixed pride does not equal disdain and hatred for America. I consider it to be realism, the understanding that human institutions will be as flawed as their creators, and the recognition that patriotism includes working to eliminate those flaws.

From my perspective, Michelle Obama spoke the truth. This is a good time, too, to remind my proud fellow Americans, that pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

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