« Downing Street Memo Hearings Scheduled For June 16, 2005 | Main | Video Round Up »

Monday, June 13, 2005

On Patriotism, Blogging, and New York

Lately I have been thinking about what it means to be a patriot.  At Bring it on! our logo is a quote by President Theodore Roosevelt

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
  --  Theodore Roosevelt

At Bring it on! we are disparate individuals brought together by a common goal.  We believe that it is patriotic to talk about things that we perceive to be wrong in the country that we all love, The United States of America.  Yes, we criticize the president, his cabinet and supporters.  We try to engage people in debates.  Many times we get comments telling us that we're not patriots, move to France, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Jerrold Nadler is my Congressman, and I'm damn proud that he protested last Friday at The Patriot Act Hearing.

We are not besmirching the honor of the United States, we are trying to uphold it

That's patriotism in action to me.  Being an elected official, and speaking out on difficult issues is a congress person's right and duty.  In my family we were taught that voting is just the beginning of a citizen's responsibilities; we have to talk and act when we perceive wrongs.

I was brought up to believe that I had to answer to the highest authority, my own conscience. I've never been confused for a saint, but I have never been confused about my values.  They're good.

Before I began blogging seven months ago, I had no idea that expressing ideas could be conceived as being unpatriotic, and wrong. 

I wrote a post in my personal blog about how I'm not a linear thinker.  Innocuous, I thought, wrongly.  One of the comments I received asked how far to the left I was, and what were my mental problems.  This person has a theory that non-linear thinking, and certain mental conditions are hallmarks of the Far Left.  Dare I state the obvious?  That question was just plain rude.

Blew me away as I'm not very far to the left at all; and I'm a garden variety neurotic who is a bit more willing to talk about myself than other people might be.  From then on  almost everything I wrote was analyzed in depth for signs of far left behavior, odd thoughts, whining, and mental instability. 

Hey I'm a New Yorker.  Others speak; we whine; we argue; we scream on top of each other, but at the end of the day we go out for a drink together.  I wasn't used to actually being disliked for having thoughts that others might not share.

I was stunned by the implications that believing in free speech, not blaming Muslims for every problem, and supporting the ACLU could be construed as being a far leftist, emotionally unstable, and of course, not patriotic.

Amy Guttman, President, University of Pennsylvania had this to say in a Commencement Address at Wesleyan University:

Mutual respect is the lifeblood of democracy. ... The signs of disrespect are all around us. In the ferocious assault on the judiciary. In the shrill debate over Terri Schiavo. And worst of all, in the hateful ad hominem attacks that issue daily from the radio and TV talk shows. We are living in a smash-mouth culture in which extremists dominate public debate to the point of hijacking it. You cannot have a reasoned discussion about abortion when one side is slandered as "baby-killers" and the other side is smeared as "religious wing nuts.

Each time I try to talk about abortion, I'm accused of "liking" abortion.  No reasonable person "likes" abortion.  To most people who are pro-choice it's a very difficult and thought out decision. I have Bible Scriptures flung in my face.  I'm not Christian, and while I respect a person's right to live his life according to Scriptures, I'm not accorded the same respect. 

I have been called a moral relativist because I can't quote just one source that supports my views.  Apparently reading many sources, being educated at the Grad School level, and a lifetime of civilized dinner discussions means less than being able to point to one book or preacher, and say "this is where my views come from." I have read threads where people laugh at the idea of a moral relativist thinking she has the right to express her own views.

I once made a comment at a site I wasn't familiar with.  They took out the comment that I was answering so that I could look stupid.  That's neither playing fair, nor is it rational behavior.  They did have fun making fun of me.  I'm thick skinned, but I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't hurt after awhile, for a hot second.

We have a sidebar called Right Wing Nuts.  I'm neither going to defend the name nor attack it. But before we began it, almost time I tried to have a reasoned discussion, I was attacked.  My patriotism has been attacked, often, since I began blogging. We never take out or edit comments so that they are more to our liking.  It wouldn't be an accurate record, and it's cruel.

Guttman goes on:

It is hard to pursue a reasoned debate about the Iraqi war when opponents of the war are accused of treason and the president of the United States is compared to Hitler. Reach across the aisle, pursue collaborative solutions, or explore the shades of gray on any charged issue, and you are likely to be ignored or dismissed as indecisive. That's if you're lucky. More likely, you will endure crude and often malicious attacks on your intelligence, faith and patriotism. You may even face death threats.

I haven't faced death threats but I have faced everything else mentioned. John Kerry weighed every piece of information that was given to him.  He tried to understand all sides, and was accused of flip flopping.  I should have realized then, that in Bush's America exploring shades of gray is not only frowned on, but considered unpatriotic.

What makes a person a patriot?  Supporting the president blindly seems to go over these days as does supporting a war that most people really don't understand.  Yes I support the service people, and I'm becoming tired of having to say that each time I say something about Iraq. But if I don't put that in, I get comments saying that I don't support them.

This past Saturday, almost four years after the attacks on The World Trade Center, there was a funeral for one of the 343 fireman, Keithroy Maynard, killed on 9/11.  For almost four years his family clung hoped that they would have more remains to bury.  I can't imagine that much anguish..  I hope that they are comforted in some small way by the knowledge that he was a patriot. 

Several weeks ago I saw an ambulance with a dedication.  Usually they honor the memory of an individual.  This was different.

This is dedicated to every person who responded on September 11, 2001

It made me cry.  Most things relating to that day still do.  I couldn't get it out of my head; it wasn't just honoring the people who died.  It was honoring every person who helped.  Yes the fire and police people who died were true heroes and patriots.  As was every person in both towers.  My personal hero/patriot was the man who wouldn't leave his disabled office mate behind.  He knew that he could have lived but he chose to stay so that another person wouldn't be alone when he died.

I don't know a person who lives in and/or works in New York City who didn't try to help that day, and after.  Skin color, ethnicity, religion, none of that mattered.  We had survived the unthinkable and we were determined to get on with our lives and rebuild downtown.

I consider every person who lives in and/or works in New York City to be a true patriot.  We didn't run the hell out of New York.  Most of us stayed.  In staying we could say screw you to the terrorists by our actions,  not our words.  We don't need to wave a flag to show that we are patriots. 

I stayed up all night that night, and looked at all the other lights that were on.  I wondered how many people were waiting for somebody to come home.  In the clear blue sky of the next day we sat in outdoor cafes as our help wasn't needed then and talked about what we would do. 

Nobody I know seriously considered leaving.  We gave blood.  Every grocery and drug store had a list of supplies that were needed.  We bought them.  We tried to help in every possible way.

For a brief moment in time there was a saying: we are all New Yorkers.  We finally felt that we were accepted as real Americans.  Why had we ever felt that we weren't real Americans just because we were born, bred and chose to stay in New York?  Why do we care? 

When I began blogging I was to find out that the attacks might have happened in New York and to New Yorkers, but to many people on the Right , we who live in New York don't have the proper moral values.  9/11 wasn't  just a horrible terrorist attack by Bin Laden, but an excuse to hate and fight all Muslims.  Apparently we in New York didn't buy into that, and thus according to many Conservative bloggers we became an alien species.  We're not God fearing, or we fear the wrong God, or we read the wrong Bible.  It's very confusing.

In the months following 9/11, I wanted war more than I ever wanted anything in my life.  I wanted revenge.  But when the war finally came, it wasn't about 9/11.  The Downing Street Memo shows that.  I have included a link, and The Bastard put in a special Sunday post about thememo and all the actions being taken including a rally in Washington on June 16.

I will continue to fight against this war, the small minded bigotry I have encountered, and much else.  I respect other people's views; I would like the same courtesy.  But because I see in shades of gray rather than in black and white, I do endure crude and often malicious attacks on my intelligence, faith and patriotism.

Fifteen months after 9/11, I went to a wedding.  The chuppah (wedding canopy) was an American flag.  This was the flag that the bride's great grandparents hung outside their home during World War Two.  They took it down, after the war, when their son came home. The bride had escaped from the North Tower on 9/11.  Her parents hung it while they were in limbo, and didn't know if she was alive or dead.  They kept it out until the wedding.  That's a flag worth waving.

Don't analyze every word that I say and look for signs of mental instability, or extreme left wing radical behavior.  I happen to despise people who resort to violence, but that's never stopped many right wing bloggers from accusing me of wanting violent actions.

If I had to put a label to my politics, I would say that I'm a Howard Dean Democrat. If you want a meaningful dialog, I would be happy to participate.  But I'm not going to play nicely with people who see me as a stereotype.  I'm no longer going to waste hours of my time trying to rationally answer an irrational comment.

And don't ever say that I'm not patriotic because I disagree with your stance.  Cowards and idiots say things like that, and I have neither the time nor the patience for them.

I'm a divorced, non-Christian, non-God fearing, female New Yorker, and a patriotic American.  Have any problems with that?

An aside: I love blogging and have made many great friends.  Including a few conservatives.  Think blogging's the biggest innovation in communication since, why, the Internet.  It's transformed my world view.  I actually have friends who live in red states.

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:00 AM in Weblogs | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On Patriotism, Blogging, and New York:


Both sides have thier mean people, wackos, and morons.

Your side tends to have the unpatriotic type. Mine tends to have the "fundamentalist" type.

That explains why we both get tagged as such. Because the unpatriotic tend to have liberal views, liberals are called unpatriotic by the unthinking. Also, because the "fundamentalist" tend to have conservative views, conservatives are called fundamentalists by the unthinking.

There simply are too few of the thinking to go around.

Anti-Bush is not anti-America. However, all of the anti-America crowd is anti-Bush. It's like I tell my son, "All the girls in bars aren't bad, but all the bad girls are in bars." Since it is so hard to tell, with little information, which girls are bad, just stay out of bars.

That said, I knew you were a good girl from the start.

At least in this context...

Posted by: Hammertime | Jun 13, 2005 12:44:09 AM

I can totally identify with you here. You were able to accurately put into words what I, too, have expressed from a few narrow-minded individuals on the right. Thank-you for speaking up and be sure to realize that for every outspoken, tunnel-visioned right winger who makes disparaging comments that there are just as many, if not more, of us who agree and appreciate your contribution to political discourse via the blogosphere; Democrats and even some Republicans included ;)

Posted by: Stevw | Jun 13, 2005 1:04:25 AM

Pia, anyone who's been reading you awhile knows your love of country, city and neighbor goes to the bone, I don't know if there is a definition of patriotism other than the ability to disagree with and love your countryfolk. Although I admit there are two other definitions proposed on my site ;)

Hammertime, I wish my father had given me the advice you gave your son. I've been looking for them for 20 years.

Posted by: Doug | Jun 13, 2005 2:54:11 AM

Sorry, Hammertime, I have to respectfully disagree. All anti-America people are anti-Bush? A lot of rightwingers have spoken out against the Patriot Act (Bob Barr and Larry Craig, that I can think of offhand) and they still faithfully vote Republican (God knows why).

Pia, great post. This whole notion that someone is unpatriotic or anti-American because they disagree with the current administration? It's a total gimmick. It's not even worth dignifying with a response (so why am I?). If there was a grain of truth to any of that, then during Clinton's presidency the Republicans were the most America-hating unpatriotic rabble-rousers in our nation's history.

Ever since 9/11, people who live nowhere near New York, and wouldn't know a military uniform if it bit 'em on the ass, have been the most rabid hawks and xenophobes. This is absurd. I don't understand why every columnist and journalist in America hasn't held these people up to the spotlight and ridiculed them.

I didn't respond to the Friday guest post saying that we need to be more civil and open-minded towards the Right instead of slamming them. (She did have some valid points.) Yes, the moderates of each party should reach out to each other. But, the anti-abortion, save-Terri-Schiavo, pro-Iraqi-war Dominionists: what, I'm gonna sit down across the table from them with a fake smile and say "Hi. Let's talk. We have common ground." No F#$%*& Way! These are the people who hijacked our government; yanked our country right out from under us. I don't want to make friends with them; I want them trounced and stomped in the next election.

OK, I'm through ranting. Again, great post.

Posted by: Tom Harper | Jun 13, 2005 4:15:27 AM


I agree with these statements on patriotism (below). The definition (on dictionary.com) of patriotism has a link to "nationaism". Albert Einstein says nationalism is "an infantile disease". I looked up the quote and essay for definitions for my year 9 and 10 social studies class. Patriotism and nationalism come up a lot in our unit on nazi germany.



Posted by: John | Jun 13, 2005 5:43:41 AM

Pia, thanks for showcasing the methods of Anti-Americanism. Denouncing and labeling seems to be a staple of the antagonist right, and it lessens the discussion. Ideas are off the table when the namecalling flies. Chances for knowledge are abandoned when the talking is down to, "You're a ____! Am not! Are too!" Sandbox politics are getting us nowhere. Great post!

Posted by: Jet | Jun 13, 2005 7:18:36 AM

Thanks Jet
jet wrote a great post on God dem yesterday where she mentioned one of my all time idols, Barbara Jordan. In her memory and in her spirit, I dedicate my post.

I found your comment to be so interesting, though I disagree with much, that I moved most of it to the sidebar where it will be its own post, and can be commented to there.

Posted by: pia | Jun 13, 2005 7:54:41 AM

When did the support of the PATRIOT ACT become a measuring stick for patriotism?

The Anti-America crowd is anti-Bush. The converse often isn't true, but it causes some confusion among the weak-minded.

Posted by: Hammertime | Jun 13, 2005 11:10:02 AM

The anti-America crowd is anti whoever is in power. Clinton whom the conservatives consider our hero was under attack from the Anti-American crowd from time to time too...

Posted by: sally | Jun 13, 2005 12:30:21 PM

Great post, Pia. It gave me chills.

Posted by: mulligan | Jun 13, 2005 1:47:28 PM

The best of us are right-brained, left-thinking, I'm convinced.. ;-)

You have friends in red states? Wow. But I guess being a foreigner who hasn't travelled the US much, I haven't had the chance for that. I can't think of a single person I know who voted Bush. Unless they wouldn't admit it to me, such a blatant liberal..

Posted by: Chandira | Jun 13, 2005 6:06:42 PM

Hammer, that's a hell of a tautology you're spinning there. Anyone who is genuinely anti-American is anti-Bush by definition, no? What you seem to be trying to shoehorn into it, though, is that liberals are anti-American, and if that's what you believe, I'm afraid you're badly misinformed. "Patriotism" has almost ceased to have meaning in this environment.

Pia, excellent post. Heartfelt.

Posted by: Brother Kenya | Jun 13, 2005 7:37:05 PM

Thanks Brother Kenya, Chandira, Sally, Mulligan

The anti-American/anti-Bush thing confuses me

There are anti-Bush people who are anti-American, but maybe this oversimplifying things--if people are anti-American, I don't care who they hate as they hate us all by definition.

If Hammertime means individuals who hate the American government then yes I would assume that they would hate Bush

Liberals such as me are not anti-American, but are yes very anti-Bush.

have the radio on, just heard that half the people polled on a new Gallup poll believe that all the troops should come home now. Does that mean that half the people in America (give or take the poll margin of error)are anti-American or anti-Bush. Not at all, but it's the same kind of tautology.

Posted by: pia | Jun 13, 2005 8:07:18 PM


do you think the downing street memos and the other UK memos that have been leaked recently will have any impact on this administration?

Posted by: lefty | Jun 13, 2005 8:31:20 PM

Thanks--and I certainly hope so, though they're in deep denial

Posted by: pia | Jun 13, 2005 8:33:33 PM

I am so glad to find people who feel the same way. I was born in NY and work there every day. 9/11 is something that thinking of makes you sad and proud at the same time.

Thanks for putting your thought on the web.

Posted by: TheMadAdmin | Jun 13, 2005 10:55:05 PM


I'm neither on the Left or Right -- those "sides" have never made sense to me and adopting any label (even in my own mind) tends to dull my ability to step back and look at issues without bias. As an example, I'm against you on the war and totally with you on Abortion.

All that aside, I enjoyed your post. You state your position and feelings elequently.

Posted by: Whymrhymer | Jun 15, 2005 10:51:55 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.