Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Best Way to Express Patriotism and Fidelity for the Democratic Process When Your Side Loses?

When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, many on the right went absolutely crazy. Within a few months of his inauguration, at the height of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Tea Party and Birtherism had become quite popular. The racism endemic to at least a portion of the Tea Party (and yes, racism was loudly present in the Tea Party movement) seemed fueled by the election of a black President. So too was the ongoing chorus of voices that cried out that President Obama wasn’t actually eligible to be President because he was born in Kenya or because both parents weren’t citizens or because his father owed “allegiance” to Britain or … well, any of a host of other idiotic reasons.

The point was that, to many people, the election of a black President was an apparent sign that something had gone “wrong” in “their” country and that either the election wasn’t legitimate or that they needed to “take their country back”. “Patriotic” voices on the right spent four years trying to convince either themselves or others (I’m honestly not sure which…) that President Obama wasn’t an American, that he was a socialist or a Marxist (or sometimes a Fascist), that he was a Muslim or he hated Christianity, that he was secretly gay or swore allegiance to … oh, hell, I can’t even keep all of the conspiracy theories straight anymore. One thing is certain, though, and that is that many Republicans did everything that they could to prevent President Obama from having any political successes in the hopes of making him a one-term President.

So jump forward to 2012. President Obama wins re-election and does so by a wide margin, even though Republican talking heads had been telling their constituency, for months, that Mitt Romney would win. Those talking heads told them that the polls were inaccurate, just as they told people that neither global warming nor evolution was real, that unemployment numbers were faked, that 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes, that Benghazi was a cover-up, that the UN was coming to take their guns, that Obamacare was a “government take over of healthcare”, and so on and so forth.

And yet Obama won.

By a lot. Current vote totals show that Romney received only around 47.5% of the popular vote.

So how now do these “patriotic” Americans respond? How do they reconcile the fact that a majority of their fellow citizens saw a different world than they did? How do they come to terms with the fact that they weren’t able to take their country back from the Marxist Kenyan Muslim in the White House?

They write and sign petitions to secede from the United States of America.

How’s that for patriotism?

This isn’t just a case of people saying, “It’s my ball, and if you don’t play by my rules I’m going home.” No, it’s much worse than that. It is, instead, as people like Ann Coulter have claimed of liberal views for years, treasonous. Remember that little hubbub from 1861-1865? Right. That’s what happened when some states decided to secede because they didn’t like the results of the democratic process.

Does an American patriot truly respond to electoral defeat by talking about secession?

And try out this thought experiment for a brief moment: Let’s take a little trip, shall we, back in time to an alternate version of November 2004. You remember 2004, don’t you? George W. Bush had just defeated John Kerry to win a second term as President of the United States. I know, I know. You’ve blocked that memory. But let’s go back to that November shall we, but with one teensy weensy tiny itty bitty change. You see, in our alternate version of November 2004, within days after the election liberal Americans all across the north and along both the northeast and west coasts began writing and signing petitions to seceded from the United States. Remember that? Right.

Well, I also want you to remember what it was like when you turned on Fox News and listened to the network talk about those who advocated secession. What was it that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck said about those seeking to secede from the Union? Did they just chuckle and suggest that these people were crazy … or did they call for charges of treason with public hangings for those who suggested secession?

Or go back four more years to November (and December 2000) when the Supreme Court decided that George W. Bush had defeated Al Gore (who, you will no doubt recall won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote because of a 517-vote difference in Florida). Don’t you remember liberals lining up across the country and refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency, members of the military refusing President Bush’s orders, and people all across the country writing and signing petitions seeking to secede from the Union?

Oh, wait. Those things didn’t happen. But just think about how those on the right who now talk of secession, or even more standard voices on the right, would likely have reacted to liberal calls for secession. I’m betting the reactions would not have been terribly accommodating.

So what is it about the election and re-election of Barack Obama that has caused such widespread … well, lunacy? And why are we treating anyone who suggests secession as anything other than treasonous? Seriously.

For years, we’ve heard some direct the “love it or leave it” mantra toward those who are critical of the US government or a specific US policy. But now, when the shoe has changed proverbial feet, the mantra seems to have been turned on its head. Now, rather than “love it or leave it” those who don’t like the results of the democratic process demonstrate their fidelity both to the country and that process by suggesting that secession is the proper course. These people are likely the same ones who like to crow about “American exceptionalism” yet when confronted by the results of the democratic process, the very core of that exceptionalism, they cry foul. How about this? If you don’t like what America has become, take your own advice … and leave. Don’t secede. Just pack your bags and go. I’ve heard that the Democratic Republic of Congo is nice this time of year. And take your racism and conspiracy theories with you. Oh, and be sure to save room in your luggage for Limbaugh, Beck, and their ilk. I’m sure you’ll have need to talking heads who share your myopic worldview wherever you end up. Buh-bye.

And for the rest of us, if you hear someone talk about secession, ask them if they’re any different from slave states in the 1860s? Ask them if they really are patriotic Americans. Ask them if they’ve pledged allegiance to the flag “and to the Republic for which it stands”? And then ask if that means anything to them. Ask them to explain how the democratic process is supposed to work and what democracy really means to them. People who express thoughts of secession or who espouse conspiracy theories or claims that President Obama is somehow illegitimate need to be shamed, and publicly so. When these folks mention widely debunked and obviously false conspiracy theories, call them out. Ask them to prove their case. Don’t just let this sort of speech pass you by.

We need to stand up for American exceptionalism, especially our exceptional democracy. So when you hear talk of secession, call the speaker out and tell them that secession is treasonous and in violation of their pledge of allegiance to the Republic. Those who’ve abandoned their respect for the our democratic process don’t deserve for their views to be respected. And those who base their views on the fact that our President is black should be called out for the racists that they are.

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At Thursday, November 29, 2012 1:28:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've often thought that those who call for mandatory recitation of the pledge in school etc, actually needed someone to forcibly remind them of their obligations. And therefore they project their needs on all of us.

At Thursday, November 29, 2012 2:10:00 PM , Blogger MSWallack said...

For the record, I'm opposed to mandatory recitation of the Pledge (and I'll admit that I'm one of those people who thinks that the phrase "Under God" should be removed from the Pledge. Have you ever read James Clavell's The Children's Story? It's an interesting observation on the meaning of the Pledge.

At Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:04:00 PM , Anonymous Cheryl said...

I have been absolutely aggravated with people who can give me nothing but conspiracy theory, rumors, and fear mongering as a reason to not like our President and yet they refused to hear the words that came out of Romney's mouth even when he was insulting them. I have been arguing for months over this. People amaze me with their willingness to believe rumors and lies but not the truth even when it is staring them in the face.

At Friday, November 30, 2012 9:40:00 AM , Blogger MSWallack said...

Cheryl: The phenomena that you describe is often referred to as cognitive dissonance; that is, the refusal to accept facts as, well, facts, preferring instead the false narrative that conforms to a particular worldview. I've written several posts on the subject in the past, including Cognitive Dissonance in Action … Again.


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