Monday, February 09, 2009

Is Dissent still Patriotic?

Over on CK's blog, he raised a very interesting question, to which I delivered a needlessly flippant answer. He posted an article entitled Is Dissent Still Patriotic? His question was:
For 8 years many on the left stood by their hate for Bush and his policies because dissent was patriotic. So now when I stand against Obama, I’m still patriotic… right?
Although the quote 'Dissent Is the Highest Form of Patriotism' is often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, it was actually a phrase coined by left-leaning historian Howard Zinn, during an interview in which he explained his opposition to George W. Bush's 'War on Terror.'

CK's question is a legitimate one. Considering that the concept of 'dissent is patriotic' was coined by liberals, now that President Obama has been elected, does that render 'patriotic dissent' inapplicable? We liberals thought standing up to Bush and his regime was patriotic, but will we now cry 'foul' when the conservatives stand against Obama?

It's a good question - and the answer is 'no.' As long as the opposition is done for the right reasons.

What made our objections to Bush's policies 'patriotic' was that they were protests against unAmerican things Bush did while in office. His actions contradicted the fundamental foundations of American society - meaning that people weren't standing up against Bush, they were standing up against his assault on American values.

If conservatives want to take a stand against Obama, it's their right to do so. If they're protesting actions that conflict with American principles, it's entirely appropriate for them to label that dissent 'patriotic.'

There are already some issues it might be worth discussing further:
  • Will the trillion dollar stimulus package help America's economy, or just succeed in shackling us to decades of GDP-shrinking interest payments?
  • Now that America has finally elected it's first African-American president, how appropriate is it to use race and affirmative action in a land in which 'all men are created equal.'?
  • Proposition 8 and other anti-gay legislation is clearly disgusting, unAmerican trash that violates everything this country is founded on - but how appropriate is it to fight these laws via state and federal courts - essentially 'legislating from the bench?'
At the moment, though, it does seem somewhat unpatriotic to attack Obama's presidency. He hasn't done anything yet to deserve it!

When he launches a costly foreign war, or starts locking up people in a shadowy limbo prison, or taps our phones in violation of the constitution, then we'll talk about 'patriotic dissent.'

But for the moment? President Obama's election is something of an American fairytale.

His story is the quintessential American one - a black kid from a modest background, raised by a single mother, works hard to succeed in life and eventually achieves the highest office in the land through nothing more than hard work, ability and grit.

Obama's election proves that in this wonderful country, anybody can achieve anything they put their mind to. Isn't supporting that ideal what American patriotism is all about?

Geeze - compare his story to that of President Bush Jnr - the spoilt son of an obscenely wealthy family, with a former-president for a Dad. He perpetuated the myth that, in America, the only way to reach the top was to be a rich, white boy from a well-connected family.

Right now, the right wing's just going to have to accept that Obama's in a special position. 'Standing up to him' comes across as petty, childish and just a tiny bit pissy- certainly not 'patriotic.'

The time for 'patriotic dissent' isn't here yet. But it'll come. Already Obama's revealed that he's not as bipartisan as he claimed and many of the Democratic agendas that moderates and Republicans dislike will start to gain ground. Then there'll be real reason for people to 'stand up against' President Obama in the interests of 'patriotic dissent.'

But not yet. Right now, opposing Obama on the grounds of 'patriotism' just undermines the very concept of what 'patriotic dissent' is all about.


ck said...

Socialism is not American, and opposing that is dissent.

So is dissent patriotic?

Roland Hulme said...

CK - Obama is not a socialist. That's just right wing propaganda and not very good propaganda at that.

Socialism is defined as:

"Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy."

France, for example, has a partly socialist system because their major industries - the railways, electric companies etc. - are state owned. However, France isn't a truly socialist country either.

Obama is not advocating nationalizing American industries and having them run by the government - therefore he is not really a socialist.

Bush practically nationalised the mortgage industry and banking system, making HIM more of a socialist than Obama.

Besides - is socialism unAmerican? Who told you that? It wasn't even conceptualized when the founding fathers wrote the constitution. It was during the fifties, with the 'red menace' that Americans developed their paranoia about socialism, but it's not intrinsically 'evil' or even unAmerican.

Socialism simply isn't a very good system. It just doesn't work.

What Obama IS advocating is evening up the system for working and middle class Americans. That's a good system - unless you're secretly a billionaire, I can't understand why you'd be against that.

His tax cuts aren't 'redistribution of wealth.' They're just a redistribution of the burden of taxation. Republicans often complain that the rich already pay more than their fair share of taxes (the top 5% pay 50% of America's taxes.)

However, consider - the top 10% of Americans own 70% of American wealth.

The top 1% own 38% of American wealth.

Obama's not 'redistributing wealth.' He's merely making sure that the richest Americans pay their fair share.

Roland Hulme said...

Addition to that - people complain that 40% of Americans don't pay income tax. Yet those 40% of Americans collectively own less than 1% of America's wealth.

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