Time Op-Ed: Wright More Patriotic Than Bush, Cheney, Clinton

April 30th, 2008 12:44 PM

Since Time now sends out its issue on Fridays, perhaps they regret the decision to hand over a page to leftist professor Michael Eric Dyson to proclaim that Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a "war-tested patriot," unlike draft dodgers like Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton. "War-tested" is an odd word, since Wright served stateside, but "patriotism" is even weirder for a man who has alleged that America is a terrorist nation who deserved 9/11. Dyson, used to arguing for bigger thugs than Wright (gangsta-rapper Tupac Shakur) and inveighing against insufficiently radical blacks (Bill Cosby), effortlessly if ridiculously pitched Wright as the uber-patriot, more patriotic than George Bush, Bill Clinton, or Dick Cheney:

Even the angry comments of Jeremiah Wright have to be read as the bitter complaint of a spurned lover. Like millions of other blacks, Wright was willing to serve the country while suffering rejection.

He surrendered his student deferment in 1961, voluntarily joined the Marines and, after a two-year stint, volunteered to become a Navy corpsman. He excelled and became valedictorian, later a cardiopulmonary technician and eventually a member of the President's medical team. Wright cared for Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery, earning three White House letters of commendation.

Dick Cheney, born in the same year as Wright, received five deferments – four while an undergraduate or graduate student and one as a prospective father. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used their student deferments to remain in college until 1968. Clinton did not serve, and Bush was on active duty in the National Guard for two years. If time in uniform is any measure, Wright, much more than Cheney, Clinton or Bush, embodies Obama's ideal of "Americans [who] have shown their love of country by struggling and sacrificing and risking their lives to bring us that much closer to our founding promise."

Wright's critics have confused nationalism with patriotism. Nationalism is the uncritical support of one's country regardless of its moral or political bearing. Patriotism is the affirmation of one's country in light of its best values, including the attempt to correct it when it's in error. Wright's words are the tough love of a war-tested patriot speaking his mind – one of the great virtues of our democracy. The most patriotic thing his nation can do now is extend to him the same right for which he was willing to die.

But it is Dyson who is confusing nationalism and patriotism. Wright’s bitter bile against America can in no dictionary be defined as "patriotism." It can be easily defined as radical black nationalism. Wright is not "correcting" America’s "errors" when he charges the government with inventing AIDS, he is spreading vicious myths. Why Time magazine would seek out radical-left defenders of mythology rather than stare at the hard facts about Wright is the real issue.

The headline was "The Color of Loyalty: Black leaders are often labeled unpatriotic. But African Americans have long shown their love of country by pointing out its imperfections." The pull quote? "Blacks offer an exacting devotion that carries on a lover's quarrel with America while they shed blood in its defense."

Dyson clearly implied at the article's beginning that black patriotism is much better than the mentally impaired white patriotism: "Mainstream America has shown little understanding lately of the patriotism a lot of black people practice. Black love of country is often far more robust and complicated than the lapel-pin nationalism some citizens swear by." Barack Obama's the true patriot, his critics are guilty of "blind boosterism."