The tragedy of the left

Like Sen. Obama, I do not put my hand on my heart during the national anthem and I do not pledge allegiance to our flag.  However, if a President Obama is really going to change Washington, he needs to be able to explain why.

Much has been made of the unfairness of the Nash-McCabe question last Tuesday as to whether Sen. Obama believes in the American flag.  This question may have been loaded, but it was also a teaching moment.  A moment in which Sen. Obama had a chance to prove whether or not he has the capacity to change our country's dialogue.

It's a moment in which we begin talking about our extraordinary accomplishments as a civilization.  For, the contributions of the United States of America are unparalleled in human history.  When I hear the "Star Spangled Banner" or see the stars and stripes, I feel a rush of emotion the intensity of which I find somewhat embarrassing.  For me, ultimately, these emotions are driven in my pride in our national good works.  

So what's wrong with requiring flag pins and hands on hearts?  When we pledge allegiance to the flag rather than the values for which it stands, we can lose sight of the accomplishments that have made us great.  When we pledge to the flag rather than the ideals for which it stands, our actions as a nation are not great.  We delude ourselves about our motivations.  We betray the very essence of our national being that has been the force of so much good in the world.  We are no longer admired as the great and good people that we are.

Our true pledge of allegiance is to "liberty and justice for all"; the values and national character which have made us a great nation, not the material that waves in the wind.  Just as God warned Moses of false idols, we must warn ourselves against false lapel pin tests.

How could Sen. Obama have failed to find a way to articulate these simple truths?  Why is it so unreasonable or unfair to expect him to have thought this one out?  How can a Pres. Obama expect to lead if he can't even help Americans appreciate our true strengths as a people?  Even Sen. Obama's supporters should expect this most basic capacity.

Personally, I have found it increasingly difficult to follow and participate in the current primary process.  As David Brooks says, we are all depressed.  

I am profoundly discouraged by the bias in the press against Hillary Clinton.  I find it simply stunning that we could have this daily dismissal of the legitimacy of the first viable female candidate for President.  A woman who, debate in and debate out, demonstrates a command of the issues and a long history of advocacy of core progressive values.

However, it is the replaying of the "tragedy of the left" that is truly the most depressing.  Last week's ex communication of Hillary Clinton from the Democratic Party by the high priest of the creative class is exhibit A.  Yet again, the logical contortions of the left have led to an utterly absurd conclusion.

The immolation of Daily Kos is reminiscent for me of the left's truly discouraging capacity for self-destruction exhibited over the past several decades. It is hard not to think back to the 1970s and the defense of mind and life destroying illegal drugs.  Even worse was the truly incomprehensible defense of the murderous acts of Stalin in the 1950s.  While not in the class of these two moral catastrophes for the left, our current internecine conflict surely has the same roots: passion, a pursuit of purity, and ultimately a weakness for cognitive dissonance.

In the current context, the tragedy of the left has taken on a new face.  The sense of moral righteousness has become a sense of moral superiority, a moral arrogance, a moral dominance.  A moral world in which the apostles are men and the women are whores.

Tags: Barack Obama, Debate, flag pins, Hillary Clinton, patriotism (all tags)

Comments

29 Comments

Re: The tragedy of the left

This diary probably won't win a lot of recommends, but the diarist's pessimism sounds more like truth to me than most of the upthink than passes for analysis on the blogs.

by Jacob Freeze 2008-04-20 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: The tragedy of the left

I guess I started agreeing with the original premise, but then you lost me with the end premise...

The idea that, in order to be patriotic, you must have some kind of outward display is one planted by the GOP noise machine... They love their flag, but apparently hate what it stand for.

Beyond that...  what can I say... I am a woman... I am a Democrat... I have yet to be treated like a whore this entire campaign season... so I guess that is where we part company in agreement.

I have seen sexism, both subtle and overt.  I have seen racism, both subtle and overt...

I see nothing sexist about the word periodically for instance, yet that has been cited as a sexist term.... so to each their own definition, I suppose.

I think the real tragedy of the Left is the way we can take a year that should be a cake walk and turn it into something bordering on a Greek tragedy.

by JenKinFLA 2008-04-20 08:17AM | 0 recs
Greek tragedy

Indeed, I have often wondered where Shakespeare is when you really need him.

The "whore" comment was in reference to yesterday's report on a diary at dKos by Obama supporter DHinMI reporting on his sexual fantasies involving a 44 year old Hillary Clinton; the frequent misspelling of Clinton as "clitnon" and, well there's more but I'm feeling too modest tonight.

But, just for the record, I am not advocating public displays of patriotism.  Indeed, just the opposite.    Like Sen. Obama, I find the expectation of allegiance to the flag, as opposed to the allegiance to a set of ideals, as a "distraction."

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 03:49PM | 0 recs
Is it too much to ask....

....that diaries display even the most basic grasp of facts that have been known, discussed in the major media, and diaried here and elsewhere for days, weeks, or months?

The diarist here starts off by saying, "Like Sen. Obama, I do not put my hand on my heart during the national anthem and I do not pledge allegiance to our flag."

It may or may not agree with the way you express patriotism, but Obama does say the pledge of allegiance (with his hand over his heart) and he sings during the national anthem (with his hands at his sides).

You can find discussion of the actual facts on this a million places.  Here's one, debunking the myth that you are propagating:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/ statements/169/

by Bluebeard 2008-04-20 08:59AM | 0 recs
Sigh. As others have said this

diary contains factual inaccuracies. At least get the facts right so people can discuss them starting from an informed position.

by RLMcCauley 2008-04-20 09:19AM | 0 recs
I see no inaccuracies

and none mentioned in your comment.

I think it's a beautiful diary.

by catfish1 2008-04-20 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: I see no inaccuracies

He never refused to put his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/ant hem.asp

It was the national anthem. It's subtle, but it's a big difference, in my opinion, because the "pledge" smear is part of a viral email campaign against Obama.

by Democratic Unity 2008-04-20 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: I see no inaccuracies

Agreed....  didn't catch that, good on you...

by JenKinFLA 2008-04-20 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: I see no inaccuracies

Look harder.

by RLMcCauley 2008-04-20 12:50PM | 0 recs
Oh, for goodness sake

You guys really don't get poetic license, do you?  I recently watched an extended video of H. Clinton and B. Obama at a "patriotic" event.  H. had her hand on her heart.  O. had his hands at his side.

What O. does, that's what I do, whether its the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem.

When my 13 year old daughter asks me what to do when she is expected to say the pledge of allegiance, I tell her to recite the following: "I pledge allegiance [pause] to liberty and justice for all."

I share O.'s generally attitude about these required public displays of patriotism.  And I'm really p.o.ed that, having finally found a candidate that shares my views, I'm not supporting him.  I'm not supporting him because he doesn't seem to be able to explain why he thinks what he thinks.

Is that clear enough for you?

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh, for goodness sake

Poetic license? So you admit factual inaccuracies? You should have stated that what you were writing was fiction.

by RLMcCauley 2008-04-20 06:48PM | 0 recs
Setting aside the factual innacuracies

regarding Obama and the national anthem (he does put his hand over his heart), there is some truth here. , and its worth discussing

Fundamentally there is a distinction between liberals and "the left".  The ability of the republicans to deliberately  conflate the two has in no small part contributed to their success over the last 30 days.  In fact, this diary buys into this frame (I find references to the defense of Stalin revealing in this regard: show me one mainstream Democrat in the 50's who so).

So one question is whether Obama can fight off the inevitable Republican attempt to link him with the left.  This is why the Republicans have been so worked up over Wright and Ayers, they think they see the path to victory that they have used in the past.

But this is not 1988.  The Iraq War and the Recession make these attacks seem silly (which is why Clinton's embrace of them has been so harmful to her own image in the party).  In the past liberals like myself have put up with triangulating politicians like Bill Clinton.  But the political calculus has changed, and liberals are no longer willing to be told that we have to keep quiet.

by fladem 2008-04-20 09:40AM | 0 recs
You are right

There is a big difference between the left, liberals, progressives, libertarians, etc.  My purpose in this diary isn't to discuss ideology, but rather sociology.  We all begin with lofty ideals.  As long as we stick with our ideals, we're fine.  The problem occurs when we are no longer articulating our ideals, but rather our superiority, be it moral, intellectual or strategic.

History is rife with wonderful ideas eventually going horribly wrong.  What is striking is how telescopic the process has become.  In the last round, the Republicans did it in a couple of years.  We've managed to do it in a couple of months.

And, just for the record, I don't buy into the Republican frame.  I resent the expectation of public displays of patriotism.  We'll be going to the Little League parade this Saturday, with all the trappings of disembodied patriotism.  As for every year, this will be another opportunity to teach our kids the finer points of loving one's country.

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 04:19PM | 0 recs
What about Hillary?

I notice she wasn't wearing a flag pin either.  Doesn't she need to explain her position, too?

Just askin'

by igottheblues 2008-04-20 10:15AM | 0 recs
I wish they asked her

because I bet she would have given a great answer.

She wouldn't have been offended to be asked.

by catfish1 2008-04-20 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: What about Hillary?

Did Hillary make a statement about NOT wearing a flag pin?  hmmmm...nope, she didn't.  Obama did

not that I disagree with his comments on why he doesn't wear one - in fact I agree with them.  But I am a lefty liberal, not mainstream America, so if I were running for president, you'd better believe I would not make statements about the flag pin.  

by colebiancardi 2008-04-20 10:57AM | 0 recs
Re: The tragedy of the left

I'd like to applaud the diarist for a thoughtful discussion.  The focus of this piece is not Obama himself, nor his pledging properly or not, as some have misunderstood it to be.

However, I think it is helpful to understand that what is happening now to the Democratic party has already happened to the Republican party.  And the transformations are remarkably similar.

We have seen the way in which the Republican party rose to power with, and is not held hostage by, and extreme Right Wing.  While this Right found a home in the Republican party, it's values were remarkably incompatible with traditional Republican philosophy.  And so, core tenets, such as personal freedom, limited government and fiscal conservancy, were displaced by a new Right Wing agenda based nakedly on power and the premise of moral superiority.

Some of us didn't realize what divisions existed within the Republican party, until we witnessed their primary.  The nomination of McCain virtually caused a civil war between traditional, moderate Republicans and the Right Wing.  But, on the heels of the Bush administration, the moderate majority was able to claim a small victory for their party.

Within the Democratic party, I suggest an equal but opposite change is occurring, and we are living through this change right now.  The rise of the Left.  And, just as before, it is curious that this Left finds a home in the Democratic party, whose values are conspicuously incompatible with its own agenda.  So we watch as core values such universal healthcare, counting every vote, and a respect for the commonfolk are being displaced with a new agenda.

It has been fascinating for me to watch this unfold, but also difficult - for the first time in my adult life I feel that the Democratic party has become somewhat alien to me.  Listening to Democrats argue passionately that we must NOT count votes in Florida - it feels like a skit from the Twilight Zone.

I've not given up hope - ironic that the campaign which has worked so hard to drain me of hope is the one peddling it like a trademark - but, no, I've not given up.  My candidate is putting her faith in hard work, competence and determination.  Those are still values that resonate with America, I believe.

by bobbank 2008-04-20 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: The tragedy of the left

Also, a note to the diarist: what you're talking about is well outside the campaign talking points, and, lest you become any more "depressed", I suggest you ignore completely the folks whose head this went right over.  There will be several.

by bobbank 2008-04-20 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: The tragedy of the left

On your core issues that the Democratic Party has lost sight of, you seem to be aiming these problems toward Obama's ideas.

First universal healthcare...Just because Obama does not agree with a mandate does not mean he is not trying to achieve UH.  He has a different route on how to get there....Some people may say a more "realistic" approach when it comes to congress.

Next counting every vote....Now I know many Clinton supporters raise the argument of FL and MI, but I would argue that yes, I believe in counting every vote but I also believe rules should be followed to ensure voter integrity.  Now we can argue about this until the cows come come home, but I believe my argument has some clout.

Finally you mention respect for the commonfolk and a new agenda...Now I do not exactly know what you mean, but a candidate who has taken the grassroots movement to a new level and the turnout of our Democratic primaries tells a different story.  As far as Democratic agenda, I see both candidates making strong cases for the middle class in that the address new jobs, tax breaks, and a stronger educational system.

So I am sorry but I do not see what you are seeing.

Respectfully-

by hootie4170 2008-04-20 10:58AM | 0 recs
What's the "new agenda"?

Please clarify who is in this rising "left" and identify its "new agenda." Is it "based nakedly on power and the premise of moral superiority"? If so, why aren't these people attracted to the Right Wing as you describe it?

Your post has an entertaining "all this has happened before, and all this will happen again" vibe to it, but between the vague and false premises it seems rather unsound.

by Mobar 2008-04-20 11:07AM | 0 recs
Amen, my friend

You wrote:

"It has been fascinating for me to watch this unfold, but also difficult - for the first time in my adult life I feel that the Democratic party has become somewhat alien to me."

Agreed, but like the diarist, I am less "fascinated" than depressed by this turn of events.  I find myself now hoping for an Obama nomination and a subsequent lopsided loss in the hope that these events may curtail the movement you speak of and relegate it to a mere temporary lapse of collective judgment.  

by lombard 2008-04-20 11:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen, my friend

As an extreme liberal, I hope you don't get that wish.  I think the new generation of liberals/progressives very much admire European-style socialism.  I, for one, think the most important thing we need to do is to raise the floor and lower the ceiling of the income curve in this country.  I don't want everyone to have exactly the same amount of money, but I also don't want anyone, for any reason, having $40 billion or having to choose between food and medicine.  Health care is the one part of Hillary's agenda that I really admire, but the other issues are more important to me (and I don't think she can get that plan passed even with a Democratic Congress).

by ProgressiveDL 2008-04-20 11:27AM | 0 recs
Re: The tragedy of the left

During the run-up to the Iraq war, I was stunned by the coverage of the merits of the case for war.  I recall two editorials, one in the Economist and the other in the Washington Post trying to make the case for war.  The editorial in the Post in particular was notable because within the pages of the very issue in which the editorial appeared was evidence confounding the editor's analysis.  It was as though all of the people warning of disaster were encased in glass, screaming warnings on which the general public and the press took no notice.

So your reference of feeling like you are in the twilight zone struck home with me.  I feel like I'm back in glass house saying, "wait a minute, that's not quite right."

Here are two examples from writers I generally respect.  Dahlia Lithwick at Slate was pondering, after Sen. Obama's big race speech, whether Hillary should give one as well.  However, Lithwick's suggested topic was that Hillary should give a big speech about Bill.  It didn't seem to occur to her that maybe Hillary should give a big speech about sexism in American society.

A second case occurred when NPR was interviewing Dana Milbank about the recent Petraeus hearings in the Senate.  Milbank was asked about which of the three Presidential candidates had passed the commander-in-chief test.  Milbank's response was that Sen. Clinton had undoubtedly asked the best question.  Millbank then suggested that perhaps that means that she should stay in the Senate asking those good questions.

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 02:36PM | 0 recs
Liar

"Like Barack Obama, I do not put my hand on my heart during the national anthem and I do not pledge allegiance to our flag"

That's a lie. It was the national anthem, not the pledge of allegiance.

Is this WorldNewsDaily or MYDD?

by Democratic Unity 2008-04-20 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Liar

Maybe liar is a strong word to use, because this may have been unintentional, but this has been part of an email smear that has been forwarded to me many itmes by older relatives. It makes me sick.

by Democratic Unity 2008-04-20 11:37AM | 0 recs
Goodness, liar!?

I recently watched an extended video of Hillary Clinton with her hand on her heart and Barack Obama with his hands at his side during a patriotic moment.  It was clearly the intent of the video to draw attention to Obama's way of expressing his patriotic sentiments.  I do the same as Obama whether it is the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance.  That was the point of departure for my diary and it wasn't intended as a back-handed complement.  I am genuinely sympathetic with his personal choice.

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 02:43PM | 0 recs
Bob Schieffer today:

I watched the ABC debate the other night when the question came up, again, about why Senator Obama doesn't wear a flag pin in his lapel.

   Since no one asked me, here's my thought on all that.

   I think it is a nice thing if people want to wear a flag on their lapel.

   But I believe it more important to keep the flag behind our lapel; in our hearts.

   I feel the same way about wearing my religion on my sleeve; it fits better for me on the inside.

   When I go to see our local baseball team, I do wear my Washington Nationals baseball cap. But am I less a fan if I don't wear it to work?

   The truth is I have been known to wear a red, white and blue, stars and stripes tie on the Fourth of July. Am I less patriotic when I trade it for my Santa Claus tie at Christmas?

   Patriotism is no more about signs or pins than religion is about reminding others how pious we think we are.

   No, the proof in these puddings is not the signs we wear but how we act.

   Wouldn't that also be a better way to judge our presidential candidates than by the jewelry they wear?

by edmandspath 2008-04-20 11:38AM | 0 recs
Well put. My thoughts, exactly

by dbrown04 2008-04-20 04:31PM | 0 recs
FOXtalk

I don't know why y'all are so ready to adopt FOX news talking points.  You are aware that on the outside chance Hillary gets the nom, they'll turn on her *quick*

by mikeinsf 2008-04-20 12:35PM | 0 recs

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