What's All This Then?

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Monday, July 07, 2008

It was many years ago when I first ran across a copy of the Chicago Tribune. I had just arrived in Chicago from England by way if New York and read it on the train coming in. The paper had a definite conservative bias - and since there were several dailies available in those day, I settled on one that seemed to have less of a political agenda for my morning read. As I said, the was many years ago. Today, the number of major daily papers available is down to two and today I’m a regular reader of a far less conservative Chicago Tribune . I call it far less conservative but some call it downright liberal.

A couple of weeks ago, the Trib ran a special piece on "Obama’s Chicago" - talking about the parts of the city where he has lived, where he’s worked, where he went to church, where he likes to eat, where he works out and plays tennis and so on. Boy, did that bring a rash of protests. It was as though the Tribune had endorsed Obama for president. How could the Tribune devote that much space to a puff piece on Barack Obama they wanted to know? Where’s the McCain balance? I didn’t pay too much attention to the piece but it certainly didn’t strike me that way. To me, the rationale for such a piece was obvious. Obama may be the next president of the United States - and though he wasn’t born here, he’s been a Chicagoan for years - and if wins the election , he’ll be the first President from the city of Chicago. It didn’t seem to me that the Tribune was leaning left with this kind of story - just that it was giving appropriate coverage to a home grown presidential candidate. If McCain was from here, it would have been "McCain’s Chicago!!"

A similar storm of protests was set off by a recent editorial suggesting that perhaps we should repeal the 2nd Amendment. One letter writer wanted to know what would be suggested next - repeal the first amendment? That was someone who probably didn’t bother to read the editorial - just the headline. But if you read it, it makes sense - just as an op-ed piece in yesterday’s paper suggesting that it might be time to retire the pledge of allegiance will also bring a storm of protests from people who won’t bother to read that piece either.

There’s nothing sacred about the pledge of allegiance. It began as a commercial venture and it isn’t part of any law and, though it will come as a surprise to some people , no reference to any kind of pledge of allegiance can be found in the constitution - as opposed to the Declaration of Independence which ends with the oft forgotten words " we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." To me, those words are a true pledge of allegiance - a pledge by our founding fathers to "each other." Something that is sorely lacking among those who believe that the United States should function as a laissez faire society.

The pledge of allegiance should be easy to get rid of. All that’s needed is a movement to stop reciting it where it can be stopped - at official, non governmental events - in schools - wherever it has been tradition to mouth this phony exhibition of patriotism. I put the pledge in the same category of wearing flag pins. Neither has anything to do with patriotism - nor does the placing of one’s hand over one’s heart while reciting the pledge make you any more patriotic than someone who doesn’t. As I said the other day, I was saddened by Barack Obama’s perceived need to give speeches about patriotism in order to pander those people who have some distorted view of the importance of patriotism in a free society and what patriotism means and what place it has in election campaigns.

I know of no other society in the industrial world that bothers with the kinds of things that take on such importance at election time in the United States. Abortion. Religious belief. Gun ownership. Sexuality. Patriotism. And I don’t think there’s any western type of society where you will hear the belief expressed over and over again that theirs is "the greatest country on earth." Other than ours of course. I don’t know whether that’s because we have some sort of inferiority complex that we feel compelled to dispel with such expressions of braggadocio - or whether we’re too young a country to know, with confidence, that we are indeed great and worthy of quiet, unassuming, unvoiced patriotic loyalty. Or maybe we’ve been conned into believing that we have to display gimmicks and mouth inanities about how patriotic we are for fear that we will be looked upon as something other than "true" Americans.

I congratulate the Chicago Tribune for its editorial on the second amendment to the constitution, without which we would likely be a less argumentative and perhaps less violent society - and for publishing an op-ed discussion of the pledge of allegiance, without which we might find ways to better understand and express our patriotism. Without the wearing of pins, the waving of flags and the mouthing of inanities.