Ben Buchwalter

Blue Patriotism Finally Arrives

We liberals have known for some time the unmistakable power of progressive patriotism. We love the United States becasue of its promise but we do not blindly follow mistaken policies and bombastic foreign policy simply because those ideals are espoused by red-blooded-hot-headed-cold-hearted Americans. No, I love this country mostly becasue it is imperfect. That means the best is yet to come. And we are the generation to bring the American promise to fruition.

This Tuesday, Jefferson Morely of The Washington Independent discussed the difference between red and blue patriotism. Both sides love America and want to protect it as the world’s greatest nation. But they have inherently opposed ideas about what the American promise is and when it will be accomplished. Morely clarifies the difference:

Red patriotism […] continues to embody the view that America has achieved its greatness–and must be defended from those who would undermine it. Blue patriotism has all along insisted that America’s greatness depended on living up to its ideals–and has to be defended from those who do not take those ideals seriously.

This is a culture war that has raged since the United States’ adolescent years and the battle between slave owners and abolitionists. During this period, red patriotism declared that white supremacy was working just fine for the United States, and it should not be abandoned because of changing international opinion to slavery or the perceived equality among whites and blacks. Blue patriots, on the other hand, claimed that this was no America at all, at least not according to the words of the Constitution.

Blue patriotism was then, as it is now, based on the principle that the United States would be the greatest nation in the world if it lived up to its promise to provide  a stable government based on the equality of its citizens. But the battle between red and blue patriotism is not over simply because we have elected our first African American President. It’s more like the fourth quarter of a long drawn out game in which the blue team just pulled ahead.

The battle lines are different now, and less racial. For the past eight years, the debate between red and blue patriots centered on foreign policy and the ways to best defend our boarders. Red patriots have shunned the international community, represented by the United Nations. Blue patriots have been largely silenced due to the unquenchable drive for revenge after September 11 and a distorted opinion of what constitutes patriotism. In this period of red patriot dominance, the United States has devolved into our most afraid and lonely state probably since World War II.

This week, Barack Obama has sent a clear signal that Blue patriotism will be the cornerstone of his presidency. He has vowed to close Gitmo, increase transparency in government, and bring our troops home from Iraq in 16 months. Yes, there is a lot more to do and it seems nearly impossible that Barack Obama will able to accomplish everything he hopes to. But at least we know that blue patriotism is back.

And its not weak. It is based on “honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism,” says Obama.

“These things are old. These things are true.”


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