Patriotism is cool again. Some would say patriotism, defined as "love of one's country," never goes out of style. But to the Left, it's clearly not an unconditional love. Narcissistic liberals demand a country in their own image.
Still, it's good to see so many of the nation's cultural and entertainment elite waving the flag. Hollywood producer and People for the American Way founder Norman Lear is a perfect example. Lear is so moved by the spirit of patriotism these days that he created a campaign focused on being a "Born Again American."
Unfortunately, liberals like Lear are so out of practice with patriotism that they seem to have adopted it as a surrogate spirituality, or confused it with a very un-American cult of personality.
Hope and Change
Michael Kazin, a Georgetown University history professor, argued in a Feb. 8 Washington Post article that it's President Barack Obama who has revived patriotism. "Barack Obama's rise to power, has, to many people's surprise, once again made patriotism a liberal faith." Kazin pointed out, "since liberals turned against the war in Vietnam 40 years go, they have struggled to prove that they love their country even while opposing most of the policies of its government" and they just now "have finally realized that they cannot lead America if America does not hold a privileged place in their hearts."
This revitalization has spurred Hollywood players to proclaim their pride in America.
A video in which celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and Eva Longoria Parker pledge to perform various actions to create "change" hit the Internet last month. Many were small actions like "smile more" or "laugh more" but Kutcher pledged to "always represent [his] country with pride, dignity, and honesty." Moore and Kutcher concluded the video by leading the other celebrities in a pledge "to be a servant to our president and all mankind, because together we can, together we are and together we will be the change that we seek."
Even citizens of far left Berkeley, Calif. used Obama's inauguration to reclaim their patriotism. A Jan 6. Boston Globe article noted, "At Berkeley, the university has, quite deliberately, chosen to host its first-ever large-scale observance of a presidential inauguration in a spot more closely identified with its radicalism. Reporter Sasha Issenberg elaborated:
At Sproul Plaza, site of the Free Speech Movement protests beginning in 1964 - now commemorated with a monument declaring ‘this soil and the air space above it should not be part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity's juristiction' - students will gather round giant television screens to take in the ritual.
The Revival of "Civic Religion"
Apparently, it took Obama's election to rouse Norman Lear's affection for his country. Lear is an unabashed Obama supporter. Records show Lear gave over $33,000 to Obama's campaign, as well as an additional $50,000 toward the inauguration.
A June 6, 2008 Los Angeles Times article reported, "[Hollywood's] elder statesman, Norman Lear, declared Obama's victory Tuesday night as ‘another giant step for mankind.' (Through his group, Declare Yourself, Lear has been busy signing up young voters who seem eager to turn out for the presumptive Democratic nominee.)"
Lear refused to tell New York Times reporters Brooks Barnes and Rebecca Cathcart which nominee he supported in the 2008 general election, but in their Aug. 13 article they noted, "Still, his choice seems clear. Prominently displayed in his office during an interview was a yarmulke decorated with a campaign sticker for Senator Obama."
Lear's latest campaign encourages "citizens to pledge themselves to be ‘their country's keeper' through higher levels of service and civic engagement." Tom Krattenmaker, a member of USA Today's board of contributors wrote in a Feb. 23 editorial that the "Born Again" campaign is "clearly what many of us have been trying in vain to say over the din of the polarized shouting matches of the era: That liberal/progressive Americans are not enemies of the state, but patriotic Americans with a love of country and a commitment to American ideals."
But Lear's campaign is more than that. Later in the article Krattenmaker wrote, "Lear and his Born Again American initiative point the way to an inclusive, unifying form of public faith that will serve the country better than the divide-and-conquer religiosity of the old evangelical politics, and the no-religion-allowed excesses of modern liberalism."
At last year's progressive Take Back America conference Lear spoke of a "civil religion." He told the audience
The phrase "civil religion" is not intended to encourage a form of national self-worship. Just the opposite. The nation wants to be subordinate to its ethical principles as presented in its founding documents - documents that guarantee freedom, due process, equal opportunity and equal justice under the law, ideals the founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to secure.
Yet, language used on the "Born Again American" site, in its theme song and by Lear, suggests the opposite.
Lear told Arianna Huffington, founder of the liberal Huffington Post, that Election Night 2008 was his "christening as a born again American."
Lear admits that the name itself, "Born Again American" is an attempt to take back the term "born again" from the Religious Right. He told U.S. News and World Report's Dan Gilgoff in a Feb. 10 interview that "the intention was to say, ‘wait a second. Nobody owns these feelings. And they belong here, too, for those of us who feel that way. But spread the wealth of feeling."
Lear also told Gilgoff that this project "is about, Hey wait a second, the best conversation going is what's it all about ultimately, what are we doing here?"
Aren't those questions that religions strive to answer?
The campaign's theme song, also titled "Born Again American" includes lyrics such as:
It's clear my country's soul is on the line
She's hungering for something that she lost along the way
The principle the framers called upon us to obey
That in this land
The people's will must have the upper hand
I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow
And faithful to that vow I have remained
I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now
And to her cause I have been re-ordained
Lear still insisted to Krattenmaker that this campaign "is not about national self-worship but about allegiance to the ethical principles upon which the nation was founded and a commitment to acting on those principles in pursuit of the common good."
One has to wonder if Lear has fully explained that to the 4.3 million people who watched the "Born Again" video. A quick look at the pledges some people have written on the campaign's site reveals absolute devotion to America and its leaders:
I pledge to make America a place where all are equal and all are respected. President Obama is our salvation and I pray that he is able help Americans recover this country as a global force in right for the world.
I pledge to offer prayers every day for our coun ry [sic] and the Obama family. If we wish to recapture the Ideals of our beloved Nation, if we can never again seeing tthe [sic] trampling of our Constition [sic], and if we re [sic] to be united as One America and not Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans, African Americans, or whatever else, we will truly become one People as our Founding Fathers intended and as President Obama envisions, I pledge my total support.
Karen Lee Kizer:
For the first time in many years I feel that our country is headed for good things. I became full of despair and was no longer proud to be an American. I am now ready to step up, make my voice heard, and become reborn as an American. May our God bless us all!"
Lisa Fabrizio touched on the dangers of taking patriotism too far in a Feb. 4 American Spectator piece in which she wrote that Lear's campaign "would make Hitler and the boys happy, suggesting as it does that citizenship should supersede divine worship." Krattenmaker mentioned Hitler in his brief criticism and also expounded the theological ramifications, "Worship of the state" is "a clear violation of the admonition against false gods emblazoned in the Ten Commandments."
Those caveats weren't enough to stop Krattenmaker from concluding, "let the conversions begin."
But if the past is any guide, the danger is remote. All that has to happen is for Obama to lose re-election, or the Democrats lose control of Congress, and Lear and Kutcher and the folks at Berkeley will find the dew has come off the American Beauty.