Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Obama and Patriotism

Once I heard someone say that the truly great democratic leader is one who dreams a great dream for us. As one whose first presidential vote was for Jack Kennedy, and whose last presidential vote maybe for Barack Obama, I have been gratified, at times stunned, by Obama’s eloquence. Is he a perfect vessel for social justice? Was Lincoln?

One of the incidents involving Lincoln's nomination in 1860 was his message to his supporters at the Republican convention that they not trade promises for convention votes and that he would not be bound by their promises. They ignored his message. After he was nominated and elected, he somehow kept every deal they had made. He was a lawyer for the railroads who was an authentic populist, who mocked those who believed the property rights were equal to human rights.

As Obama does a gandy dance* around some of the difficult issues that have been used by the right to push back the clock, not beyond the two Roosevelts, but beyond Lincoln, we might just cut him some slack. A littler obfuscation on gun control, for example, may be painful to some of us, but it might be appropriate, although the NRA, apparently, hasn't been fooled. A little distancing from Wes Clark’s blunt, but accurate, assessment of John McCain's service career, isn't the same as drinking cool aid.

Ironically, during the 1960 campaign, my eldest brother, an Air Force officer, complained about Kennedy's war record. "The only thing he did is get his PT Boat run over by a Jap destroyer." **

This is not the first time in this campaign that Obama has shown amazing insight and grace with his analysis of a complex problem. His first speech on race, when he tried to explain Rev. Wright's anger is, and will be, a classic. Rev. Wright repaid him by a self-absorbed display of petulance that nearly destroyed Obama's campaign.

I expect that some of the response to Obama’s message on patriotism will reflect the same destructive anger that marks Rev. Wright and so much of the Vietnam protest. Those protestors who burned the American flag may have actually prolonged the war and insured the birth of the Nixon-Reagan-Bush era.

Obama chooses not to burn the flag, but to wave it. God bless America, the beautiful.

*Gandy dancer refers to the footwork of railroad workers placing and resetting ties on the rail road.

See http:/www.johnklotz.com/billy.htm for more about my family and WWII.