By LINDA CHAVEZ
February 23, 2008 -- "MICHELLE Obama struck a raw nerve earlier this week when she suggested she had never been proud of her country until now. "For the first time in my adult lifetime," the 44-year-old wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama told a Milwaukee crowd, "I'm really proud of my country."
Conservative pundits and bloggers were quick to criticize her. Even Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, let it be known that she's never had any problem being proud of her country.
Most liberals, on the other hand, were willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. Of course, she's proud of America, they insisted. It's just that she's especially proud now because, as an Obama campaign spokeswoman explained, for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who've never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grass-roots movement for change.
The flap might seem trivial, but it speaks to a much larger division between liberals and conservatives over the meaning of patriotism. Obama may consider herself a patriot but her comments suggest that she sees the role of the patriot as critic: America needs perfecting, and until it conforms to her ideal, she won't be proud of it.
It's a view her husband, Barack Obama, seems to share. Last fall, Sen. Obama stirred a similar controversy when he talked about his decision to quit wearing a flag lapel pin that he, like many members of Congress and others, had worn since 9/11. He said that the pins had become "a substitute for true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security."
It's as if both Obamas are suggesting that America is lacking, unless a President Obama can change it. It's a theme that seems to resonate with liberals: America could be a great nation, if only liberals were in charge.
But most Americans already think their country is great, no matter who occupies the White House. Patriotism isn't about loving your country when your party is in power. It isn't about liking its political leaders or even agreeing with all the nation's policies.
No matter how much we may have disliked Bill Clinton, conservatives didn't feel ashamed of our country or think it is any less great and noble a nation when he was in office.
Patriotism is a lot like the unconditional love of a parent for a child. A parent doesn't demand a child be perfect in order to love him. Nor does that love mean that a parent does not recognize a child's faults.
Conservatives seem to understand this almost intuitively, but liberals seem to struggle with it. Liberals' patriotism often seems grudging - as if they believe it's the country's duty to win their love rather than their duty to love their country.
Our elected officials don't make America great, nor do temporal policies. America is great because of its people, its defining institutions and its freedoms. You'd think a woman hoping to be the country's next first lady could take pride in that."
Well said, Linda. Don't let these socialists confuse you though. To them, America itself is nothing worth writing home about unless it strives to become something akin to the worker's-paradise of the old Soviet Union, or even better, present day Cuba. True patriots WOULD proudly wear the flag and understand that honoring it means honoring the men and women who have given their all to create what has become the greatest nation that ever graced the planet. Liberals merely see America as something ELSE to bitch about.