Patriotism: Eschatological or Immediate

The left/right sides of the aisle apparently have differing views of patriotism. One way, perhaps, of looking at this is that the right views this word in an immediate fashion whereas the left looks at it via the eschaton. Obama The left wants to be patriotic and express their fidelity publicly but … is keeping coy until or country has fixed it’s problems. Now, I’m guessing that everyone concerned here realizes that fixing all of any nations and specifically our nations problems won’t occur until Christ returns (or either the sun becomes a red-giant and/or humanity is extinct for a “left/right” ecumenical or more secularized notion of eschaton).

Another facet is at play here, note the picture on the “left”, Mr Obama is not (pointedly) putting his hand on his heart at the National Anthem. Everyone else is (except in this picture … one security official). My guess, however, is that Mr Obama has no specific objection to our participation and actions in the war of 1812, which inspired Mr Key to write his ditty, err, anthem. Let’s take the charitable view, that Mr Obama and those on the left, in their own way, are as patriotic as those on the right. So what’s going on?

Huldrych Zwingli with Martin Luther and John Calvin was one of the founding Protestant reformers. One of the things the reformers with/under Mr Zwingli did was to:

Zwingli’s radical followers made the most of the situation in Zürich. They removed the images and pictures out of the churches, made changes in the liturgic language of the religious services, and stripped the mass of all its elaborateness, as far as possible bringing it back to basics. By the end of 1524 the convents for both men and women had been abolished, and music had been silenced in the churches. The mass stood more or less unaltered, since Zwingli hesitated in changing something so wrapped up with the life of the people, before the people were fully prepared to accept a substitute. Zwingli’s translation of the bible, the Froschauer Bible, was printed between 1524 and 1531. At last it was decreed that on Thursday of Holy Week, April 13, 1525, in the Great Minster the Lord’s Supper would be for the first time observed according to the liturgy Zwingli had composed. On that eventful day men and women sat on opposite sides of the table which extended down the middle aisle, and were served with bread on wooden platters and wine out of wooden beakers.

In my discussions Tuesday, following N.T Wright, one of the four “irreducible” elements of worldview is symbol. People holding to different worldviews treat and hold dear different symbols. There are a few reasons why the left has decided the flag and any veneration of that is not be avoided in praxis and as symbol. Here are a few I might propose, undoubtably there are others (comments?):

  • Rite. Those who are religious among the left fall more in the category of religions like Zwingli. There’s undoubtably a fancy word for it, but basically they, like Zwingli and his followers, eschew and actually have a distaste for elaborate and/or visible symbols. The casual dress and avoidance of Mr Carter during his Presidency is an example of this.
  • Ritual. The secular (agnostic and atheist) left are far more blind to ritual and it’s importance and use in the setting of praxis and symbol and cementing and supporting worldview elements.
  • Privacy. As part of a notion that all religion is private not a public matter, the left to my view, carries this further. All private opinions on matters should be private. And a primary way of respecting and enabling the other in their view is to withhold displaying mine. That way we can all privately hold our own (weird) notions in private without disturbing anyone else.
  • Veneration. Becoming Orthodox has sensitized me somewhat to the practice of veneration. Kissing, kissing the hand, bowing, metanoia, prostration are some of the are ways the Orthodox show veneration, i.e., respect or giving honor. It is customary to hold one’s hand on the heart and be silent during the National Anthem as a way of showing respect, of giving honor to the Nation.

These are not necessarily unpatriotic, although it does very much look like that to those who do not fear or eschew the use of such praxis and symbol as such. The failure of a person to give honor to the flag, to those who think that is proper, gives one who does the impression that either the person is withholding his honor or has none. The primary reason to withhold said honor is, as noted above, a disengenuous (or blatantly poorly thought out) notion that someday in the future everything will be “fixed” and honor can be then given.

As a political move, failing to honor the country as in the picture above is as tone deaf to the right as any move done by the those campaigning on the right has done as percieved by the left.

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7 comments

  1. Rite. Those who are religious among the left fall more in the category of religions like Zwingli. There’s undoubtably a fancy word for it, but basically they, like Zwingli and his followers, eschew and actually have a distaste for elaborate and/or visible symbols. The casual dress and avoidance of Mr Carter during his Presidency is an example of this.

    I think this is largely correct. The worst villains can (and often do) wrap themselves in the flag. The most incompetent leader can don a fancy suit. I think that people on the left, being less tribalistic by nature, are more skeptical of these signs than are those on the right.

    Ritual. The secular (agnostic and atheist) left are far more blind to ritual and it’s importance and use in the setting of praxis and symbol and cementing and supporting worldview elements.

    We’re not blind to it; we’re scared of it. All of these things: rituals, symbolism, frequent expressions of fidelity have been often used to steer the masses towards evil. A mob of people united by symbols and rituals have been behind most of the worst atrocities in human history. Better a nation of individuals who always ask themselves whether their country is doing the right thing than a nation of sheep who rah-rah-rah all the way into wars, or down the slope towards totalitarianism.

    Democrats have attempted to take back the symbols, of course. You’ll see most Democratic politicians wearing flags and standing in front of flags in their advertisements, but it feels (in my opinion) kind of phony. They don’t really buy the idea that wearing a flag represents a meaningful sentiment, but they fear the power of the flag being used against them. I think it is to Obama’s credit that he’s willing to step outside of the right-wing frame and say hey, wearing a stupid pin on your lapel doesn’t make you a patriot. Fighting to make our country a better place does.

  2. Mark says:

    JA,
    I wasn’t referring in the above to Obama’s choice to wear a pin on his lapel or not (I don’t for example), but not to cross the heart during the Anthem. I missed the memo that we’re “all supposed to be doing that.” On the other hand, I did get the memo that we cross our hearts. Obama can’t claim ignorance. I’m confused as to his meaning and I think it’s not “this doesn’t make me not a patriot.”

    I don’t think the left is less tribal in nature. Your “tribe” has different cues is all.

    All of these things: rituals, symbolism, frequent expressions of fidelity have been often used to steer the masses towards evil.

    Good too. Examine rite, and symbol in movements considered good, e.g., civil rights, Ghandi’s revolution in India.

    The alternative to symbol and rite is not the “nation of sheep who rah-rah-rah all the way into wars, or down the slope towards totalitarianism” but the nation that dissolves in apathy and disappears under the pressure of other nations that use symbol and rite.

    Your notion of doing away with symbol and national rite and praxis calls to mind the Habermas question “Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee?” One might also ask if any state can exist without symbol and rite.

  3. I wasn’t referring in the above to Obama’s choice to wear a pin on his lapel or not (I don’t for example), but not to cross the heart during the Anthem.

    I was addressing the pin because it’s the issue he addressed. I have no way of knowing if not crossing his heart was intentional or not.

    I don’t think the left is less tribal in nature. Your “tribe” has different cues is all.

    Most people are tribalistic to some degree, but I strongly disagree with this statement. As Will Rogers said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”

    Good too. Examine rite, and symbol in movements considered good, e.g., civil rights, Ghandi’s revolution in India.

    Oh, no doubt. Maybe it’s not symbols in general that the left is uncomfortable with, then, but the flag in particular, due to the associations it’s taken on.

    The alternative to symbol and rite is not the “nation of sheep who rah-rah-rah all the way into wars, or down the slope towards totalitarianism” but the nation that dissolves in apathy and disappears under the pressure of other nations that use symbol and rite.

    Evidence? What about Europe?

    One might also ask if any state can exist without symbol and rite.

    Look, I’m not saying we should get rid of them entirely, but the need to display the flag and related symbols has become constant. Wearing a flag pin for a few weeks after 9/11 was an expression of solidarity. Continuing to wear it every day simply cheapens it. Slapping one on your car next to a Bush sticker is almost sacreligious. Similarly, I think the daily Pledge done in most classrooms would be more at home in a fascist state than in the America I want us to be.

  4. Mark says:

    JA,
    Click the picture for an enlargement. I think the claim that it was not intentional, if true, was unconscious it is still a statement which can be interpreted as it was clearly out of step with everyone else there.

    As Will Rogers said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”

    I think you need to provide some sort of evidence that the GOP is “more organized”? Hah! That’s funny. 😀

    I’m going to write more about rite, symbol and being blind or fearful tonight.

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