Friday, October 05, 2007

Pin-Heads at the Sun-Times

When it comes to the crucial issues facing the electorate, sometimes AP wire reports just aren't enough. So the Sun-Times assigned two reporters to cover the most important topic before the American people:


And what statement about flag lapel pins could possibly be so outrageous that it merits team-coverage by the S-T? This statement from Sen. Barack Obama:
You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest, instead I'm gonna try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.
Obama thinks that words and actions are a better indication of patriotism than accessories? Where's the controversy? I don't see it.

But maybe Obama's chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, will identify the offense in Obama's statement and use it to her political advantage:
I think there are so many ways that Americans can show their patriotism: wearing a flag pin; flying the flag; pledging allegiance to the flag; talking about the values that are important to America; teaching your children about what a great nation we have; standing up for those values; speaking out; there are just so many ways that one can demonstrate patriotism.
Okay... It appears that Sen. Clinton doesn't see the offense either.

I guess we will have to seek the wisdom of the Sun-Times editorial board to understand the controversy raised by Obama's "patriotism means actions not just pins" statement:
We'll concede that pinning a flag to your chest is a phony litmus test of patriotism. But wearing a flag doesn't have to be phony. Just ask any Iraq war veteran, or any soldier from a previous war, or anyone else who believes that the flag represents the best of America. Why not wear one, and wear it proudly, and explain what it means to you? Isn't that better than having your red, white and blue credentials questioned?
Great Cesar's Ghost! Are you kidding me?

What a profoundly craven and shameful sentiment. It is wretched and gutless.

Just how gutless?

A simple, historical analogy makes the pathetic, moral cowardice of the Sun-Times' board self-evident.

The Sun-Times circa 1950: "We'll concede that [Sen. McCarthy's loyalty oath] is a phony litmus test of patriotism. *** Why not [take one], and explain what it means to you? Isn't that better than having your red, white and blue credentials questioned?"

Litmus tests of patriotism aren't just phony - they are anti-American.

Some time ago, several chapters back in the dystopian sci-fi novel that is the Bush Presidency, a friend and I were discussing the assent of authoritarianism in America. In particular, we talked about the invidious manner in which quiet submission to authority was taking root in the guise patriotism.

The way that the measure of an American had shifted from the values you espouse and the life you live to how much you resemble an entry in a Fourth of July parade. The way that people who were willing to cast aside the Constitution, the sacred source of any patriotic pride, questioned the loyalty of Americans who did not bear the external trappings patriotism. The creeping expectation that U.S. citizens must bow down before red, white and blue idols, lest they be be considered un-American.

And we lamented that so many cowards sat silently and let it happen.

"Why not?" asks the Sun-Times.

Why not hide behind a cheap, little pin out of fear of "having your red, white and blue credentials questioned"?

Why not?

Because a man stands up, goddammit.

A man stands up.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The way flag pins were used by the Republicans reminded me more of a "party pin" ala Germany rather than a show of patriotism.

anita said...

Awesome post - thanks for drawing my attention to what the Sun-Times wrote. I'm a bit out of town now, so I appreciate your work even more these days.

I just keep wondering... how is this all going to turn around? And when?

Will B said...

Your analysis is passionate and articulate and complete on its own. Still, I can't help but add two appendices.

First, elementary logic. The Sun-Times commits a fairly basic logical fallacy when they support their position by writing, "But wearing a flag doesn't have to be phony [patriotism]," and then concluding that NOT wearing a flag pin denigrates real patriotism.

To rephrase:
- Sometimes, wearing a flag pin is an affirmation of real patriotism.
- Therefore, not wearing a flag pin is a denial of real patriotism.

For the symbolic logic fans:
- Some A are B
- Therefore, all not-A are not-B.

Will B said...

Second, the Sun-Times adopts the usual tactic for a hit-piece without substance -- shriek it louder and it will mean something: "his polarizing comments make him sound like a hardened leftist...in one unscripted moment, he undermines his whole campaign." (My italics.)

I think that bit deserves a second "Great Caesar's Ghost!" (On my GCG scale, 2gcg is mindlessly partisan blogger territory.)

But only a hardened leftist would say such a thing about the Sun-Times. I mean, why question a respectable newspaper? What do you gain by ridiculing an editorial board anyway? You're just going to get yourself in trouble.

Rob said...

Funny, most of the Republican candidates aren't wearing pins either. Why didn't the media notice that?

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