Saturday, November 24, 2007

Defining rhetoric

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

I've had a lot to be thankful for this year, not the least of which is meeting the love of my life.

Anyway, on the way home, we were listening to my latest favorite song, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' "Ah Mary."

And it had me thinking...

If you haven't heard the song, check it out now, listen to the words as carefully as you can, and then move on to the rest of the post.

Pretty brilliant metaphor, huh?

So I'm at a post-Thanksgiving weekend where I - a conservative Democrat - am about the most right-wing person, and we're talking about politics.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that if we're going to fight a war, we ought to fight to win it. You can't, as I said, make friends with the people you're trying to kill. You win first, then make friends later.

Think of World War II. I had a teacher who once told me the Japanese won World War II forty years later, with the VCR. Know how they did it? Because after they lost the Big One, they basically were banned from having a military.

All those billions of dollars we spend on national defense?

The Japanese spent 'em taking American technology and learning to make it smaller, cheaper and cleaner. That's why Detroit invented the automobile, and nowadays everybody drives Toyota hybrids.

But I digress.

The thing is, you take a song like "Ah Mary" and you listen, you'll find there's a certain love of country in there, to go with the anti-war theme, almost as if you can't help but love her even as she burns you.

And it had me thinking.

The biggest beef I have with the current administration is this: They've turned what defines the country upside down.

The Bush II White House has taken "my country, love it or leave it" to the nth degree. And to my way of thinking, that's ass-backwards.

Openly objecting to the government is, in many ways, the highest form of patriotism.

Wrapping yourself in the flag to hide your faults, on the other hand, is the highest form of treason.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That's the First Amendment. You know, the one that comes even before the precious right "to keep and bear arms"?

Notice the freedom of speech? Peaceably assemble? Petition the government for redress?

Yeah. You don't like something about America... you're allowed to say so. And isn't trying to make America better really patriotism at its finest? Change, in the name of progress?

But to sweep basic human dignity aside, to sweep aside the freedoms this country is built on, and to justify it by covering yourself in red, white and blue - which is to say, abusing the symbol of those very freedoms, and abusing the memories of all those who hold that symbol sacred, who have fought and died for it, who fight and die for it this very day...

Calling that patriotism is adding insult to very real injury.

Calling that patriotism warps and twists the very definition.

Calling that patriotism is anything but patriotism. It's a mockery of patriotism. It's flat-out offensive to those who really do love this country, and not the high-and-mighty oil dollar or the power of office.

Calling that patriotism is sick. And wrong. And a hallmark of this administration.

So sing on, Grace Potter. Your song is lovelier and more thought-provoking than anything I heard the other night at Democratic debate.

I know I normally stay away from politics, but when I think about all the things I'm thankful for, it always comes back to my living the American dream.

I love my country, right or wrong. I love everything it's done for me, and for my family. But that doesn't mean it can't be better. If we don't move forward, on human rights, on the environment, on patriotism, we're just spinning our wheels.

And that's nothing to be thankful about.