Today Barack Obama fought back against charges that he is not sufficiently patriotic.
He and his wife have recently been accused of this by the right wing, citing three main pieces of 'evidence', 1) a photograph taken last year at Tom Harkin's steak fry in which Obama stands at attention but with his hands clasped in front of him rather than with one over his heart during the playing of the national anthem (Harkin and fellow candidate Bill Richardson are in the photograph as well in a more traditional pose;) 2) the fact that Obama last year during the campaign stopped wearing a small American flag button on his lapel, and 3) the statement that Michelle Obama made last week saying that 'for the first time in my adult life,' she was proud of her country.
Obama responded forcefully today, saying,
"The way I will respond to it is with the truth: that I owe everything I am to this country."
But more to the point, he said that his choice not to put his hand over his heart would 'would disqualify about three-quarters of the people who have ever gone to a football game or baseball game.'
In regard to his wife's comments, he said that she meant to say for the first time she was proud of the way politics was conducted in this country, and had misspoken. Well, that's what he said, and either you believe it or not, but it's not like people never say anything they regret later. That's why I rarely pay attention to political gaffes (even President Bush's frequent ones) unless they are clearly well thought out and repeated and thereby give one a window into the soul of the person who says it (i.e. 'macaca.')
His point (and the reason he removed the lapel pin) is this: Patriotism is something that a person holds in his or her heart, and it should not be measured by counting the number of American flags or yellow ribbons or whatever other outward signs someone displays.
I have a tattered flag in front of my door that I put there on Sept. 11, 2001, and haven't taken down since. That is my choice. But it would be just as much my choice if I chose NOT to have it there, and it would make me no less patriotic if I did not.
I consider patriotism to be fighting against attempts to cut funding for veterans programs or deny disability for disabled veterans coming back from Iraq.
I consider patriotism to be trying to create a nation in which all Americans have a stake in the country.
I consider patriotism being to fight for the rights that our Founding Fathers fought for, including the right to NOT be compelled to say anything (or by failing to display any symbol, be assumed to be saying anything.)
Surely it would have been politically easier for Barack Obama to do the 'safe' thing and keep the lapel pin on and put his hand on his heart during the pledge. But lately that has become a requirement instead of an option, and a requirement like that is in effect tyranny. And expecting it as 'part of the drill,' frankly cheapens its value for those who DO choose to wear a flag pin or otherwise follow the 'expected' rules for 'patriots.'