Patriotism Is About More Than Self-Sacrifice-- It's Ribbon Magnets, American Flag Bumper Stickers, and Insulting People Who Actually Do Give of Themselves

This is kind of old news, I suppose, and many of you are probably already familiar with it, but I figured I'd mention it anyway.

Last Sunday, the Washington Post ran this opinion piece by Mary-Jo Cooney, whose son is being deployed to Iraq this month. Cooney reminds us that the real cost of the war isn't measured in dollars or barrels of oil, but in the lives of those being put in harm's way by the decider-in-chief. She writes of her love for her son, and of his childhood, and concludes with a series of questions:

"Can I expect my son to return unchanged by this experience? If the media reports are any indication, that is doubtful. Will his mind be seriously disturbed by what he sees, or will his body bear wounds that will not heal? Will we, as a nation, do all that we can, as Abraham Lincoln put it, " to care for him who shall hath borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan"?

"Or will we continue to make veterans prove that they are entitled to compensation for the injuries they have suffered since we cannot make them whole?

"Will it take a universal draft for President Bush and the rest of the country to understand the price that this war is exacting?"

These are important questions, and only a monumental nitwit would take offense at someone like Mary-Jo Cooney-- someone who thinks war is something ghastly and dreadful and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Luckily, we've got The National Review Online for regular doses of monumental nitwittery. Michael Ledeen has written a response to Cooney's article which basically argues, if I understand him correctly, that the worried and anxious mothers of our troops are a bunch of whiners who need to just shut the fuck up already. He also inaccurately and inarticulately references the story of Narcissus, for no discernable reason (except, perhaps, to illustrate what I've suspected for a long time-- people who write for The National Review lack the required intellect and self-reflection to actually recognize real narcissism).

Chris Kelly's written a lovely rebuttal to Ledeen's rebuttal, wherein he points out yet another funadmental difference between right-wingers and left-wingers when it come to supporting the troops. People on the right talk a good game about patriotism-- they decorate their homes and their cars with American flags and ribbons and they buy Toby Keith albums and they say things like "freedom isn't free." But when a left-winger tries to move past such empty-headed abstractions and tries to discuss exactly what we mean when we say "freedom" (in this case, it's synonymous with "unprovoked war of aggression") and what the actually price of that "freedom" is (for example, a woman potentially losing the 23-year-old son she's raised and loved since he was small enough to try to wait up for Santa), they're shouted down. They're told that caring about people and principles makes them "narcisistic." They're told that uttering their pain aloud and talking about what they've sacrificed makes them bad Americans.

I'm sorry?

That is the exact opposite of patriotism. Attacking the families of our troops for daring to feel pain at the loss (or potential loss) of their loved ones illustrates the callous, shallow nature of this president and his supporters. If you're the type of person who has called Cindy Sheehan a "media whore," or who can say that he still supports George W. Bush even as Bush himself refuses to provide Pat Tillman's family the details about his death and the ensuing cover-up, well, I'm sorry. I don't care how many flags you put on your car-- you're the one who hates the troops.

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