Guest view: What Is American Patriotism?

Our young republic’s life was at stake. Our “star-spangled banner” waved defiantly through “the rockets’ red glare”, as the British Navy bombarded Baltimore’s Fort McHenry.

The British Army had hitched a ride with the Navy – after a “White House barbecue.” But it was our White House that the redcoats barbecued.

They burned Congress’s Capitol Building, too. Like Americans, (whose polls rank the Do Nothing Congress – except our tireless Sam Farr – just above Fidel Castro), redcoats disapproved of Congress, which in those days had to start the war. (Even patriot Will Rogers admitted, “The difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t change every time Congress is in session.”)

Those fireworks were during the War of 1812. Who remembers “why” we fought that war, whose 200th anniversary we celebrate this year anyway? Maybe they called it the War of 1812 so we would at least remember “when” we fought it.

Our biggest victory – over 2,000 British casualties – came after the peace treaty was signed. (Because it took weeks to sail it here from Europe.) Our Senate okayed the treaty the month after the bloodbath.

It’s said, “If old men had to fight the wars, there would be less of them.” Less wars or less old men? Probably both: less wars and less old men.

Speaking of old men, this Fourth of July, we’ll hang out Grandpa’s World War I funeral-flag. Grandma’s keepsake has 48 stars. It was “made in the U.S.A.” before statehood for Alaska and our president’s birthplace, Hawaii – or, as Romney “campaign pinch-hitter” Donald Trump calls it, “Kenya.”

Grandpa fought European monarchies that made America’s democratic melting pot look good. Now kids have better shots at achieving the middle class “American Dream” in Europe than in America, where in 2010 the top 1% banked 93% of our income gain.

So, what does the flag Grandpa fought for stand for?

Is it patriotic to renounce your American citizenship and export your Facebook billions to tax-free Singapore? Patriotic to hire lobbyists to write the rules so you make more money by sending American jobs overseas than by keeping them here? Patriotic to cook up a “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich” international profit-wiring scheme, so your multinational megacorporation pays a lower tax rate than your butler’s on its world-record profits?

Trump bashes our president – who fights for trade penalties against China – for not declaring an all-out, tit-for-tat trade-tax war with China. Is patriotism wearing American flag pins in the lapels of your “Donald Trump Signature” suits – which are made in Red China, where kids are so overworked they’re swan-diving off the roofs of their sweatshops?

Is patriotism clicking your heels and saluting the flag like World War II’s jackbooted fascist soldiers? Film of famous General Omar Bradley, commanding at the Battle of the Bulge, when a spy-fearing soldier at a checkpoint demanded his I.D., shows the irritated general taking back his I.D. and saluting back in the much-less-stiff American style at the suddenly-erect-and-red-faced soldier.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo’s opponent’s campaign pinch-hitter had to settle for unfairly attacking Alejo’s, for example, body language during his daily flag salute. (Did his opponent, who always finishes a distant second to Alejo, give up on finding something in Alejo’s voting record to attack?)

Alejo drove six hours round-trip from Sacramento to honor our district’s veterans five months before the groundless accusation. Not one of the hundred-or-so veterans complained about his body language. But they weren’t running for his Assembly seat.

Is it patriotic to bankrupt our country with tax breaks for billionaire political backers and endless $3 trillion wars that win “hearts and minds” for our newly-created enemies? In 2000, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Clinton surpluses Bush inherited would pay off our national debt by now.

Romney’s economic advisers brag that he’ll be “Bush on steroids.” (Bush had the worst job-creation record since the Great Depression.) After seeing Mitt’s ads about what “President Romney” will do on his first day, we disagree. He’ll be “Bush on ‘speed’”. God didn’t get that much done in Her first day on the job.

Romney was filmed demonstrating in favor of the draft while avoiding service in Vietnam with five draft deferments. But he “talks tough” about sending combat troops back to Iraq and Bananastan and refreezing the Cold War. It would profit the billionaires’ “military-industrial complex” President “Ike” Eisenhower’s farewell address warned us about.

As supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II, Ike learned that “War is hell!” and hellishly expensive. He lost only one American soldier to hostile fire in eight years as a Cold War president. (Though countries like Iran and Guatemala haven’t forgotten that Ike’s C.I.A. replaced their democratically-elected governments with murderous dictatorships.)

Ike wouldn’t have to ask, “Is it patriotic to prematurely and needlessly issue funeral-flags to more American kids’ grieving families?”

Our family hasn’t even worn out Grandma’s 48-star flag yet. It’s well-sewn – and “made in the U.S.A.”

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