Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Patriotism - still hip after all these years 

In case you were wondering why many liberals are so paranoid about anyone questioning their patriotism:
The poll, conducted by the Roper Reports unit of NOP World, is based on personal and telephone interviews over several years. It found that 81 percent of Americans believed patriotism is "in," meaning it is an important factor in their individual identities, compared with 14 percent of Americans who believed patriotism is "out."

The Roper/NOP poll found the gap was the widest since 1991, after the first Persian Gulf War, and far wider than during the mid- to late 1990s.
The sentiment seems to cut across all the lines and divisions of American society, as the MSNBC report is at pains to point that out:
The poll also found that, African Americans and Hispanics are among those most inclined to have patriotic feelings. The survey found "virtually no difference between blacks' views and those of the nation as a whole."

Eighty percent of black Americans and 78 percent of Hispanics strongly identify themselves as patriotic, as well as 81 percent of white Americans, the poll found.
Seeing that whites, black Americans and Hispanics constitute an overwhelming majority of American society, it doesn't really leave too many other ethnic groups in the society compare against.

And patriotism is also a bi-partisan affair:
The pattern of support remains consistent, even allowing for distinctions along the great divide of politics. The survey found that "only 2 points separate the shares of Democrats from Republicans and liberals from conservatives."
Patriotism, of course, means different things to different people (just like "freedom" or "equality", never mind "happiness"). Clearly you can be pro-war and pro-Bush and consider yourself patriotic, just as you can be anti-war and anti-Bush and consider yourself patriotic, too. From that point of view, the label is meaningless as an indicator of one's views - indeed, again, just as are "freedom" (to or from?) or "equality" (of opportunity or of outcome?), never mind "happiness".

Still, it's good to know that patriotism, broadly understood as love of one's country, is still so widely recognized as a positive value. It also demonstrates the political risks for the Democrats inherent in the current debate. While one can make both the arguments that "Because I love my country, I support President Bush" and "It's because I love my country that I oppose President Bush", once the criticisms of the Commander-in-Chief (particularly at the time of war) become too shrill, the questioning of the actions of commanders strays into questioning the humanity of our troops, and your own country is seen more often as a problem and not a solution, then the middle ground of the American politics might start question your... um... patriotism, however broadly construed. In other words, it's much easier for the conservatives to corner the patriotism market, than for the liberals, whose positions tend to be more - how shall we put it? - nuanced.

Often too nuanced, in fact. While one shouldn't tar all liberals with a broad brush, they haven't done themselves any favors lately by being very reluctant to disassociate themselves from even the most outrageous outburst of some of their own. The chorus of outrage from the Democrat establishment after Karl Rove'’s recent "indictments and therapy" speech stand in very graphic contrast to an almost universal silence that followed Chuck Rangel's comparison of President Bush's foreign policy with the Holocaust, or Dick Durbin's comparison of American troops to Nazi and communist mass murderers. The 2004 elections have already demonstrated the danger of being seen as associated too much with the Angry Left fringe.

Lastly, perhaps the most interesting finding of the poll:
Some 87 percent of baby boomers - the bloc of Americans demographers generally consider born between 1946 and 1964 - said patriotism is a central identifying fact of their lives. Seventy-eight percent of Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, felt the same way.
Ah, Baby Boomers - the flag waving generation. I'm not usually one to defend the BBs, but perhaps it needs to reminded how small a minority the flag-burning ferals were among the cohort. What's too easily forgotten is that the under 30s were most consistently the strongest supporters of the Vietnam war all throughout its course. And yet the mystique of a radical minority have in the end managed to color the general perception of the whole generation - largely, one would think, thanks to the prominence of the former (and not so former) Baby Boomer radicals in the acedemia, the media, and the entertainment industry. It is interesting, therefore, to see how out of step the wilted Flower Children are not just with the rest of the American society, but even with their own generation.


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