Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Liberal Patriotism

I think I'm seeing something rather curious, at least for my generation: liberal patriotism.

Now, settle down. I know liberals (and radicals) are patriotic, but it's of a particular form and flavor; certainly far different from right-wing patriotism. Its vocabulary and tone is quite different from the foam-at-the-mouth crowd. Specifically, the sort of liberal patriotism that I grew up with takes the form of apologetics (I mean this in the classical sense of the word).

But in recent weeks, and specifically since Obama's decision to add troops into Afghanistan, I've been seeing patriotism expressed in more positive terms. It's focused on the soldiers. It takes the form of expressing concern for their welfare, welcoming them home when they return, giving them respect while they're here. It's as if because a liberal president sent them into war, it's okay to express support in these more traditional ways. It's not that liberals never did this before, but it's as though they've been outed. They can behave this way in public now, without embarrassment.

This is all subjective impression and maybe you media types should go and do a study, but I'm hearing it from mainstream media, in the tone of certain advertising, in local news stories, and even in the liberal press. There was a time when the critics of an unjust war criticized the soldiers as well, but that doesn't happen much any more. This is even weirder when you realize that during Viet Nam the soldiers were draftees whereas today the soldiers are volunteers. If the war is unjust then surely the privates deserve criticism as much as do the generals. More, probably, for the generals made their decision to go military long before we sent soldiers into the Middle East, whereas the privates knew exactly what they were getting into and knew all the criticisms of this campaign, so one has to assume they more or less agree with the underlying politics.

So, we elect a right-wing numbskull and the nation splits over how and when to be patriotic. We elect a moderate (no, Virginia, he's not a leftist) and the country is mollified and supportive, if not exactly unified. I'm party to it. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I hear the sportscaster send a message to the troops overseas, or whatever. Then the TV goes away and I get this creepy feeling. The sportscaster (or whoever) is sincere. The troops are sincere. It's just the war that's wrong, and I keep wondering if I've been played.

1 comment:

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