Patriotism, Responsibility and Crybabies

On this 4thof July week, who are the patriots? Lots of us hung American flags. And lots of us went to see the fireworks. But folks, I don’t consider that real patriotism. It’s too easy to put out a flag and watch fireworks. And it doesn’t solve any of the problems of this country. So yes, I put out a flag and I watch fireworks. But I don’t confuse that with real patriotism, patriotism that responds responsibly to the needs of this country.

Patriotism is about being willing to stand up and do our part when the country needs us. Patriotism isn’t about wrapping ourselves in the flag while doing everything possible to avoid lifting a finger for the country.  And it certainly isn’t going shopping and calling it patriotic.

Here’s one thing we can do. Those of us who are patriotic are willing to pay our share of taxes so this country can pull its way out of default, out of recession, and handle its responsibilities. Paying our taxes is an example of responsible patriotism.

By contrast, the congressional Republicans refuse to pass any increase in the national debt limit and any budget which requires another penny of taxes. Indeed they won’t pass any bill which doesn’t lower taxes. No new taxes. No old taxes. No, no they won’t pay.

Let’s be straight. Theirs is not the platform of patriots. Theirs is the childish platform of the kid who just has to have what he or she wants and won’t stop crying til they get it. In our family, we dealt with temper tantrums by ignoring them. And it worked quite well.

But you can’t ignore a tantrum when the crybaby has his or her hands on the wheel of a moving vehicle. By controlling the House of Representatives, the Republicans are poised to do real damage just because they can’t have all the goodies they want, because the country has responsibilities they don’t want to pay for.

All their justifications are sloganeering nonsense. Cutting  taxes won’t put the  economy in gear and they know that – because they know that money that is now in the hands of the banks and the corporations and their wealthy contributors is not in fact being invested in the American economy. So they know more money won’t change it – the people who own or control the large funds now will continue to do what they’ve been doing – invest in treasury bonds so they can get interest from the government, invest abroad, or invest in unproductive financial instruments like the credit default swaps that played a role in bringing the economy down. It’s obvious that the tax cuts aren’t solving the problem. And more tax cuts won’t do it either.

John F. Kennedy told us years ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” This is such a time. Let the congressional Republicans and their allies stop crying and do their part. Failing that, it’s time to let them know that it’s over, they’re so yesterday, while the rest of us deal responsibly with the country’s problems and let them wallow in their own self-pity.

– This commentary was broadcast on WAMC Northeast Report, July 5, 2011.

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