Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I am not a Republican because:

I am not a Republican because:

·         I believe millionaires should pay a higher tax rate than middle class citizens

·         I believe punishing people because you do not like them is un-American

·         I believe civil liberties are precious and we all benefit from the ACLU

·         I believe education is a national priority

·         I believe the free market cannot regulate itself

·         I believe civil rights come from nature and someone who denies them in the name of ‘their God’ is a bigot

·         I believe in a strong defense but do not support spending more than the next 17 nations combined

·         I believe the wall separating church from state is tall,  wide, and must never be breached

·         I believe a person’s patriotism is neither measured by the size of his flag pin nor the number of times he says God Bless America

·         I believe denigrating and attacking people while they are having tough times is abhorrent.

·         I realize that the world is nuanced and it is not as simple as good guys vs bad guys

·         I know the invasion of Iraq was done on false pretenses and was the single biggest cause of the rise of Iran

·         The same people who claim to be fiscal conservatives are the ones who started two wars and gave the biggest tax cuts in the nation’s history

·         I am smart enough to realize that federal debt is money we have already spent and that you cannot cut your away to debt elimination.

·         I am smart enough to know that a reasonable deficit reduction plan includes revenue increases and spending cuts

·         I believe claiming to be fiscally conservative and not willing to cut defense spending is a fool’s errand

·         I believe immigration reform is a practical, humanitarian, and fiscally sound thing to do.

·         I would rather err on the side of inclusion as opposed to exclusion

·         I believe clean air, clean water, and safe drinking water are not onerous regulations

·         I believe renewable and alternative energy sources are a long term strategy

·         I believe the Defense of Marriage Act is an abomination

·         I believe homosexuality is not a choice

·         I believe life does not begin at conception

·         I believe in evolution

·         I believe intelligent design is NOT science

·         I believe those that champion small government and call for criminalization of abortion and believe we need a constitutional amendment to define marriage are hypocrites

·         I believe diplomacy includes telling your friends they are wrong and not acting in the best long term interests

·         I refuse to align myself with a group that has tried to belittle, demean, delegitimize the President

·         I believe the establishment of public education, social security, and Medicare make America exceptional

And finally….

·         I believe a nation’s greatness is measured by how it protects the weak, the strong, the old, the young, the sick, and the healthy and not by how many bombs it has in its arsenal


Tis the season for platforms, so here you go...


A great deal has been said about the RNC’s platform when its contents were leaked last week especially in light of Todd Akin’s comments about rape and the influence of the Tea Party and social conservatives on the Republican Party.  Conversely, the DNC’s platform has not received as much press but will likely focus on social issues such as same-sex marriage and immigration reform.  In the past, these platforms received very little attention but this year is different due to the reemergence of the ‘culture wars’ and the Democrats push to focus on social issues, especially around a woman’s reproductive rights.  Republican strategist Mike Murphy downplayed the significance of party platforms during Meet The Press on August 26th.  True, party platforms are usually an amalgamation of ideas to satisfy the “The Big Tent” of the party, they also provide insight into the party leaders’ vision.  But that vision provides necessary insight into the beliefs of the party, its theories, and its culture; and thus they shouldn’t be taken as simple lip service.

I am an independent, or as Arizona calls me ‘non-aligned’ though admittedly I vote for Democrats much more often that Republicans.  Grouch Marx famously said “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”  Nonetheless, I figured its convention season and why not issue a Diggapendent Platform.  Here she goes:

  • We strongly support regulation and environmental protection. 
  • We believe Wall Street is necessary to build capital markets and private enterprise but it has lost its way over the last 20 years as it abandoned its real purpose.  Thusly empowered regulators must shine light on the business.  We call for an increase in capital requirement, a decrease in leverage, and derivative trading to be performed on exchanges.
  • We are very liberal on social issues, including same-sex marriage and the commensurate rights, defense of Roe v. Wade, and equal pay.
  • We have no interest in anyone else’s religious beliefs or absence of beliefs unless said beliefs move from the public square to public policy.
  • We support the use of diplomacy rather than force and must avoid unilateral actions like the Iraq War.
  • We support the exploration and drilling of natural gas and oil reserves on public and private land under safety and environmental regulations based on the scientific method.
  • We believe in an all of the above approach to energy including fossil fuels in the short term and renewables over the long haul.
  • We support the doubling of CAFÉ standards over the next 15 years.
  • We call for a national plan working with state and local officials, vocational schools, universities, and community colleges to develop the necessary training skills required to meet the future employment demands involving Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  • We call for a crackdown via lawful means on white supremacist and extremist domestic terror groups.
  • We oppose voter suppression and voter purging legislation that prohibits access to voting, charges a fee for a voting ID, and any violation of the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.
  • We do not support the notion that states should establish their own laws involving civil rights.  These are national issues.
  • We support and honor the collective bargaining rights of organized labor.  However, we call on these organizations to adopt a meritocracy.
  • We support the further experimentation in public schools and development of charter schools to establish the best in class approach to education that takes a long view in creating atmospheres of learning.
  • We believe income taxes will need to be raised gradually across the board if we are to reduce our debt.
  • We believe all discretionary spending, including military, will need to be cut if we are to reduce our debt
  • We oppose mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients on the grounds it is unconstitutional and is based on a primal need to punish those we dislike or fear.
  • We do not challenge the 2nd Amendment but we do not believe unfettered access to high capacity assault weapons is in our national best interests.
  • We support Social Security and Medicare reform to extend the solvency of both programs including higher taxes and cost control
  • We support infrastructure investment to modernize our transportation, communication, power grid, and public facilities.
  • We support a woman’s right to choose as defined by Roe v. Wade
  • We believe in a strong military but not one that spends more than the next 17 nations combined.
  • We call for the simplification of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in such a way that redundancies, waste, and unnecessarily onerous regulations are eliminated

There you have it.  Socially progressive fiscally moderate.  Government cannot fix all problems but the free market cannot regulate itself.  We need balance, fiscal prudence, fairness, and a willingness to embrace change and accept compromise.  This above list, when amalgamated, offers an insight to the culture that Diggapendents sees in a great America.; an America that can rebound from the great recession and look forward, not backward.  After all, a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats all of its citizens: young, old, sick, healthy, weak, and strong, not how many bombs it has in its arsenal.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Akin and Others: One Flew Over the GOP House

Todd Akin is not the only sound bite machine in the GOP House.  Here are few other classics.  Worth noting are the quotes from Intelligence and Science committee members.  Scary scary stuff when you realize Akin is the rule, not the exception.

·         Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the Higher Education & Workforce Training…she attended college in 1968.  Needless to say that college education costs have far outpaced inflation since 1968.

“I went through school. I worked my way through. It took me seven years; I never borrowed a dime of money. ... I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt.”

·         Joe Barton, energy and commerce committee apologizing to BP executives for being criticized by the White House.  Joe Barton represents Texas City, where in March 23, 2005 a blast at the BP refinery near Galveston killed 15 people and injured 180 others resulting in a $50Million fine.

"I apologize," Barton told Hayward (BP CEO Tony Hayward). "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it's a tragedy."

·         Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009 defending the Energy Efficiency Standards. In 2010 Upton caved to conservative pressure and sought to repeal the very law he sponsored.

“Our work on light bulbs wasn’t an arbitrary mandate. We didn’t just pick a standard out of the air, or look for a catchy sounding standard like 25 by 2025 not based in science or feasibility. Instead, we worked with both industry and environmental groups to come up with a standard that made sense and was doable.”

·         Jean Schmidt, member of the House Agriculture Committee, decided to explain abortion to a class of six year olds.  The principal Dan Teller had to send a letter to the parents

She defined abortion as the taking of a child's life in the mother's womb,” Teller wrote in the letter. "She indicated that abortion involves the killing of a child before it is born."

·         Jack Kingston, member of the House Appropriations Committee cosponsored a bill granting 14th Amendment rights to the pre-born.  The Right to Life Act declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and defines "human being" to encompass all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization or cloning.

·         Todd Akin, member of the House Science, Space and  Technology Committee:

“From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

·         Dana Rohrabacher member of the House Science, Space and  Technology Committee, and one who denies CO2 emissions lead to global warming questioning a witness on greenhouse gases:

“Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? … Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?"

·         James Sensenbrenner, member of the House Science, Space and  Technology Committee, criticizing the .S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.

“At worst, it’s junk science and it’s part of a massive international scientific fraud. And not just fraud: There’s increasing evidence of scientific fascism that’s going on.”

·         Michele Bachmann, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

"I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter."

“The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group's access to top Obama administration officials."

·         Sue Myrick, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

“There is a lot of radicalization on the Internet today; there is radicalization in the mosques; there are people who have been indoctrinated into the same line of thinking that are now in positions in our government,”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Romney Gets it Wrong About Separation

The Huffington Post recapped an interview Mitt Romney had with the magazine Cathedral Age that included some very memorable quotes.  Romney, private equity exec turned governor turned presidential candidate turned historian took a shot at secularists as those who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God" aren't acting in line with the Founders' intent.  The all-knowing Romney clearly knew what Madison, Jefferson, et al were thinking.  Romney goes on to further  say that "some" Americans have taken the separation of church and state too far, "well beyond its original meaning."  Finally, Romney said the Founders didn't intend for "the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God, 'and in God, we do indeed trust."  Now I have heard this line hundreds of times about how religion is under assault in the public square.  Well know it’s my turn for a retort.
Why take Romney’s word when we have the words of one James Madison:
“If Religion be not within cognizance of Civil Government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of Civil Authority; in many instances they have seen the upholding of the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberty of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the political liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it [liberty], needs them not.”

Further, here is the critical passage from the Virginia Religious Freedom Act of 1786:

“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions on belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect civil capacities.

And though we will know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any acts hall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be infringement of natural right.”

My final counter to Mr. Romney is if he is so outspoken about freedom of religion, why hasn’t he taken a pro-Mosque stance?  Why has he not, as achurch leader, spoke out against bigotry against Muslims who have simply wanted to exercise their freedoms?  The same freedoms that the founding fathers had in mind when they created the Constitution.  In fact, I believe the likes of Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan, and the influence growing social conservative core (not wing mind you) of the new GOP are trying to overly and unduly influence government policy based on their fundamentalist religious beliefs.  Which is why they must be stopped; stopped by free thinking, critical thinking, enlightened and educated individuals.  Who’s with me?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rudy Giuliani is a Joke

Weekend Wrap-Up

·         Rudy “Noun-Verb-9/11” Giuliani said the following about Joe Biden: "I don't think he's nuts. I'm just saying I wonder if he's got the kind of balance - probably what I should have said is the balance to be president of the United States. " “This guy is like one gaffe after another, and he's a joke on late-night television."  Well here is what ‘America’s Mayor’ had to say about that great vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008:

In choosing Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has chosen for the future.

The other guy looked back. John looked forward.

Gov. Palin represents a new generation. She’s already one of the most successful governors in America and the most popular.

And she’s already had more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket combined.

She’s been a mayor. I love that.

I’m sorry — I’m sorry that Barack Obama feels that her hometown isn’t cosmopolitan enough.

I’m sorry, Barack, that it’s not flashy enough. Maybe they cling to religion there.

Well — well, the first day — as far as I’m concerned, the first day she was mayor, she had more experience as an executive than — than Obama and Biden combined.

Then she became governor. She’s reduced taxes. She’s reduced government spending. She’s encouraged more energy exploration.

She’s been one of the most active governors — she’s been one of the most active governors in the country, and Alaska can be proud of having one of the best governors in the country.

She’s got an 80 percent approval rating. You never get that in New York City, wow.

As U.S. attorney, a former U.S. attorney, I’m very impressed the way she took on corruption in Alaska, including corruption in the Republican Party. This is a woman who has no fear. This is a woman who stands up for what’s right.

She — she — she is shaking up Alaska in a way that hasn’t happened in maybe ever. And with John McCain, with his independent spirit, with his being a maverick, with him and Sarah Palin, can you imagine how they’re going to shake up Washington?

Whew, look out. Look out.

Credibility 1 Giuliani 0

·         For the sixth year in a row, Mississippi is the fattest state in the country.  Coupled with its perennial low rankings in education and alcohol abuse, the Magnolia State is well on its way to achieving the Dean Wormer Trifecta: Fat Drunk and Stupid (it’s no way to go through life)

·         While the GOP props up their new Latino crossover star Ted Cruz (Rubio already dumped?) the Democrats have 37 year old rising star San Antonio mayor Julian Castro give the keynote speech in Charlotte next month.

·         Mona Charen in NationalReview.com claims the Democrats are running “the dirtiest emptiest, and most deceptive campaign in memory.”  It seems Ms. Charen’s memory is good for about a nanosecond as she fails to recall Atwater, Rove, Swift Boats, and Romney’s own deceptive ads comprising of sound clips.  Spare me the Bullshit Baloney.

·         25% of the known 302 terrorist cases in the US since 2001 have been perpetrated by anti-government and white supremacist extremists validating the much maligned 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security warning of right wing extremist attacks.  Can you imagine if the attack on the Sikh Temple had been an Evangelical Church by a Muslim?  Nonetheless, when is Representative Peter King(NY) calling for hearings on white supremacist terror groups?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vote For Inclusion Over Exclusion

In order to thrive a society must evolve, its attitudes, beliefs, and morals must evolve as well.  As the society evolves faster, traditional dogma and paradigms become subjects of great debate, often heated.  Over the 236 years since our nation’s independence and the 223 years since the Constitution  went into effect this nation has witnessed great debates on human and civil rights, often with the role of religion at the center.  This often results in the polarization of the population with those that oppose change squaring off with those that see change as natural and necessary; conservatives versus progressives. 

I have written extensively about America’s history with respect to the war between free thinking and enlightenment on one side and religion on the other.  I also have heard the arguments that it was Democrats in the South that supported slavery, created the KKK, and opposed civil rights; a hollow argument considering those same southerners now represent today’s Republican base.  I have also analyzed the historic comparisons of economic performance between Republicans and Democrats and commented on the relative achievements of various administrations.    But that’s not what I am worried about.

I have been called a communist, socialist, and a liberal.  I am certainly not a communist and I am no socialist.  I don’t consider myself a liberal maybe because I am less interested in labels which is why  I am a non-aligned political independent (is that a label or description?).  I am a pragmatic, learn-from-the-past but plan-the-future sarcastic realist.  But above all I believe in inclusion over exclusion, and when it comes to social progress I definitely lean towards to inclusion.

I am still amazed that in 2012 some of our conversations still center on human decency.  So as the right as proven that its ‘fiscal conservative’ label is a farce (read: 1980-1988 and 2000-2004)it has adopted a socially conservative embodiment that is more reactionary than conservative.  In comparison to the new right, I just may be a liberal.  And while I consider my label, the Republican Party, the once Grand Ole Party has become an American Taliban.  A party lacking compassion and love.  A party that seeks to exclude and deny.  While they hide behind legality, they exhibit little morality.  They demagogue every issue to build fear and hate while unscrupulously using tragedy to raise money.  Compassionate conservative?  Unicorns and elves.

So to me the choice is very simple:  if you believe “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, the choice should be simple to you too.

If you believe all men are created equal then things like DOMA, DADT, voter suppression, voter purging, and SB1070 are abhorrent as they seek deny and exclude.  If you oppose immigration reform, the Dream Act, voter registration drives, same sex marriage, and mosque construction  you will likely never see the other side of the equation.   You see the difference between those that chose inclusion over exclusion is simple: we know it is messy, we know that existing laws may need to be overturned, we know it requires compromise, and we know it requires trust to accomplish great things.  Nearly every person I converse with who chooses exclusion lacks the ability to accept the future and see the new order.  And sadly many choose religious dogma as their rationale for denying and excluding. 

In 80 days we go to the polls to vote for president, congressmen, state and local officials and probably a number of referendums and ballot initiatives.  Some will vote on economic issues, social issues, religion, color of skin, experience, what they heard on the radio, what they saw on TV, etc.  The campaign will continue to feature misleading ads, lies, half-truths, innuendo, and lots of noise and little substance.  Budgets, deficits, and debt issues will get resolved,  They always do.  This forward thinking inclusive minded pragmatist says the status quo is almost always antiquated by the time it becomes the status quo.  Look forward, act bold, and include. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Small Government Social Conservatives: A little oxy and a lot of moron

This business about shrinking the size of government is both quantitative and qualitative. If one is talking about the quantitative argument then you can you choose a number of metrics such as government employees and government spending.  If you choose the qualitative measure you get more into the role of government including regulations, economic interventions, social behavior, and criminal activity.  No matter which you choose there are stark inconsistencies in the Republican party and its Tea Party ultra conservative  wing.  That is not to say that the Democrats are without their faults, but then again they’re not the party banging the drum about diminishing the size and the role of government.

The GOP believes that all government spending is excessive and ripe for cutting unless it is in support of defense or national security apparatus.  Here is the breakdown of the 2012 federal budget  ($Billion):

·         Total Spending: $3,795

o   Defense: $902

o   Social Security:  $820

o   Medicare: $485

o   Welfare, Unemployment: $452

o   Medicaid: $324

o   Interest: $224

o   Education: $153

o   Transportation: $103

o   Protection, Police, Prisons: $62

o   General government: $34

o   Other spending: $236 (NASA, FDIC,TARP, Fish & Game, R&D, Disaster relief, etc.)

·         Estimated Revenue: $2,468

·         Resulting Deficit: $1,327

The items in red represent mandatory spending, in other words the government is required to pay social security and Medicare disbursements, and the interest on the outstanding debt.  If you deduct these items, that leaves $2,266Billion of government spending available for cutting of which 40% is for Defense.  By insisting that defense coffers be spared of any cuts, in fact Romney pledges to INCREASE military spending, the Republicans are proposing the silliest plan of all time.  Even if you cut all other spending by 10%, you will only reduce overall spending by $136B. 

When you throw in the massive tax cuts that Romney and Ryan are proposing, you can see why so many nonpartisan think tanks are saying these plans are not reasonable and represent pure folly.  To completely ignore revenue in this equation is foolish and reckless.  But once you sign on with Grover Norquist, like Ryan did, you have made the deal with the devil.

In other words, we cannot cut our way to fiscal neutrality.  Even Reagan and H.W. Bush realized that.  Sadly the guys who seem to need more math instruction are the same guys seeking to gut education.

But I save the bulk of my criticism for the qualitative aspect of this small government fallacy. While I reject the conservative movement of Barry Goldwater, I do respect his consistency on all things conservative.  He staunchly opposed  labor unions and government intervention while wholeheartedly supporting states’ rights.  His zeal for limited government was only watched by his hatred of communism.  Nonetheless, he would have opposed DOMA, DADT, and the takeover of the Republican Party by the religious right while steadfastly supporting a woman’s right to choose.   Goldwater was so offended by the religious right he once said “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” 

Why do I single out Goldwater to make a point on conservatism?  Because his opposition viewpoints on the role of religion in government  exemplifies the abomination that has become the Republican Party.  The intrusion into the bedroom , the exam room, and the classroom are all in violent opposition to the concept of conservatism and small government.  This abomination assumes the worst notion of big government: big brother.  A government that takes liberty away from women to purchase contraception, a government that takes away a woman’s right to an abortion, a government that denies couples the right to marry, a government that denies ready, willing, and capable citizens from serving their nation due to their sexual orientation, a government that in the name of one god denies the religious liberties of those that believe something else, and a government  that forgets public school is to be free from religious instruction and taxpayer money is not to be used to fund private schools.

With regards to government regulations and interventions, an ideological debate is welcome.  At the end of the day, do you trust the market to regulate itself or can/should the government do it?  A fair argument.  What astounds me is the conservative ideals from many saying that the answer to deregulation inducing economic implosion, is to further deregulate.  It’s like the codependent telling the addict, you OD’d but didn’t die, so let’s try more heroin next time.  It is completely illogical.  With respect to government intervention, especially concerning GM, I believe it was a necessity.  An organized bankruptcy would not have worked because it would have been impossible for GM to procure necessary materials with the cloud of potentially sticking its creditors on the horizon.  Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone at a firm like Kodak; once the blood is in the water the sharks will turn up.  I oppose government takeovers, but I acknowledge as a matter of last resort, they are necessary especially under the circumstances we found ourselves in 2008 and 2009.

I enjoy debating true small government conservatives who believe that government spending needs to be cut in the long term, revenues increased and government the hell out of our lives.  However, I have no time for self-described small government believers who believe same sex marriage needs to be banned by the government.  That hypocrisy is abominable.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

1972: An 8 Year Old's Olympic Memories

While watching these 2012 London Summer Olympics I found myself reminiscing about the 1972 Munich games, the first Olympics that I remember; an Olympiad that aired on ABC when I was only 8 years old.  While the 1972 Games are remembered for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes, a memory still engrained in my mind, I can still the images and video of the competition as if it was yesterday.

I remember unheralded Cuban Superheavyweight boxer Teofilo Stevenson  destroying the competition including American favorite Duane Bobick.  Stevenson was a wrecking ball and I can see Bobick getting sent to the canvas three times in the third round.  Stevenson would go on to win gold in 72, 76, and 80.

 I remember watching Finnish distance runner Lasse Viren win both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs, a feat he would repeat four years later in Montreal.  Don’t ask me how or why I remember The Flying Finn.

I remember American medalists Bob Seagren in the pole vault and Dwight Stones in the high jump.  I was a big fan of Seagren;  Stones….not so much.  It was soon after the Olympics that Seagren would be featured on ABC’s The Superstars (remember that?)and then playing Billy Crystal’s boyfriend in season one of Soap.

I remember US Gold and Silver medalists Vince Mathews and Wayne Collett standing on the podium after the 400m race chatting away like they were waiting for a bus.  I remember the outrage on TV and the disappointment in my house.  How could these guys be so disrespectful of the flag and to the U.S.?  It wasn’t until later that I appreciated the concept of protest and disenfranchisement.  Things were very complicated.

I remember Soviet sprinter Valeri Borzov winning the 100m gold after American favorites Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson were DQ’d for missing their preliminary heats.  Today we have apps to remind us when we’re supposed to be at the track and ready to run.

I remember  the legendary Mark Spitz winning seven golds and setting seven world records in seven races.  He didn’t win those races, he destroyed the competition.

I remember the cap wearing 800m gold medal winner Dave Wottle coming from last place in the last 200 meters to win the gold and the look on the competitors faces of who was that guy?

I remember Munich-born American marathoner Frank Shorter winning the gold medal after an imposter entered the stadium ahead of Shorter prompting ABC announcer Erich Segal to scream “It’s a fraud Frank.”

I remember the mammoth Soviet Super Heavyweight Weightlifter Vasily Alexsiev who allegedly could stop a bullet in his stomach which seemed like an impressive skill when you’re 8.

I remember crying over the men’s basketball gold medal game where some douche bag in the stands made sure the evil Soviets beat our baby faced freckled American college kids.  Damn Commies.

I remember U.S. 1,500m favorite Jim Ryun tripping during a qualifying heat and not being able to run in the final.  His arch rival Kip Keino from Kenya (say that five times fast) would go on to win the silver medal in the 1,500 and the gold in the  3,000m steeplechase.  Don’t ask me how I can remember the name of a Kenyan track star, but I also remember Ugandan hurdler John Akii Bua. 

I remember American wrestler Dan Gable not only dominating his weight class, but going the entire tournament without  getting  scored on.

And I remember Sugar Ray Seales, the only American gold medal winner during that Olympiad.  The other Sugar Ray.

I think I remember so much about that Olympiad because I was transfixed to the TV.  Watching the events while reading through Sports Illustrated to see who the magazine predicted would win each event.  In subsequent years (76 & 80) I would be at overnight summer camp, something lots of Jewish kids in the 70’s experienced, with little time to watch.  1980 was the protest year so, well who cares right?  After that it was work getting in the way of watching.

The 1972 games will be special to me and the memories have hardly faded over 40 years (is that possible?).  I have great respect for Phelps and Gabbie, Misty and Missy, Ally and Allyson, and the rest of the winners and competitors.  But I won’t remember them like Dave Wottle and Kip Keino.  Why?  Is it because in 1972 there was three network channels and a few UHF stations?  Newspapers no websites?  Maybe.  I remember Wide World of Sports and the only endorsements seemed to be Wheaties and Gillette.  Fewer distractions and I suppose athletes are heroes to 8 year old boys.

I didn’t mean to go all Kevin Arnold Wonder Years on you, but it just hit me watching these games that while the athletic achievements are impressive and worthy of high praise I still wasn’t feeling an emotional attachment. 

But above all, I can still see Jim McKay and hear his words that I will never ever forget:

When I was a kid my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.’ Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were 11 hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”

A world of wonder and an innocence lost….for all of us.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Does Patriotism Look Like?

The call for patriotism has been a battle cry since the birth of this nation.  From the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (the real one, not the imagined one in Sarah Palin’s mind) and the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts not New Hampshire like Michele Bachmann believes) to the 2012 summer Olympics, flag waving chest thumping Freebird blasting red, white, and blue tattoos have been ubiquitous. During the last four years, however, the cacophony from the right questioning President Obama’s birthplace and patriotism, the Tea Party Patriots who think their guns will stop tanks, and the clowns on Fox News asking ‘How are we going to get our country back?’ have completely eviscerated the real meaning of patriotism.

But it finally came to a head for me when I read about the schmucks, Alisyn Camerota and David Webb on Fox News questioning the uniforms of the American Women’s gymnastics team.  Camerota stated “And some folks have noticed that American athletes’ uniforms don’t carry the Stars and Stripes look as much as they had in past years. The famous flag-style outfits worn in years past replaced with yellow shirts, gray tracksuits, pink leotards. So how do we show our patriotism at the games?”  To which her equally clueless guest David Webb, co-founder of advocacy group Tea Party 365, added, “The Chinese are wearing red predominantly as that’s their national color if you will. So why not us with the red white and blue?”

Is patriotism the color of your leotard? Is it the size of your flag pin?  Is it ending a political speech with “God Bless America”?  Is it about demonstrating your 2nd amendment right by bringing a gun to a bar?  Merriam Webster defines Patriotism: love for or devotion to one's country.  But what is a country?  The notion of a sovereign entity comprised of land, resources, people, government, laws, culture, etc. I am not trying to be flippant.  Far from it.  I believe many Americans have lost their way in the patriotic zeal, and I am not talking solely about the right wing white supremacy hate groups.  I think our views of what America stands for have become so divergent we wouldn’t recognize it as the same country and it really kicked in on 9/11.

In a dark legislative joke, following the 9/11 attacks, the government passed the Patriot Act; a piece of legislation that had very little to do with patriotism.  Does a government show it’s love or devotion for its country, for the citizens of that country who elect to provide representation by passing a law allowing the government to spy on its citizens without the encumbrance of due process?

In the 11 years since the 9/11 attacks a new sense of patriotism has emerged and then a militant xenophobic nationalism went into overdrive following the great recession.  A fervour now exists that measures your devotion to America by whether or not you wear a flag pin, whether the US flag is prominent in the background of a speech, and whether you invoke God in your devotion to America.  For the entirety of this nation’s history there has always been a religious patriotism element with varying levels of influence ebbing and flowing over time.  And it is here where the secular and the religious clash as the former is devoted to a nation that doesn’t comply and conform to the latter’s Christian Nation narrative.  I abhor the trajectory we are on where patriotism becomes nationalism and nationalism becomes chauvinism.

America is not about symbols and yes I believe the flag is bit a symbol.  No America is more than pins, and uniforms, bumper stickers, and country music.  It is the America where you can protest against businesses and you can protest against the government.  America is its history of inclusion, righting social wrongs, its immigrants and its diversity, and it is the belief that every citizen has an opportunity to succeed.  Yes America; this America that I can critique and praise, this America where my parents and grandparents saved to ensure their children would have the opportunity to succeed; the opportunity to achieve and experience things that may have eluded them. 

America is its people.  It’s amalgamation is its openness and patriotism doesn’t come wrapped in a flag, it comes in the form of the right to dissent or to praise.  Whether you like Sean Penn or Clint Eastwood, Dixie Chicks or Ted Nugent, does not make you patriotic or unpatriotic.    Patriotism isn’t singing the national anthem at a ballgame or NASCAR race.  It’s in what the words mean to you.  People love to recite passages from The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution or claim to be constitutional scholars, but ask them what the intrinsic meaning of those words and you will likely get Palinesque word salad.  But what do those words mean to you?  “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” I see a nation built in equality and justice.  Not a caste system or exclusion.  My patriotism is to that ideal because that is what those words to me. What do those words mean to you? 

Demonstrating your 2nd amendment right doesn’t make you patriotic nor does demonstrating at the funeral of a fallen soldier.  Hating those that are different is not patriotism and neither is saying things like “We should bomb them back to the stone age.  My devotion to this country is in taking the long view of America.  How can you claim to be devoted to America and have no concern about the environment? The air you breathe, the water you drink, the ground you till?

If you believe patriotism is doing what’s best for the country, and making America a nation of moral strength, not military strength, moral strength, after all aren’t we only as strong as our weakest link?  Patriotism is not about hating or punishing those that we detest or fear.  I reject the symbols and embrace the actions.  Some will damn me for not getting upset over flag burning because the flag is a symbol and the 1st Amendment is still the first amendment.; the America I am devoted to is mightier than any symbol.

So I reject the politicization of patriotism.  I will salute the flag, sing the National anthem, cheer for our athletes (well most of them anyway), mock senators who make a big deal about where our athletes’ opening ceremony outfits were made, oppose those that seek to exclude, and I will continue to praise and critique because that’s what you do when you are devoted to someone.