Patriotism is personal
The talking pinheads at Fox News and the Swift Boat gang are all over Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for a couple of his actions, or inactions, on the campaign trail. They're suggesting Obama is some sort of pinko commie because he no longer wears a flag lapel pin and once - once - failed to put his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem. They've also sunk their teeth into Michelle Obama's statement that for the first time in her adult life, she is proud of the country. Taking the last issue first, the Obamas offered the explanation that Michelle Obama was talking about the political arena and that she's proud because this is the first time in a long time that she sees Americans excited about changing their country. That's fine. It's more likely she just said something off the cuff on the campaign trail that she now wishes she hadn't said. The Obamas are running for the White House. I'm not, so I'm not afraid to say that I definitely am not as proud of my country as I was 30 years ago, when I was in the military. I served in peacetime, though a Panamanian soldier once pointed a rifle at me (His sister definitely told me she was 18. Kidding! I walked into what the soldier perceived as a restricted area.) As for the national anthem hubbub, people have many different ways of showing respect. Some people do put their hands over their hearts, but based on what I've seen at ball games - Why is that about the only place we play the anthem? - most people simply stand respectfully, which is what Obama was doing on the day in question. My maternal grandmother used to stand for the anthem when it was played on television, but that was the last time I saw that kind of devotion to the national song. It really comes down to what's in your heart, not whether you cover your heart. And that's pretty much how I feel about the flag lapel pins and the "patriotic" bumper stickers. Obama said he quit wearing the flag lapel pin as the nation moved toward the most recent war in Iraq because he felt it was a "substitute ... for real patriotism." Well said. What I really have a problem with is the "I Support the Troops" or "I Love America" bumper stickers on cars. The people who slap on these stickers are essentially saying, "Look at me! I love the country and the soldiers." Guess what, people? Pretty much all of us love the country, and pretty much all of us support the troops. Even the folks who think the Iraq war is a horrifying waste of lives and money don't wish our soldiers ill. They want them to come home safely. They just don't feel it's necessary to feed their own egos in the process by slapping a cheap bumper sticker on the back of an SUV.