Posted by: Paul | 07/06/2009

Why We Wave the Flag

“Helen Ingallis marched through the Palisades section of Washington, waving an American flag for the first time in her 55 years.”

OK. I’ll admit this first line from a front-page article in the July 5 Washington Post made me a little curious. What could have inspired this change of heart?

You can probably guess. Two words: President Obama.

According to the Post, “Until yesterday, Ingallis had never wanted to wave an American flag. She felt that the country was too aggressive in its foreign policy, that its leaders were irrational and self-serving.”

But it’s all better now. “I feel like there is finally hope,” said Ingallis.

Three quick points. First off, does this mean that she drew no hope from Clinton and Carter? Surely the “man from Hope” did something she approved. The token responses to the terrorist attacks in the 1990s — Khobar Towers, the USS Cole — were marvelously non-aggressive. And the way Carter tried to politely negotiate 52 American hostages out of Iran (when he wasn’t launching impotent rescue efforts, I mean)? Textbook pacificism.

Second, and more importantly, is the fact that notable portions of President Obama’s foreign policy is not that strikingly different from his predecessor’s. On a range of issues, from Iraq and Afghanistan to homeland security, Obama speaks as if his actions represent a 180-degree change of course from the Bush administration. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case. Consider how he handled the case of the 17 Chinese Uighurs caught fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11. After some pointless dithering, officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay.

Third, there seems to be an implicit belief here that one’s level of patriotism should rise and fall depending on who’s president. I disagree. When I wave an American flag, I’m expressing my love of my country — not necessarily of my president. Whether the United States is being led at any given moment by a wise and capable individual is, for me, a separate issue.

It’s best to embrace our wonderful country, with all of its flaws, every day. On our worst days, we’re still more fortunate, and more blessed, than millions of other people around the world — many of whom would gladly change places with us. We forget that at our peril.

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