To win the future, conservatives need to give voters a positive image of a can-do America and a can-do Republican Party *UPDATED*

For the past four years, conservatives have been fighting a relentlessly rearguard, defensive action.  For those same four years, conservatives have lost every rearguard, defensive action that they’ve fought.  Or if they haven’t actually lost, the best that they’ve managed is a stalemate that stalls Progressivism, but doesn’t advance conservative values.  Even the stunning 2010 “shellacking” proved ineffective, as shellackings really only work if you take over Congress entirely, rather than just getting half of it.

Anger

Conservative also don’t seem to be faring too well in the culture wars.  To use abortion as just one example, in the 2012 election, conservatives lost the chance to take over Congress when Progressives successfully demonized two Republican Senate candidates who are pro-Life.  More than that, it seems as if, contrary to past trends showing that Americans are inclined to a pro-Life view, a recent poll gave a definitive victory to American support for abortion.

Ironically, right up until the 2012 election, many conservatives (myself included) thought that these tactics would work. We believed that a jobless recovery (a stock market that benefited from Obama’s crony capitalism, even as more and more people became unemployed), creeping inflation, flabby home sales, depreciating savings, rising medical costs, and all the other signs of a sick economy, would turn voters against Obama.

We also thought that proofs of corruption (Fast and Furious), incompetency (Benghazi), and crony capitalism (Solyndra), would turn voters against Obama.  They didn’t.

Sad

Sure we knew that Romney, although a good and intellectually brilliant man, was only a decent candidate, but we thought that, given all of Obama’s failures and dishonesty, Romney’s charisma deficit wouldn’t be a problem.  And had Romney been a Democrat, it really wouldn’t have been a problem.  He was a Republican, though, which meant that sterling character and brilliant economic chops were inadequate to fend off the extraordinarily vicious character assassination that the White House and the media launched against him.

We conservatives hadn’t counted on Americans buying such disgusting canards or ignoring ugly facts, but they did. Between the media running interference, general disinterest from voters more fascinated by Honey Boo Boo and Jersey Shores than by politics, and Americans’ probable fear of voting a black man out of the White House, conservatives got to watch Obama win again.

In the wake of Obama’s victory, conservatives in the media and in the blogosphere have responded by amping up their previous tactics.  Considering that Obama won’t be running again in 2016, spending all of our political capital and emotional energy attacking him doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.  Be that as it may, conservatives are Obama is still Target No. 1.  There certainly is a lot to get fired up about, most notably the way in which Obama seized upon Sandy Hook as an excuse to seize guns.  Nothing will come of it, of course, since there are too many Democrats who like guns too, but Obama has successfully framed the issue to be one of life- and child-loving Democrats squaring off against gun-crazed, child-murdering Republicans.

Rather than running about like headless chickens who are still trying to peck the President to death with details, we might do better focusing on very specific weaknesses and not letting those weaknesses vanish from the public eye.  To me, the most obvious are (a) the economy and (b) his handling of Benghazi.

Backstabbing

Not content with putting even more effort into tactics that have been proven failures, Republicans are adding something new:  finger-pointing and back-stabbing.  Stephen Sondheim’s “It’s Your Fault,” from Into The Woods, summarizes perfectly the spectacle that Republicans are now making of themselves:

Here’s the thing: Anger can only last so long and fire us up so much. After anger comes depression, which some say is anger turned inward, but I say depression is anger exhausted.

If even true believers like me are turned off and are tuning out because of this relentless negativity and internecine viciousness, can you imagine what’s going on with ordinary, rather disengaged voters?  On the one hand they have an ebullient, confident President who has proudly announced an “inclusive” agenda (never mind that it excludes the 49% of the country that didn’t vote for him) and, on the other hand, we have a dispirited, mean-spirited, flabby conservative movement.

Not only do people like winners, they dislike sore losers.  Worse, the media isn’t there to pick up the pieces for us as it did when Bush kept the White House for a second term.  Instead, it’s going to prey on our relentless negativity, magnify it, and throw it back at us — all while the American people shy away from the political party that smells like old roadkill.

Well, that was my own carping and finger-pointing.  It was a necessary premise to what comes next in this post — coming up with a strategy to re-position conservatives as a winning team.

It’s tempting to begin by trying, yet again, to define conservativism.  I’m not going to make the mistake, however, of sticking myself onto that tar baby.  Unlike the relentlessly lockstep Progressives, whose allegiance to the party line helps them win, conservatives are a diverse lot.  Some have had way too much schooling and some have had less than they would have liked.  Some are already wealthy and some hope to be wealthy.  Some live in urban areas, some in suburban enclaves, and some live on farms or in the back woods.  Some have roots reaching back centuries in America (black or white, Asian or Hispanic), while some are recent immigrants from every part of the globe.  Some are pro-Choice and some are pro-Life.  Most support the Second Amendment, but with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Patriotism

Indeed, when I think about it, there are only two things I can say with absolute certainty about American conservatives:  This first is that they truly love America.  It’s a pure love.  They believe that America is an exceptional place, not in spite of her founding principles, but because of them.  While they recognize that America has erred in the past, they also understand that she, unlike just about any other country in the world, has corrected herself, sometimes at the cost of much spilled American blood.

In this undiluted patriotism, conservatives differ from the Left, which loves America as a wife-beater loves his wife:  “I show my love for my wife by focusing only on her flaws and failings.  And because I really love her, I routinely beat the crap out of her to help her improve herself.”

The second thread binding conservatives is that they want smaller, cheaper Federal government.  They differ on how much smaller and how much cheaper, but they recognize two things about the government we have.  The first is that it’s breaking the bank, which may not worry Obama, but which is very worrisome for those who have the wits to see what happens to Western countries that go bankrupt.  Today’s news shows as Greece, which is becoming scarily primitive; yesterday’s news shows us post-WWI Germany, that responded to economic chaos by inviting genocidal socialists into the Reichstag.

The second thing conservatives recognize when they look at Obama’s inauguration announcement that he intends to keep spending taxpayer money to enlarge the federal government is that bigger government means less individual freedom.  Conservatives may disagree about the precise amount of individual freedom necessary for happiness, but they’re pretty sure that individuals aren’t happy when the state has too much control over their lives.

Knowing that patriotism and individual freedom are the ties that bind conservatives, shouldn’t we be embarking upon a campaign to appeal to them and, moreover, to show them that we conservatives are Happy Warriors, not whining, vicious losers?  It’s my rhetorical question, so I get to answer with a resounding YES.

Ronald Reagan - the Happy Warrior

Having answered my question to my satisfaction, the remaining question becomes what form should this Reagan-esque Happy Warrior initiative take?  Here’s a list of three things we can do:

1.  Write to your favorite radio hosts (Rush, Sean, Dennis, Hugh, Mark, etc.) and ask them to devote at least one hour a week to highlighting the good that is America.  Even better, have this pro-America hour reach out to minorities who share conservative values, but who have been scared into thinking that the Republicans are the party of White Supremacists and the KKK.  It’s useless to point out that this kind of racism was the Democrats’ stock in trade.  In the here and now, Republicans are stuck with that label and need to counter it.  What better way than to interview a Vietnamese woman who escaped the fall of Saigon, came to America with nothing, started a business, raised a family, and now can point to successful children and grandchildren, all of whom, after leaving college, went to work in the family’s thriving business.  Ditto for the Nicaraguan man who escaped the Death Squads, the East Asian family who fled their small village’s grinding poverty, and the black woman who broke free from the crime and degradation of America’s welfare-funded inner cities.

2.  Instead of carping about Progressives on Facebook or Twitter (which preaches to the choir without converting anyone else), keep posting American success stories that are premised on traditional American values:  hard work, honesty, self-reliance, etc.

3.  Leave comments on this blog (or write to me:  Bookwormroom *at* gmail.com), giving practical suggestions for revitalizing a positive conservativism that engages people.  I want concrete initiatives that ordinary conservatives can do on a daily basis, whether shopping, seeking out entertainment, socializing, working, blogging, etc., that will help to advance a positive, welcoming vision of conservativism that’s predicated on an abiding patriotism and a belief that federal government must become smaller and cheaper.

Everybody likes a winner.  We’re not winning right now, but it behooves us to start projecting a winning attitude.  Otherwise, we’re just going to be the crazy uncle in the attic who scares voters away.

UPDATE:  WIN!  (Hat tip: JKB and Newmark’s Door.)

Democrats: The party of the Flag, Mom, and Apple Pie

The Twentieth Century American paradigm for patriotism was our Flag, Mom, and Apple Pie.  Obama’s Democrats have now hit the trifecta.

We’ve got the flag:

We’ve got Mom:

And we’ve got pie, courtesy of Michelle Obama, speaking on April 8, 2008:

The truth is most Americans don’t want much. Folks don’t want the whole pie. Most Americans feel blessed to thrive a little bit….but that’s out of reach for them. The truth is, in order to get things like universal healthcare and a revamped education system then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more.

(Thanks to JKB for this wonderful observation about the explicit values of Obama’s Democrats.)

Is this the best half time show ever?

There’s a distinct possibility that this is the best half time show ever, combining heartfelt patriotism, pitch perfect music, and marching the likes of which most of us haven’t seen outside of a Busby Berkeley movie.  Even better — no wardrobe malfunctions.

(If the video doesn’t show, go here to watch it.)

“Simplistic” and “primitive” *UPDATED*

As I’ve mentioned just a few times, I just read, and was very moved by, Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A liberal I know flipped through the book’s first few pages and had a very different reaction.  The following passages bugged the liberal:

My name is Marcus.  Marcus Luttrell.  I’m a United States Navy SEAL, Team Leader, SDV Team 1, Alfa Platoon.  Like every other SEAL, I’m trained in weapons, demolition, and unarmed combat.  I’m a sniper, and I’m the platoon medic.  But most of all, I’m an American.  And when the bell sounds, I will come out fighting for my country and for my teammates.  If necessary, to the death.

And that’s not just because the SEALs trained me to do so; it’s because I’m willing to do so.  I’m a patriot, and I fight with the Lone Star of Texas on my right arm and another Texas flag over my heart.  For me, defeat is unthinkable.  (pp. 6-7)

[snip]

[As they're taking off from Bahrain to Afghanistan:] There were no other passengers on board, just the flight crew and, in the rear, us, headed out to do God’s work on behalf of the U.S. government and our commander in chief, President George W. Bush.  (p. 12.)

[snip]

[Of the Taliban/Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan:]  This was where bin Laden’s fighters found a home training base.  Let’s face it, al Qaeda means “the base,” and in return for the Saudi fanatic bin Laden’s money, the Taliban made it all possible.  right now these very same guys, the remnants of the Taliban and the last few tribal warriors of al Qaeda, were preparing to start over, trying to fight their way through the mountain passes, intent on setting up new training camps and military headquarters and, eventually, their own government in place of the democratically elected one.

They may not have been the precise same guys who planned 9/11.  But they were most certainly their descendants, their heirs, their followers.  They were part of the same crowd who knocked down the North and South Towers in the Big Apple on the infamous Tuesday morning in 2001.  And our coming task was to stop them, right there in those mountains, by whatever means necessary.  (pp. 13-14)

The liberal felt that the above passages showed that the writer was simplistic and primitive in his thinking.  The whole notion of simple patriotism offended the liberal, who also thought it was just plain stupid to seek revenge against guys who weren’t actually the ones who plotted 9/11.  My less than clever riposte was, “so I guess you would only kill Nazis who actually worked in the gas chambers?”  Frankly, given the differences in our world views, I’m not sure there is a clever comeback or, which would be more helpful, a comeback that actually causes the liberal to reexamine those liberal principles.

UPDATE:  Here’s an apt quotation, written by John Stuart Mill, in 1862, as a comment upon the American Civil War:

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

The “patriotism” they’re teaching our school children — or, let’s talk about shallow thinking

I was at my child’s school the other day, and happened to glance at the daily handout the children receive.  It had the usual special announcements and ended with “Today’s Patriotic Quotation.”  I was rather pleased to see that there was a patriotic quotation included (on a daily basis, yet).  Reading the quotation, though, just depressed me.  As far as I could tell, it had nothing whatsoever to do with patriotism.

Patriotism means support of or pride in ones country.  A patriotic quotation, therefore, would laud something distinctly American.  I’ve been happily awash in patriotic quotations lately, since I signed up for daily emails from The Patriot Post.  Every day, as part of the material this organization sends to me, I get a quotation from the Founders reminding me of America’s exceptionalism.  Here are just a few examples:

“Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” –Thomas Jefferson, letter to Wilson Nicholas, 1803

“No morn ever dawned more favorable than ours did; and no day was every more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm.” –George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1786

“The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.” –James Madison, Federalist No. 57

“I trust that the proposed Constitution afford a genuine specimen of representative government and republican government; and that it will answer, in an eminent degree, all the beneficial purposes of society.” –Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788

I admit that many of the Founder’s quotations are more intellectually sophisticated than the average 11 year old can comprehend, but there are other truly patriotic quotations floating around, highlighting the wonders of the American system and the fundamental goodness of the American people.  (And I would be delighted if you would send your favorite patriotic quotations to the comments section in my blog.)

The day I visited the school, though, the “Patriotic Quotation” had nothing whatsoever to do with America.  Instead, it was this, from Eleanor Roosevelt:

It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

Am I missing something when I read that, or am I correct that it is entirely unrelated to America?  Instead, it’s the standard pabulum of the Left, waffling on about the wonders of peace.

Believe it or not, despite the fact that I’m a conservative, I’m all for peace.  But peace is only worthwhile if it stands for something.  As my regular readers know, I’m extremely fond of quoting Tacitus, who spoke of Roman military victories thusly:  “They make a desert and call it peace.”

Totalitarian countries are very peaceful.  There are no barroom brawls, no street protests, no euphoric rock concerts, no wacky TV shows, and no political debates.  All is quiet.  If citizens follow the myriad rules, if they keep their heads down and worship at the government’s shrine, all is peaceful.  The residents in such countries work at peace daily in their continual efforts to stay alive.

You’ll pardon me for being condescending here, but I cannot escape the feeling that the liberal approach to war and peace is extraordinarily shallow.  They attach labels to appearances, and then try to derive deep meanings from those labels.  (Hardly surprising, I guess, from a political orientation that rotates around the hardcore labeling that is identity politics.)

Here are the familiar liberal tropes, the behavior labels, if you will:  “War is bad.”  “Peace is good.”  “Small armed groups rising up against a large military are good.”

But what if the War is the Civil War, which broke the back of the institution of slavery?  (It also severely damaged states’ rights, which I understand, but I’m focusing on slavery here, a genuine evil that Progressives surely would want to see destroyed.)  Or how about if the War is World War II, which defeated Nazi Germany?

I don’t need to re-hash my peace shtick, set out above.  Peace is good only when it’s allied with freedom.  Peace alone can easily be the quiet of the grave.

As for the “small armed uprisings,” you know that I’m thinking of all the Progressives who compare Al Qaeda or Hamas to the American Revolution.  At the shallow strata that constitutes Progressive thinking, if you’re big, you must be the oppressor, and if you’re small, you must be the oppressed.

I actually wrote about this precise point some years ago in an American Thinker article regarding Leftist — or, as I called it, Marxist — morality, a post triggered by my watching an acclaimed movie called Maria Full of Grace, which was a sympathetic portrait of a drug smuggling illegal alien.  Marxist morality is a distinct creature from our more traditional Biblical morality.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, let me quote myself:

This ethical paradigm [i.e., Marxist morality] isn’t premised on right and wrong.  It is, instead, concerned with oppressor and oppressed. We all know, of course, that Marxism orders the world by oppressors and oppressed.  I always saw this hierarchical standard, however, as ex post facto retrofitting explaining, not why someone was right to do as he did, but why he shouldn’t be punished.  This Marxist approach was an explanation for things that had already happened (a la the Officer Krupke song), not a moral justification for determining future conduct.

[snip]

If you haven’t seen the movie, the plot precis is that a poor, unemployed, pregnant Columbian girl gets herself a job as a mule, running cocaine into America.  The San Francisco Chronicle, in its review, introduced the movie as follows:

A “Bonnie and Clyde” moment — when you find yourself rooting for the outlaw over the authorities — comes a third of the way into “Maria Full of Grace,” a revelatory independent film whose moments of incredible sadness are offset by the same state of grace that blesses its astonishing title character.

Given that the lead character is an unwed pregnant woman engaged in illegal conduct, I naively assumed that the “state of grace” to which the review refers was the moment in which Maria suddenly realizes that she is engaged in evil, immoral conduct; repents; and works to undo the wrongs in which she was involved.  Had I begun by reading the Roger Ebert review, I never would have made this silly mistake.  Thus, Ebert has this to say, in relevant part:

Long—stemmed roses must come from somewhere, but I never gave the matter much thought until I saw “Maria Full of Grace,” which opens with Maria working an assembly line in Colombia, preparing the roses for shipment overseas. I guess I thought the florist picked them early every morning, while mockingbirds trilled. Maria is young and pretty and filled with fire, and when she finds she’s pregnant, she isn’t much impressed by the attitude of Juan, her loser boyfriend. She dumps her job and gets a ride to Bogota with a man who tells her she could make some nice money as a mule — a courier flying to New York with dozens of little Baggies of cocaine in her stomach. [....]

Maria is a victim of economic pressures, but she doesn’t think like a victim. She has spunk and intelligence and can think on her feet, and the movie wisely avoids the usual cliches about the drug cartel and instead shows us a fairly shabby importing operation, run by people more slack—jawed than evil. Here is a drug movie with no machineguns and no chases. It focuses on its human story, and in Catalina Sandino Moreno, finds a bright—eyed, charismatic actress who engages our sympathy.

By writing the above, Ebert unwittingly defines the second part of Leftist morals, the part that states that, if you are on the bottom of the Marxist hierarchy, your status preemptively sanctifies any conduct in which you engage, provided that it is directed against oppression (however you define that oppression, or whoever creates that oppression).  In other words, morals aren’t just about feelings, anymore.  Instead, they can be determined relative to a person’s status on the economic ladder. “Maria is a victim of economic pressures.”  Given her situation, she cannot make immoral choices.  All of her choices are virtuous responses to her degraded situation.

[snip]

I might have spent several days brooding over the movie’s complete immorality, and the critics’ swoons over that same movie, if I hadn’t heard the next day a laudatory review on NPR  about the new Battlestar Galactica series. In that science fiction show, cyborgs have conquered humans living on a distant colony, and the humans are struggling to deal with the situation and to overthrow the cyborgs.  The critic interviewed in the NPR spot said that, to him, the show worked to make the viewer understand the insurgents in Iraq by showing us that they have an “oppressed minority fighting against conquering majority” viewpoint. In other words, it makes the Iraqi insurgents sympathetic.

Frankly, I have a hard time being sympathetic to people who back regimes that murder millions of its own people; who enjoy beheading innocents; and who would like to impose a relentlessly grim religious rule that requires death sentences for eating ice cream, singing, playing tennis, or putting on a clown show for children. These are not good people whether they’re in power or are seeking power.

In the Leftist moral view, however, just as all workers are exploited and should be praised for taking the initiative by engaging in utterly immoral, illegal activity, so too are all underdogs virtuous. If you’re in charge, you’re bad; if you’re struggling to overthrow those in charge, you’re good. It doesn’t seem to occur to Leftist moralists to examine the motives of those involved in any given struggle.

There’s more of the same in the rest of my article, here, but I think you get the point.

And so I’m right back at the quotation they served at my child’s school as an example of patriotism.  It had nothing to do with America, and everything to do with a conviction that some abstract peace is the highest goal.  Having read that, I sincerely wonder what yesterday’s patriotic quotation was, and what tomorrow’s will be.  Does the school ever praise our country, or does it just use famous Democrats and Leftists as mouthpieces for shallow and abstract ruminations about facile and meaningless goals?  I hope that the day I was there was just a one-off, since our children our vulnerable, and their schools’ indoctrination affects them strongly.

Gay Hillary supporters realize that Bush had his virtues

I’ve now received five emails bringing to my attention a post at Hillbuzz, a blog that (as best as I can tell) is written by two gay Hillary supporters.  (And thanks to all of you who did bring it to my attention.)  What makes the post at Hillbuzz so unusual is that it’s a frank appreciation for . . . George Bush:

We know absolutely no one in Bush family circles and have never met former President George W. Bush or his wife Laura.

If you have been reading us for any length of time, you know that we used to make fun of “Dubya” nearly every day…parroting the same comedic bits we heard in our Democrat circles, where Bush is still, to this day, lampooned as a chimp, a bumbling idiot, and a poor, clumsy public speaker.

Oh, how we RAILED against Bush in 2000…and how we RAILED against the surge in support Bush received post-9/11 when he went to Ground Zero and stood there with his bullhorn in the ruins on that hideous day.

We were convinced that ANYONE who was president would have done what Bush did, and would have set that right tone of leadership in the wake of that disaster.  President Gore, President Perot, President Nader, you name it.  ANYONE, we assumed, would have filled that role perfectly.

Well, we told you before how much the current president, Dr. Utopia, made us realize just how wrong we were about Bush.  We shudder to think what Dr. Utopia would have done post-9/11.  He would have not gone there with a bullhorn and struck that right tone.  More likely than not, he would have been his usual fey, apologetic self and waxed professorially about how evil America is and how justified Muslims are for attacking us, with a sidebar on how good the attacks were because they would humble us.

Honestly, we don’t think President Gore would have been much better that day.  The world needed George W. Bush, his bullhorn, and his indominable spirit that day…and we will forever be grateful to this man for that.

As we will always be grateful for what George and Laura Bush did this week, with no media attention, when they very quietly went to Ft. Hood and met personally with the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.

FOR HOURS.

Please read the rest here.  It’s an excellent post and deserves the attention it’s getting for the honest take it has on George Bush’s solid decency — and the contrast between his low-key, virtuous behavior and that exhibited by the Obami.

Hillbuzz’s post is a reminder that the very loud, politicized gay class tends to make us forget that most gays are just Americans who happen to like people of the same sex.  When things are rosy, they’re happy to trail behind the political guys, since there might be some benefits dropping off that bandwagon.  However, when push comes to shove, and when agitating but scarcely life threatening issues go by the wayside, America’s gays are Americans first — or, at least, most of them are.  That’s very heartening.

I look forward to the day when America’s Muslims figure out that, at some point they have to make a public stand between America’s deep investment in liberty and Islam’s demand that all citizens in all nations should be subjugated to Sharia’s draconian requirements.  Right now, thanks to the politically correct ideology that permeates the media, the government, educational establishes, and the top echelons of the military, American Muslims are getting a pass on having to come to terms with their own patriotism.  If they want to hew to their religion — well, that’s the moral choice they have to make, but we Americans should know, so that we can do what is necessary to protect our Constitutional rights for the vast majority of Americans (gay and straight, Catholic and Jewish, atheist and, yes, Muslim) who believe in those rights.

A completely bizarre protest that’s based on love of country *UPDATED*

I watched this short video that I found at Michelle Malkin’s site:

As I watched this video, I had this very weird feeling that something was deeply, deeply wrong with this protest.  It looks wrong.

I’m a child of the Vietnam era, and I’ve managed to keep my eye on the news — and the protests — for the 40 years since those Vietnam era protests.  I know exactly what they’re supposed to look like.  They’re supposed to be heavy with references to blood, whether in words, photographs or paint splatters.  All this blood is meant to remind smug Americans sitting at home in front of their TV sets that evil Americans have, for decades, been spilling the blood of innocents.  You know who those innocents are:  Innocent North Vietnamese, innocent Hondurans, innocent AIDS victims, innocent rape victims, innocent South American communists, innocent Iraqi special forces, innocent Afghani victims, innocent mass murdering terrorist victims — all brutally slaughtered by an avaricious nation given to torture and deceit.  Heck, as far as the Truthers are concerned, even the 9/11 victims were killed by Americans.

The look of the protest is wrong too.  People should be dressed in dark clothing and have grotesque masks on, symbolic of America’s torture and rapine.  Regardless of the march’s ostensible purpose, there should always be at least a sprinkling of signs likening Jews and Israeli to the Nazis and demanding the Jews’ imminent return to the gas chambers.  As we learned during the last eight years, there should always be death threats against the president, provided that the President is George Bush.  And, of course, the American flag should be burned, trampled, despoiled, desecrated and in all other ways treated to the humiliation due the symbol of the evil nation being protested.

So what’s with these wacky conservatives and their amateur attempt at gathering a couple of million people to march on the Capitol?  They’re going about it all wrong.  They’re wearing and waving the American flag as if they’re proud of it, and they’re spouting incredibly foolish notions that have absolutely nothing to do with America being evil or America murdering people.  They’re also not excoriating Israel.

Here are just a few examples of these neophyte activists who seem to have absolutely no appreciation for the fact that the purpose behind a march on D.C. is to let everyone know how evil America is but.  These guys seem weirdly stuck on archaic concepts such as freedom, self-governance, self-reliance, and informed representative government:

Liberate Don’t Regulate

No Government Controlled Health Care

Stop Spending My Future (with a baby picture)

We Are Not “Astroturf,” Not “A Mob, Not “Nazis.”  We Are Fed Up.

Repeal What You Have Not Read

Socialism Sucks.  Always Has.  Always Will.

Dependency Is A Form Of Slavery (my favorite)

Socialism Is Not Freedom

Freedom Of The People, By The People, For The People

We Are . . . America

Got Common Sense?

Most peculiar of all, the marchers aren’t demanding (or fantasizing about) the President’s death.  Sure, some of the signs are hostile to Obama (likening him to a self-styled monarch or a socialist), but they don’t liken him to a Nazi or demand his death.  There are no paintings of him dripping blood, decapitated, or with bullet holes in his head.  Those foolish marchers, unversed in the way of protests, seem merely to resent his overreach, without having any desire to threaten him personally.

As for me, I don’t know….  Let’s must hope that ordinary Americans, sitting in their living rooms, will be impressed with this amateur style of activism, one tied to love of country and freedom.  Indeed, they may be so struck, as I was, by the bizarre look that this protest has, that they’ll actually sit up and pay attention to what the protesters are saying.  We can dream, can’t we?

UPDATE: Can’t link because I’m on an iPHone, but Little Green Footballs shows that there was an ugly side to the protest. That doesn’t change the top notes of patriotism and liberty, but the ugly side was there too.

UPDATE II:  In the interest of full disclosure, here’s the link to LGF.  I find it interesting that the negative signs are Charles’ focus.  I think that, while he continues to remain admirably strong with regard to Israel and the war against Islamic terrorism, he’s souring on the conservative movement generally.  As for his umbrage at the sign to “Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy,” I don’t see that as being as offensive as he does.  It’s an appropriate response to the fact that the Democrats leapt upon Kennedy’s death as a way to sell Obama Care.

Hollywood’s perverted patriotism

Hollywood and the media establishment as a whole are inescapable parts of American and, indeed, world culture.  It’s fascinating, therefore, to think about the type of patriotism our American media now espouses and that which it embraced in the past.   Depending on how one defines patriotism, whether as love of country or love of a particular political leader, American media has always done its best to lead the way.

Typically, there are two types of patriotism, one of which I think is healthy and one of which is scary.  The healthy one is love of country.  I’m talking true love of country, the one that sees a citizen believing he is singularly blessed to live in his country.  Your citizen recognizes that his country has had — and still has — failings, but nonetheless thinks it’s the best game in town — and this is true whether he focuses on his personal freedoms, the economy, national security or social mores.  This patriot is completely distinguishable from those who have nothing good to say about their country, but can only recite an endless litany of its moral failings.  When the “patriots” focuses obsessively on his countries wrongs, periodically stopping to make that rote statement that “I love my country,” you see someone akin to the chronic wife beater, who always excuses his abuses by claiming that he’s doing it for his wife’s own good.  That’s not about love.  It’s about power and hatred.

The other type of patriotism is one that attaches itself to a leader.  These are the cults of personality, and I can’t think of one that hasn’t occured in the context of a totalitarian dictatorship.  (If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.)  Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in German, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao in China, Kim Jong Il in Korea, Castro in Cuba, and Qaddafi in Libya are all perfect examples of this scenario.  In each case, a leader ascended to absolute power and the people, who may have been at first seduced by his demagoguery, ended up at sword-point being forced to worship him completely, to their own detriment and that of the state.  That is why it is always frightening when someone ascends to office based upon a personality cult, rather than based upon past accomplishments.

The early movie makers were, without exception, patriots who truly believed America was the best nation on earth.  This was true whether they were immigrants who escaped from oppression in other lands (e.g., Louis B. Mayer or Jack Warner), or came from America’s heartland (Walt Disney).  Even as they recognized America’s flaws — and recognize them they did, especially because flaws tend to make for good drama — their love for this country came through loud and clear in every movie they made.  MGM, especially under Louis B. Mayer, loved to present an idealized country in which an honest and free people would triumph, whether to music, laughter or tears.  Warner Brothers tended to focus on America’s noir nitty-gritty, but the good guys were the cops who saved decent citizens from those lowlifes who rejected the American dream in favor of crime or the soldiers who protected Americans from enemies abroad.  And then there’s Disney, with every movie somehow serving as the backdrop to a subliminal national anthem.

Early Hollywood’s deep love for country was never more clearly seen than during World War II, when every studio in Hollywood willingly bent its efforts to helping America win the war.  Whether churning out movies about the home front, about our Allies or our evil enemies, or about the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, each picture had a single goal:  to help Americans support the war effort so that America would achieve an absolute victory.  The same held true for written media and even popular song.  Women were reminded not to sit under the apple tree with anyone but their overseas love; soldiers were assured that, with a little praise for the Lord and a lot of ammunition, they would prevail; and every citizen was reminded to remember Pearl Harbor.

Early American TV also celebrated American virtues.  Family shows weren’t about dysfunction, with snotty kids putting inept and helpless parents firmly in their place.  Instead, no matter the show’s name (Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Ozzie and Harriet Show), the truth was that, in TV Land, Father (and Mother) always knew best.  And while these shows, in both tone and racial representation, may not have accurately reflected many of the homes in America, they nevertheless helped Americans aspire to be part of stable and loving families, with respectful, moral children.  As with early movies, TV shows through the early 1970s saw the nitty-gritty of America (again, it makes for good drama), but the American people, the ordinary families, the police officers, and the military, were the heroes, not the enemies.

Only in one area did old Hollywood deviate from the purer form of patriotism, and that was when it came to Roosevelt worshipo.  Generally speaking, old Hollywood movies shied away from blatant political statements, recognizing, no doubt, that their audience encompassed both Roosevelt lovers and haters.  Sometimes, though, a little propaganda was just too good to resist.  So it was that, in 1933, when Warner Brothers made Footlight Parade, starring James Cagney, neither Cagney, the studio, nor choreographer Busby Berkeley could resist including an homage to the WPA and Roosevelt in the wonderful grand finale, Shanghai Lil.  (The politics come in at about 2:15.)

Looking at this musical pièce de résistance now, over a distance of 76 years, the effect is not only visually spectacular (it is Busby Berkeley, after all), but tinged with an almost wholesome nostalgia.  I wonder, though, whether the more sophisticated crowd in 1933, who watched with horror as Roosevelt threw an already fragile economy into absolute chaos, was quite so charmed.

The years since John F. Kennedy have presented the spectacle of a media that entirely lacks the old-fashioned love of country that characterized early Hollywood.  Instead, modern media professes a wife-beater’s love for country, with films, magazines, books, television shows and songs that have been relentlessly hostile to American values, whether those values relate to economics, national security or old-fashioned societal morality.

On the economic front, in film after film after film, America is painted as an exploitative imperialist power, in thrall to shadowy corporations headed by evil white men.  A perfect example of this is 2005′s Syriana, a muddled mess with mega-watt star power.  If you have the stamina to try to sift through the inchoate plot, you learn that evil oil interests control the world.  The same year saw an equally muddled film with almost exactly the same plot:  The Constant Gardener. These movies, with their focus on the effect evil American corporations have on exploited Third Worlders abroad, were the natural successors to the two decade run of movies about the effect evil American corporations had poor Americans at home (think Norma Rae, Silkwood, and Erin Brockovich).

On the war front, Hollywood has been relentless in its attacks on American forces.  They are painted as brutish, stupid murders or innocent pawns, rather than people of intelligence, patriotism, bravery or integrity.  Again, examples abound.  The staggeringly dull and mean-spirited In the Valley of Elah (2007) is a case in point.  The IMDB plot summaries pretty much say it all.  One sums up the film as an example of “dirty little secrets with an impressive case of dehumanization caused by the invasion and consequent war in Iraq.”  The other explains that the movie shows “the failings of the military to adequately look out for the well-being of its soldiers.”  Valley of Elah is such a perfect example of Hollywood’s antipathy to the American military that I’ll stop here.  I know, though, that you can easily summon to mind other examples.

And then there are Hollywood’s most insidious attacks, those against mainstream American morality.  In 1999, the Hollywood establishment gave its best picture award to American Beauty, a bleak look at the depravity, ennui and despair that is, in Hollywood’s jaded eyes, Middle America.  That movie at least had the virtue of being up front in its challenge to American values.  As most parents will attest, though, the real problem is the dozens of movies coming out assuring America’s children that it’s totally okay to take drugs, drink, screw around, drop out of school and lie to ones parents.  Do this, and you will be amusing and very cool.

Even apparently innocuous movies such as The Sure Thing, which was ostensibly a remake of the delightful It Happened One Night, celebrate college drinking.  Its stars do it — so why shouldn’t you?  Then there’s one of my least favorite movies of all time, the one that left me with an abiding dislike for the heterosexual Tom Cruise:  Risky Business. It is almost impossible to imagine a more sordid movie than this tale of a high school student (played by a known teeny-bopper magnet) who turns his house into a brothel to raise cash, and then suffers (a term I use lightly) an eventual comeuppance that is minimal compared to his complete moral collapse.

Watch enough Hollywood movies — and people at home and abroad do — and the message you will receive is absolutely clear:  America is a despicable place, filled with despicable people who use its economic freedoms and its vast arsenal to enslave and destroy, both at home and abroad.  This is wife-beater patriotism.

While the entertainment world may show a wife-beater’s love for country, the opposite it true when it comes to Democratic presidents.  They are accorded a type of worship that skates eerily close to the state-mandated worship people in totalitarian regimes are required to show for their various “Dear” or “Great” leaders.  In Hollywood and Manhattan (the two geographic centers of American media) John F. Kennedy, a hawk and a fiscal conservative, has morphed into a Progressive politician who would have put his political life on the line for a socialist economy and a pacifist national security plan. Bill Clinton, a self-indulgent, sexually debauched leftist (although he had the good sense to move to the center when attacked) was portrayed on America’s TV screens as the innocent victim of sleazy attack politics launched either by white, male, corporate monsters or by white, male, Christian fanatics. And while he was never president, wannabe Teddy Kennedy on his death has been treated as a secular saint.  His unfortunate contretemps — cheating scandals, murder, treason, sexual debauchery and alcoholism — are presented as “flaws” and “mistakes” and “failings.”  The message to Americans, especially the young ones, is clear:  Feel free to kill, lie and cheat.  If your politics are pure and Progressive, we’ll always forgive you.

As for Barack Obama, I don’t even know where to begin with him.  Every mainstream TV show, whether news or gossip; every big time magazine, whether news, fashion or family; and every major newspaper, has focused relentlessly on the Obama personality cult.  The obsession with Obama’s wonderfulness has always been, of course, a necessary offset to the fact that his record, when not absent entirely, showed the kind of Leftist political extremism that would have frightened every ordinary American in flyover country (not to mention those in a few states and counties on either coast).  There is no better way to avoid his missing transcripts, his radical friendships and affiliates, his complete lack of executive experience, and his failed political initiatives than turning him into a cutting-edge red, white and blue poster; raving about his physical beauty (although I’ve always thought he looked more like Dopey than Depp); and announcing, based on the evidence of a single (possibly ghost-written) book that he was the second coming of Einstein in terms of intelligence.

Just as with Jesus, the secular faithful in the American media, those who hate the country but love the man, repeatedly told us that we could atone for our grievous sins as Americans by “coming to Obama.”  The Dear Leader would wash away our collective failings.  With this in mind, do not expect Hollywood to come out any time soon with Obama movies comparable to Nixon, The Reagans or W.  A movie about Obama is likely to be closer in emotional tone to The Passion of the Christ.

As always when it comes to Hollywood and television, it’s tempting to slough off its failings by say “it’s just entertainment.”  That’s the lazy way out, though.  With its spectacular reach, a reach that now extends around the world, and with its trained ability to drive messages home in the most entertaining way possible, what Hollywood does matters.  It shapes both foreign and domestic views of America (America is greedy and evil, and its own citizens hate it), and it warps our youth culture by assuring them that the most demeaning and debauched behavior is the surest way to popularity and success.

We can fight back, though.  Despite its chronic demonization of capitalism (the bad capitalism, of course, in the form of oil and manufacturing), the entertainment world is all about money.  We can vote with our feet.  Turn off shows or don’t pay for movies that offend your patriotism and your sense of values.  Also use social networking, such as twitter or facebook, to give your opinion of movies.  Just today, one of my facebook friends gave a succinct and very ugly review to Taking Woodstock, the latest Hollywood fairy-tale about the wonders of dirty hippies, mud, drugs and loud music.  His facebook friends may think twice about shelling out their hard-earned money on that movie.  We’ll never see Hollywood’s golden age again, but we don’t have to sit back silently and let the wife-beating, demagogue worshipping modern media have the last world.

Smooth patriotic music from 1944 *UPDATED*

WWII was a dreadful time, with about 400,000 American military deaths suffered during those four years.  Just for perspective, we’ve been in Iraq for almost six years and, thank God, have sustained only 4,200 deaths.

Nevertheless, there’s a tendency to look back with nostalgia on America’s time during WWII, and that’s in part because the entertainment world and the news media were so completely on board with the war effort.  More than 60 years after War’s end, the historic record is bathed in a golden glow of national unity, with the conscripted troops the stuff of admiration and romance.

The era is also refreshing in that, in those pre-PC times, Americans felt no compunction about calling the enemy an enemy.  The movie makers didn’t need to pretend that Germans and Japanese were basically good people under bad leadership.  This freed them from the obligation modern movie makers feel to create only pretend enemies or, even better, paint America itself as the bad guy.  Instead, in those old movies, you knew who the bad guys were (them) and who the good guys were (us).

I’ve been watching some of those old movies, which TCM played for Veterans Day and, in lieu of any news about which I wish to comment, am including here two of my favorite clips.  The first is from 1944′s Hollywood Canteen (which is a surprisingly awful movie), and the second from Irving Berlin’s 1943 show This is the Army, which is one of my favorite wartime movies, not least because it stars a rather charming Ronald Reagan:

Reagan is in the beginning of this next clip, but the song, which Frances Langford sings, starts at 1:10:

UPDATE:  While we’re on the subject, at least one town in England has figured out that its troops do matter, and the townspeople and the troops put on a show suitable for any 1940s movie.

Barack Obama — not one of us (and it’s not because he’s black)

The Confederate Yankee launches a truly scathing attack on Obama’s fundamental lack of “American-ness” — and it has nothing to do with skin color, and everything to do with his profoundly un-American upbringing.  I think you should read it.

I will add only that some of the greatest patriots I’ve met are people who were raised in countries other than America, but who came here bursting with love for everything that it is unique and wonderful about America.  Obama’s lack of patriotism, his lack of love for the country, goes beyond his peculiarly “un-American” upbringing, and lodges deep within the psyche of a very angry, alienated man.

Simple patriotism

Mr. Bookworm cannot stand the fluff pieces that are an integral part of Olympic coverage.  On Saturday night, therefore, when NBC switched from Michael Phelp’s history breaking gold medal to an interview with Kobe Bryant, Mr. Bookworm immediately switched off the television.  I’m now quite sorry he did.  Kobe may be a multi-million dollar celebrity, but it turns out he’s also a good, old-fashioned patriot:

Collinsworth [from NBC]: Tell the story when you first got your USA uniform.

Kobe: Well I had goosebumps and I actually just looked at it for awhile. I just held it there and I laid it across my bed and I just stared at it for a few minutes; just because as a kid growing up this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.

Collinsworth: Where does the patriotism come from inside of you? Historically, what is it?

Kobe: Well, you know it’s just our country, it’s… we believe is the greatest country in the world. It has given us so many great opportunities, and it’s just a sense of pride that you have; that you say “You know what? Our country is the best!”

Collinsworth: Is that a ‘cool’ thing to say, in this day and age? That you love your country, and that you’re fighting for the red, white and blue? It seems sort of like a day gone by(?)

Kobe: No, it’s a cool thing for me to say. I feel great about it, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I mean, this is a tremendous honor.

Is it only me or does Collinsworth come across like a complete ass?  He reminds me of a teenager trying to embarrass someone into backing off of an opinion by warning him he won’t be seen as “cool” (and this is entirely separate from the fact that Collinsworth himself apparently thinks that it’s beneath him to love his country).

Kobe, fortunately, had a more sense than the overpaid NBC talking head.  This is a great country and it does offer amazing opportunities.  I mean, heck, in what other place or time do you become a beloved multi-millionaire for tossing a ball into a hoop?  Kobe’s right that it’s completely cool (and honorable) to express gratitude to a nation that makes these opportunities possible, that it’s immature and ungrateful to try to intimidate someone into backing off from that kind of honorable sense of appreciation and patriotism.

Patriotism, pure and simple v. tortured

I have two wonderful things for you to read on the subject of patriotism.  The first is from Zabrina, at Thought You’d Never Ask, in which she dispenses some words of wisdom to a child about to head off to college.  The second is from Jonah Goldberg, who explains why conservative Americans often don’t recognize as patriotism the feelings Barack Obama and those closest to him have for America.

Quick update:  James Taranto also has a good take on Obama’s patriotism speech.

I also want to add in connection with all this the fact that, when you criticize something brutally and relentlessly, it becomes ever harder to believe that you love it — and loving your country is, of course, the essence of patriotism.  As Dennis Prager once said, everybody would understand this principle if they were in the presence of a husband who heaps nonstop physical and verbal abuse on his wife, all the while claiming he loves her.  At a certain point, those protestations of love appear increasingly hollow and false.