by shef, Wed Sep 10, 2008 at 07:56:27 AM EDT
I recently re-watched Aaron Sorkin's ill-fated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (a show, by the by, that comes off much better the second time around). One line in particular, spoken by Matt Albie (Matthew Perry), has been banging around my head as I've watched and read some of the Republican flailing during the last couple of months: "If I have contempt for my government, it's nothing compared to the contempt my government has for me."
Regardless of what polls show, Inhofe said, voters will have to ask themselves a question once they get behind the curtain in the voting booth on Election Day.
"Do you really want to have a guy as commander in chief of this country when you can question whether or not he really loves his country?" he asked. "That's the big question." (...)
After he was asked for an explanation on why voters should question Obama's love for his country, Inhofe issued a written statement on Friday to clarify his earlier comments.
"Let me be clear," he said. "I am not questioning Sen. Obama's patriotism, but you have to question why at times he seems so obviously opposed to public displays of patriotism and national pride, like wearing an American flag lapel pin."
Leaving aside, for the moment, the idiocy of claiming that Obama is "opposed to public displays of patriotism and national pride" (because, you know, running for president isn't a public sign of patriotism or anything); and further leaving aside the prima facea asinine notion that flag pins are representative of one's patriotism; I find the idea that the "big question" of this presidential season is--for anyone outside of the media and die-hard Republicans--Obama's love of country. One might make the case that the big question this season is what do we want our country to be like? Do we want a country marked by more war, more debt, more inequity, more presidential idiocy, or do we want a country of center-left values.
I think that when voters step into the booth, they will be asking themselves questions about pocket-books and wars, energy and education, not flag pins and Rev. Wright. If I'm right, then how can one explain Inhofe's apparent disconnect from reality? How can one explain his fascination with Obama's patriotism?
One could argue that Inhofe is trying to inject character-based attacks into the political topography because he knows his party--and his party's policies--are at the hight of their unpopularity. One could argue, too, that Democrats, due to some entrenched political-cultural narratives, are considered to have questionable patriotism (by Republicans and the media). It's probably both.
I believe in the existence of a narrative called "American Exceptionalism". Mostly this means that politicians who don't believe that America is unerring in its goodness are unpatriotic, effeminate fops. I won't go into further detail, but I outline my argument here. This, I think, explains the media's willingness to print and support these kinds of scurrilous and stupid "Obama doesn't wear flag pins" stories, but it doesn't explain--at least not completely--why people like Inhofe don't think Obama's patriotic.
The fact is, as much as I'd love to say that Inhofe--and the Republican party in general--is just a craven liar who would say anything to ensure electoral victory, I think that he--and the Republican party in general--actually believes what he says, which--if you think about it--is actually scarier. Let me clarify. Inhofe actually believes that Obama isn't patriotic because Obama doesn't (though he does, sometimes) wear flag pins.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has written a number of books. As much as reading them makes my blood pressure rise, they are pretty illuminating. There's a common theme: America is a Christian nation. And, as such, piety--in it's basest, twisted, most Christianist form--is a necessary condition for patriotism. In Gingrich's Rediscovering God in America, he writes:
[T]he purpose of this book is to rediscover the historic source of American Liberty [it's God, if you were wondering] and to rediscover the founding generation's understanding of what is required to sustain liberty in a free society [God/prayer in schools, God/Ten Commandments in courts, God/Christianist policies in government]. And to do this is to truly discover anew the centrality of God in American history and in the ongoing story of American liberty.
If you believe, as Gingrich does, that American liberties stem from a divine--and, in particular, a Christian--font, then it stands to reason that those who do not believe that do not believe that God should be in government (that is to say, do not believe in a fundamentalist Christian agenda), you are unpatriotic.
Obama, I believe, does not want America to be a Christian nation. What's more, he--I'm pretty sure--wouldn't end a woman's right to choose, make prayer mandatory in schools, teach creationism (or its more presentable brother, ID), partake in the kind of neo-crusade mentality that led to Iraq. He wouldn't, in short, make America christianist. This, by the standards of Republicans, makes him impious and unpatriotic.
Patriotism is piety, dirty hippies, and don't you forget it.