The conservative assault on Barack Obama has already begun. Recently, Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, spoke about this being “the first time she has been proud of America.” The Right jumped on this like a rabid dog. “She doesn’t love America!” “She’s another liberal who wants to only knock our country.” And John McCain’s blonde, botoxed wife passionately observed that she, unlike Michelle, has loved America all her life. We were to get the message: John McCain loves America too, in a white way, a respectful way that no black man ever could because like Michelle Obama, we are meant to infer, black Americans have a grudge against America. And every American knows they have a right to that grudge, given the disgusting way they’ve been treated since being enslaved here; which is why they can’t be allowed to say it.
Nor is his wife’s comment the only patriotic deficiency being totted up against Obama. CNN reported on Feb. 24 that “the Ilinois senator does not wear an American flag lapel pin,” and has been observed “failing to put his hand over his heart while singing the national anthem.” Omygod! Not only is this upstart crow an African, he doesn’t conform to the standard of loudly proclaiming his patriotism with flag pins and the childish hand-over-the-heart gesture that has become de rigeur among politicians and other blowhards trying to prove their super-patriotism. And Americans gasp in disbelief. Doesn’t wear a lapel flag! Doesn’t put his hand over his heart! An apostate! A savage! No doubt an atheist who drinks latte as well!
And we have to ask (especially after the latest, a photograph, possibly altered, showing Obama in Africa in white headdress looking like an Arab terrorist) is this country ever going to get over this orgy of jingoistic bullshit? Are Americans ever going to look beneath the puerile gestures and proclamations of undying love for USA! USA! to see that those who indulge in such pathetic gestures are the ones who should be investigated to see what it is, exactly, they are trying to disguise? Could it be, for example, that George W. Bush’s super-patriotic stance is designed to cover the war crimes he’s been committing in our names since he first took office? Could it be that he’s trying to cover the fact that he was AWOL from his reserve air force unit half the time; invaded another country without cause or provocation in violation of international law; approved torture techniques in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions; approved spying on his own countrymen in violation of the Constitution? Could it be that all the fools who wear lapel pins in Congress are covering up their crimes: taking bribes from lobbyists, adding pork to legislation to pay off their bribers; going along with the corporatocracy in funding the most bloated war machine in history not to protect “the American homeland” but to protect the foreign business interests of the oligarchs who control them?
For my money, I applaud Obama for not wearing that stupid lapel pin, for not indulging in that schoolboy hand-over-heart gesture. Perhaps we finally have an adult running for president, a man who would prefer to focus on finally seeing to it that America, in Martin Luther King’s words, finally lives up to its creed: that all men, even those who don’t salute the flag of empire, are created equal. That all women, even those who are un-blonde, deserve a time when they can, at long last, proclaim their pride in an America that has, in recent years, more often made them ashamed. Perhaps that would initiate a patriotism worth the name.