"We can usher in a new form of patriotism that places solving problems above the same petty Inside-the-Beltway games that have steered our country so far off course," said Madia, who is 30 years old."
Ashwin Madia, quoted in The Hill's Blog Briefing Room, April 13, 2008
Ashwin Madia was profiled on MTV the other day. Chris Truscott put the link up without substantive comment; Joe Bodell posted on it noting an as-yet unfamiliar description of Ashwin's joining the Marines. With the traditional July 4 talk of patriotism--much of it, frankly, mindless--perhaps a fresh listen to Ashwin Madia on this subject, transcribed from the MTV interview, might be in order:
Our message has been about redefining patriotism in our country. You know we've gotten a definition of patriotism over the past several years that basically says you put a bumper sticker on your car, you bang your chest, you say you support the troops and that makes you a patriot. I don't think so—I think that makes you a cheerleader. I think real patriots sometimes sacrifice a little bit for the country that they love. Maybe recycling can be patriotic, maybe giving these tax rebate checks can be patriotic, maybe changing the way we do energy in this country…maybe investing in mass transit…
So, rather than taking President Bush to task for misdirecting the nation's patriotic impulse, Madia ridicules a jingoistic redneck made of straw. As an alternative to my habitual chest-banging and bumper-sticking, what activities does Madia propose, as pursuits worthily designated redefining patriotism? Tossing my empty Diet Coke can in the recycling bin? Donating my tax rebate check...to whom? Weaning our country from the Saudi teat makes sense, but that is a self-interested goal, no?
Don't get me wrong, Ashbots: I'm attracted to the redefining patriotism meme and think you're on the right track. But your rhetoric on this subject remains a bit muddled, no? Can you retool it?
On the weekend of the Fourth, Erik Paulsen [er...'The Paulsens'] also put forward a 'patriotism' statement:
Today we celebrate our independence. Over the years, that precious freedom has come with a great price. Today, we must thank our men and women in uniform, as they are the ones who put their lives on the line so that all Americans are allowed to live free.
Is it genuinely your view, Erik Paulsen, that US troops in Iraq are putting their lives on the line in defense of America's independence? What about American troops fighting or stationed (currently or in the past) in Grenada, Japan, Vietnam or Kosovo? Isn't it a bit of a stretch to suggest America's independence hinged on the outcome of their service?
Can't we think of something to say about patriotism which doesn't make phony distinctions, and coheres?