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Michael Winship: What Patriotism Is, and Is Not

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Below is an article by JOURNAL writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

What Patriotism Is, and Is Not
By Michael Winship

At the beginning of the week, a friend sent me a scurrilous, anonymous e-mail attacking Barack Obama that has been circulating around her elderly cousin’s Jewish senior living community in New Jersey. Headlined “Something to Think About,” it lists 13 acts of assassination, kidnapping, war and terrorism, all of which, it notes, were committed “by Muslim male extremists between the ages of 17 and 40.”

After several other claims, including a bogus citation from the Book of Revelation, the e-mail concludes, semi-literately, “For the award winning Act of Stupidity Now... the People of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the Planet -- The Presidency of the United States of America to A Muslim Male Between the ages of 17 and 40? Have the American People completely lost their Minds, or just their power of reason? I'm sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the 'unknown' candidate Obama.”

To point out the obvious errors, that Barack Obama’s a Christian, not Muslim, and that he’s 46, not “between the ages of 17 and 40,” feels a bit lame, like damning with faint fact checking. Let’s call this appalling missive what it is – bigoted, hysterical and more than a little nuts. Unless, of course, it comes from the hands not of a mere delusional crank, but one of those beneath-the-radar smear forces that we all know are out there, ratcheting into higher and higher gear as November gets closer.

E-mail’s such as the one my friend passed along are insidious, appealing to our deepest fears and prejudices. A front-page story in Monday’s WASHINGTON POST profiled retired worker Jim Peterman of Findlay, Ohio. He’s a decent guy who “believes a smart vote is an American’s greatest responsibility,” the POST’s Eli Salsow wrote. “Which is why his confusion about Barack Obama continues to eat at him…

“Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama's Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

"’I'll admit that I probably don't follow all of the election news like maybe I should,’ Peterman said. ‘I haven't read his books or studied up more than a little bit. But it's hard to ignore what you hear when everybody you know is saying it. These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?’”

So it goes across the nation. Chances are, many of the perpetrators of this nonsense think they’re being patriots, saving us from Obama and ourselves. And goodness knows, there’s a long history of this kind of guttersnipery in American politics. As Obama pointed out in his Monday speech on the nature of patriotism, “Thomas Jefferson was accused by the Federalists of selling out to the French. The anti-Federalists were just as convinced that John Adams was in cahoots with the British and intent on restoring monarchal rule… the use of patriotism as a political sword or a political shield is as old as the Republic.”

Details of Obama’s speech got buried in the wake of General Wesley Clark’s politically lunkheaded comment about John McCain that, “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.” But over the Fourth of July weekend, it might be appropriate and enlightening to take a few minutes to read or watch the whole thing.

It’s a good speech. The senator talks about American history and his own patriotism, about the need for service and sacrifice. “For those who have fought under the flag of this nation,” he said, “for the young veterans I meet when I visit Walter Reed; for those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country – no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. And let me also add that no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.”

And this: “I believe those who attack America's flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America… But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism.”

Which brings me to what I think was an unusual and especially fine expression of American patriotism. It’s the June 19 closing argument of Air Force Reserve Major David J.R. Frakt, arguing for the dismissal of charges against Mohammed Jawad, a young detainee at Guantanamo, charged with throwing a hand grenade that wounded two GI’s and their interpreter in Afghanistan. Frakt argued that Jawad should be released because sleep deprivation – two weeks’ worth – was used to torture him. You can read it on the website of the ACLU (

Frakt stood before the military commission upholding the inviolability of the American principle of due process, even for an alleged enemy of the United States. “Under the Constitution all men are created equal, and all are entitled to be treated with dignity,” he said. “No one is ‘undeserving’ of humane treatment. It is an unmistakable lesson of history that when one group of people starts to see another group of people as ‘other’ or as ‘different,’ as ‘undeserving,’ as ‘inferior,’ ill-treatment inevitably follows…

“After six and a half years, we now know the truth about the detainees at Guantanamo: some of them are terrorists, some of them are foot soldiers, and some of them were just innocent people, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the detainees at Guantanamo have one thing in common — with each other, and with us — they are all human beings, and they are all worthy of humane treatment.”

Thus, in the face of adverse public opinion and White House opposition, Frakt bravely defended a constitutional principle as all-encompassing, including under its protections even those who might seek to destroy us and the very constitutional principles for which we stand. In fact, he said, “It is a testament to the continuing greatness of this nation, that I, a lowly Air Force Reserve Major, can stand here before you today, with the world watching, without fear of retribution, retaliation or reprisal, and speak truth to power. I can call a spade a spade, and I can call torture, torture.”

To me, that makes Major David Frakt a patriot and this a great country. Happy Fourth of July.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Patriotism! There is, or should be, a very large difference between Patriotism and Paranoidism. Our whole country has been immersed in lies from all branches of our government, our political party, the no longer "free" media, the corporate advertising clowns, and the hysteric media bloggers who have to rant beserkedly in order to survive. After exposure to all of this the truths that be have taken a beating far, far worse than Rocky ever did. Even the most level headed of our citizens have great difficulty decerning what is correct and what is not. Through all of this the true meaning of Patriotism has lost any meaning at all. If you listen to the Founding Fathers a Patriot is one willing to risk almost anything in order to protect somethins of value. Something like our country is in desperate need of true Patriots. Those Patriots must endeavor to find the truths of what is happening(impeachment investigations) and decide if there is a need to remove certain individuals who have compromised both themselves and our country/Constitution.In my opinion their are quite a few individuals who require removal from office and indictment for their sins against this noble country. Any one who questions anothers Patriotism should have their own Patriotism be suspect. This has become the favorite deflector of politicians for centuries. To accuse someone else to refocus attention away from ones self is about as low as one can stoop. Roman Emperors, A. Hitler, G. Bush, and many others have used this devious and nasty little trick to shame, belittle, or even eliminate innocents over all of mans history. This should be taught in every school and all levels of education. Let the listener beware.

Glad this thing is back up? I am.
Tracy:(Fairbanks, beecham)

Tracy: Want a leader? Look in the mirror. The way we choose "leaders" is mistaken, based upon material success and not wisdom. (I'm not that wise but I recognize wisdom: I'm a kidder, but sincere.) A leader must be dedicated to the general welfare, not exclude minorities from advantage, and not be buyable. This is almost the opposite of a business career. Look at retired NCO Fairbanks and beecham, seemingly persons of principle, who portray some of these positive traits, but are not that good at making money. If you listened closely to retired SC Senator Fritz Hollings (originator of WIC) this week he said co-optation and collusion, to raise campaign funds are the primary problem.
Now Fairbanks thinks hedonism negates any people power movement. I was a child activist in the 60s and am not sure this is so. I learned plenty of morality lessons on the corrupt show business road.
Right now what Jack Martin and I are saying is we need to organize (not by party or faction but by grievance and need) to march on Washington Inauguration Day. I was even there for the Million Man March (and other protests) and I believe the fellowship will do us and the country good.
A President is only one weak person and cannot change anything now without public pressure. We need to apply the pressure on the new Congress and President (no matter who is elected) like it hasn't been felt in a long time. Media will join in after the fact because they are now controlled by the same monetary forces paralyzing Congress.
You should be an instigator and a leader since you care so much , Tracy.

Note: beech seems to think I want to outlaw capitalism. All I want to do is scale it back and let human capital and the other possibilities catch up. Corporatism is the worst enemy of empathetic action. Despite this, I heard on the stinky show "Weekend America" that people in New Hampshire are forming clubs to outfit members homes with solar power (Energy Raising). That was encouraging to me. Fundraising is a sick model because it is usually prearranged by an elite with a self-interested agenda and excludes the poor donors who provide money and volunteer labor from decision-making. Hollings also addressed this when he recalled the Walter Lippman/ John Dewey debate.
Elites never understand the dilemma on the ground. People at Goldman Sachs (sacks of gold- my present employer) are gutting and prepping Wachovia along with Chainsaw Bob Steel (steal) for fire-sale, probably to Merrill Lynch, with taxpayer guarantees, without a thought to depositors, loan holders or the bank's laid off employees (lose retirement and benefits with government blessing). This is the world of financial cannibalism we are experiencing. Fairbanks: If you read the myth closely, Sodom and Gommorrah were destroyed as much for business corruption as for sexual debauchery. In fact,financial exploitation leads to sexual extremes, sexual extremes are a subset of radical capitalism, mainly at the socio-economic top and bottom. I'm talking to people who don't want to become "tops" or "bottoms." If you were “normal” you’d organize.

Tracy- the problem is two-fold: it's widespread cultural apathy, coupled with hedonism on a massive scale that is unparalleled in human history.

Where will we find our leaders for citizen rebellion? There are alot of groups, people, blogs speaking out, but no real cohesive effort effort -- and little real hope that our "free" press will provide the essential support for the cause. I agree with Greider that it rests in the hands of the citizenry -- but how to organize the dissatisfied majority is problematic.

Hoah-boy, another revealing conversation. It's a long story, beech. Right now I am spokesperson for an 8 member audit team examining Wachovia for Goldman Sachs so it can be sold/rescued at public expense: first real job in 4 years.
I am 52 years old and just got married for the first time July 5. I just bought a 1993 beater to drive to work. My (and the Martin's) folk school closed due to landlord vetos July 1st. Recent surgery produced a debt of 26K, else I'd be dead. I make about $40/hr. but have no (zilch) assets.
Here's my plan, priorities first. On January 1st I will resign my job (I'll be in hot water by then anyway.) and initiate bankruptcy proceedings (Chapter 7). Then I will devote all my energies to the Inauguration Day protest.
There is a guy in New Zealand, blogs on here, who claims every worker, top to bottom, deserves $40/hr. in today's dollars (Nigel Best). If my passport gets me out of the country I will go visit him in Christchurch (I think) when the bankruptcy is discharged. As a "little person" and a foreigner I should be able to get published and interviewed down there. What do you want me to say, beech? There are 7+ billion people on the planet and about 2 billion face imminent starvation. Whose fault is it? I advocate for community control and worker owned and managed enterprise and production of the basic things we really need in durable and recyclable form. The corporate form with its lack of accountability has to go. A great variety of political systems are in order, determined by community needs and choices. Apathy would negate the worst ones if people had freedom to leave and join elsewhere.I oppose nuclear power and expanding fossil fuels and corporations messing with food production and seedstocks. Unnecessary trade is crazy in an energy starved world, computers and cars and dish drainers passing one another in the skies and on the high seas.These are the most important issues now. Devolving energy use and population decrease by humane attrition should result from good policy.
When Malthus cited population outstripping food production around 1775 he was arguing against amelioration of suffering and for death by economic deprivation.(Good Reverend)Never did he understand that unbridled economic competition (free trade) is the strongest driver of population.
I am not a Marxist but I do believe what Engels said (contributed to theory) that the way a person makes his living shapes his politics, so I must insist correspondents tell me a little about themselves (as on any other respectable game show. Bill Moyers is quite a good game show host, better than Alex Trebeck, Pat Sajack or Paul Kangas , don't you agree?)
People: If you can't do anything else please boycott watching the corporate welfare Chinese repression Olympics on NBC next month. Those who look should be ashamed. The poor athletic prostitutes are drug-driven anyway.

Gadfly-Leap Howard
So what economic/political system would you recommend? I don't recommend cutting yourself off from the outside world. It is important to stay informed, but recognize sources for what they are. Bill Moyers is better than most, but an unfortunate number of his programs are quite lightweight, and seem almost like a waste of time. The question is how to get other people to turn off the tv.
Yes, 30 million protesters would be great. And civil disobedience is very important. What I am hoping for is for a change of mind among the troops, where they simply will not longer be willing to fight, it has happened before and it can happen again.

I see what appeals to you beech. Alaskan libertarianism is a milder version of John Birch/Ron Paul/precious bodily fluids libertarianism. Libertarianism was perfect at the time of Shay's rebellion, but not on a planet of 7+ billion with dwindling natural systems. It is a doobie dream now, even doped-out Neil Young admits this.
Look how most people live, beech. They know their own needs as opposed to their pipe dreams, but media keeps them hyped up and irrational. Turning every damned thing off would be good if you, Davey (and Goliath) Eddy and people like me could still plan our subversion.
15 million couldn't put Humty together, huh? So maybe we'll need 30 million protesters, plus general strikes and other disobedience on Inauguration Day... whatever the flux it takes!
Otherwise we are doomed to slavery and death camps, just like Chinese dissidents. Will you resist or priss?

Gadfly-Leap Howard
That really is the question, isn't it. What to do. What can be done?
I agree that elections are not the answer. And certainly not fundraising for weak and pathetic organizations such as MoveOn.
One action I would recommend is to simply turn off the tv, turn off the radio, cancel newspaper, magazine subscriptions. It's not news, it's merely propaganda.
Talk to people, friends, family, coworkers, anyone who will listen about this dangerous situation we are in.
Marches and rallies are also good and valuable, but 15 million was not enough to stop the Iraq war.
As I said what is needed is a change of mind.
Another thing I think is important is to not allow unnecesary division. Sadly, I find that a lot of people who despise Bush, and are against the Iraq War, at the same time would rather support Obama than someone like Ron Paul, because he's talking about economics in a way they're not used to hearing it. I was supporting Gravel, but I attended several Ron Paul meetings and went to hear him speak once.
So, what are you going to do about it?

The dictionary defines patriotism as “love of country” but any definition that includes the word “love” is bound to have many interpretations. Some of us love our cars, our Gucci bags, and our favorite T.V. shows. Others just love to hate.
It’s facile to blame Fox T.V. and shock jocks for the screaming fests that pass for discourse on our collective airwaves. But they’re not the only Americans who equate patriotism with war.
My mind wanders back to March 11, 2003, just nine days before we began the Iraq War. Congress found time to pass a resolution: French Fries became Freedom Fries. The French, as you recall, had angered patriots. They opposed the war. We boycotted their wine and cheese. They felt the heat. French embassy spokeswoman, Nathalie Loisau, didn’t quite know how to respond. “We are at a very serious moment in dealing with a very serious issue,” she said, “and we are not focusing on the name you give a potato.”
Five years later, we’re all eating French Fries again but Congress is still funding the Iraq War with emergency appropriations exempt from scrutiny. The price tag is deliberately hidden from us. There’s no-bid contracts galore. We don’t know where the money is coming from or where it’s going. The Founding Fathers would not have approved. Had they believed in taxation without representation, we’d still be Brits. Come on patriots, wake up!
Thanks to the might of the American military, all the oil companies Saddam Hussein kicked out in the 70s are back in Iraq. Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and PB, Chevron and a few smaller companies are signing no-bid contracts with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. The so-called “service contracts” are illegal both under American law and the new Iraqi Constitution. If you think “We the People” need oil purchased with blood, you don’t trust American ingenuity and creativity. The “greatest generation” made sacrifices right here at home. We can too. We can break our addiction to oil. To think otherwise that’s unpatriotic.
President Bush tells us the Iraq War is worth the cost. National security is at stake. I wonder about that. With the money spent, we could have rebuilt every school, library, highway, bridge and hospital in America. Had they been at home, our National Guard could have served as first responders when Hurricane Katrina broke the levees. We could have housed and cared for the victims of Katrina and still offered health care for every man, woman, and child in this country. We could have sent our kids to college on inexpensive loans and saved millions from foreclosure. National security just might be another misnamed potato. Strength is a thing that comes from within.
Already, the Iraq War has already lasted longer than WWII. Adjusting for inflation, it has cost eight times more per soldier or $22 billion dollars a month. The ratio of serious injuries to fatalities is higher than in any previous war – 15 to 1. Troops are serving two and three tours of duty. When they get home, they’re crazed and dazed, and can’t get treatment. The actual cost of the war will be borne by our grandchildren’s children. I’m not referring to our values, our Constitution, the Bill of Rights or even our basic humanity -- just the cold-blooded numbers. The democracy we’re leaving behind in Iraq is our own. What kind of patriotism is that?
So folks, what will it be? Patriotic Freedom Fries that morph into unpatriotic missing flag lapel pins or total, unequivocal, reclamation of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people?”

Yours is one of the best descriptions of patriotism I have seen in a long time.
Love of government and leaders is FACSCISM.

True patriots are the ones who stand up to corrupt leaders and ineffective governments.

Yeah, but what you gonna do about it, beech? I don't think any third party candidates expect anything beyond a temporary platform. The media divide makes the iron curtain look sheer. So many Moyeristas need to get beyond the uppermiddleclass fundraising model and raise up their asses to act. Now that would be FUNRAISING, millions of people marching up the highways to Washington for Inauguration day. What you gonna do about it, beech?

Grady Lee Howard
I agree that elections are not the answer to our problems. No Nader has no chance of winning, but that is not the point. It is about sending a message, and simply doing the right thing. Nader, McKinney and others have a message very different than that of Obama and McCain, one that needs to be heard and understood by the American people.
Voting is not the answer, that is why I get so frustrated when I encounter Obama Will Save Us Syndrome (OWSUS).
What is needed is a change of mind. War is not patriotism. Waving flags is not patriotism. Speaking the truth is patriotism. At this point patriotism is recognizing that Obama and McCain are one and the same, and neither has any business "representing" the American people. Indeed, all of Washington DC is one and the same and are not only not representing us, but actively destroying America.

A patriot is flippant and superficial like me. I'm only joking with beecham and Dave Eddy because our elections are such a joke (Mugabian). There is more to life than voting, and we better get to it. Any sane person knows that if there is no terrorist (false flag) event/coup plot one of these two clowns will be our next puppet dictator (Napaim John or Bashful Barry). Cynthia and nader have no chance. Kucinich deserved the job, but we don't hire on merit. He's even a patriot (believes in Santa) and is a little d democrat. We all know the corporate masters (Mom and Dad) put our meager presents under the cut tree, but I suspect the meek and wishful prefer to pretend awhile longer that voting is real. I don't dislike beech or Dave, but the tooth fairy and the great pumpkin ain't coming up the street. In the case of Blastin' Barry, I think FDR is the best outcome we can hope for, at least he don't have polio like Dr. Strangelove.
Note: The United States (Asses of Evil) is the country that is most problematic when nuclear technology is discussed, and is about as bankrupt when it comes to democracy as dollars. Look for Antimethus to throw his atom flames at Charleston or Boston if we natives get restless. Damn Cynthia McKinney can't even whoop a prissy capitol cop. Ralph Nader is an overripe banana. So who you gonna call.........? CORPBUSTERS!
Send me your prayers, grocery lists, Christmas lists, shit and hit lists... I am the man behind the curtain.

Grady Lee Howard
What is your definition of "tough"?
Are you defending Obama? Right after he helped trash the Constitution?
Are you for even more wars? Obama is. Are you in favor of a larger military? Obama is.
I recommend that Counterpunch article to you as well. Obama is a complete and total fraud, who apparently has deceived you as well. Obama will only continue to bring us down into the the Bush hole.

How are you judging my "toughness"?

What is so great about FDR? Unless you like war, death, and destruction.

If you want "tough" politicians I recommend those I have already mentioned such as Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney.

Every time I tune in to BMJ I get a tizzy fit, and I agree with most of what he presents!
Patriotism is a delusion considering that there is nothing left to save and that those in charge are mostly criminals, regardless of party or label.
I am dissatisfied with the inane and pointless questions asked of the BMJ viewers, as if they were schoolchildren.
Patriots are mindless now, the "Complaintants" (Gramm says whiners) should march on Washington for redress Inauguration Day (probably McCain's since elections here are Mugabe-style).
David Eddy: What day will Jesus return? (cite scripture if possible)
beacham: Barry "brass balls" Obama's got guys tougher than you in his stools. He'll make another FDR.

David Eddy
I agree with what you say about patriotism. What I am trying to say is that Barack Obama does not stand for those ideals. Here is a good article on Counterpunch talking about Obama.

There are real choices like Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney. But since they are not corporate approved like Obama, they are only mocked and attacked, or simply ignored.

Bill Moyers needs to have those two candidates on his show.

I had high hopes that Obama would be a key person in re-establishing the state of the union to a humanistic and democratic system consistent with the intent of our forefathers and the constitution.
I was totally blown away by Obama's vote to support the present administratin's wiretap program and protect those guilty of breaking the law.
No one should be above the law. Without due process of the law that applies unilaterally there is no way to make everyone accountable for their action. The "law of the jungle" applies and no one is protected from abuse.
If we are going to make the necessary changes; it will be necessary to have strong leadership that places doing what is right as a first priority. We have had a disastrous Eight years and without change we will be the victims of a corrupt and tyrannical government with no concern for the welfare of the citizens. Power corrupts and total power leads to total corruption.
Patriotism does not apply to political parties; it applies to the welfare of the people of a nation.
Patriots fight for freedom and the quality of human life not greed and incompetence.

David Eddy
I don't believe Obama has voted against the war. He has claimed that he was against the war in the beginning, but he wasn't a member of the Senate at that time. And now he has voted to make the 4th amendmen obsolete. Is he planning on getting out of Afghanistan? What about our additional 700-1000 bases? What about our outrageous military budget? What about the $50 trillion fiscal gap? War on drugs? Largest prison population in the world? Militarized police?

I don't think religious beliefs are really the issue. The people of the middle east know the US is sponsoring terrorist activity there, and is actively invading and occupying their countries. Electing a black man won't change that. It takes a dramatic change of action.

I can't vote for Obama. I believe he is yet another face, to get us to misdirect our efforts, just like Kerry in 2004. Elections, while valuable, are not the solution.

We need a change of mind. Real freedom is in the mind. We need to realize that patriotism doesn't mean killing for oil companies. Serving in the military actually isn't anything to be proud of.

Patriotism doesn't mean buying an endless stream of junk that we can't afford.

Patriotism doesn't mean blindly obeying authority, even when it violates the Constitution and our inalienable rights.

Patriotism now is recognizing the real enemies of freedom live in the White House, and at the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the military, certainly Blackwater. If you violate the rights of Americans, murder innocent people, you can not be patriotic. A lapel pin doesn't make you patriotic.

Patriotism is frequently misunderstood to mean, we'll follow blindly. Those who criticize and take sharp aim at the stupidity of our President represent the core of what I term a Patriot. The very same disdain echoed 200+ years ago by Patrick Henry or Thomas Paine insured those who took aim at a government's stupidity were called Patriots as well. It is even more applicable especially under King Bush.

Patriotism is frequently misunderstood to mean, we'll follow blindly. Those who criticize and take sharp aim at the stupidity of our President represent the core of what I term a Patriot. The very same disdain echoed 200+ years ago by Patrick Henry or Thomas Paine insured those who took aim at a government's stupidity were called Patriots as well. It is even more applicable especially under King Bush.

There is always a credibility gap between what politicians say to get elected and what they accomplish when they are in office.
Based on the fact that Obama voted against the Iraq war; it is my opinion that he will stick to his promise to get us out of Iraq as soon as is possible. He has no commitments to the oil companies and He has shown a concern for the quality of life in the US. While he has a natural affinity for Afro-Americans; he also shows concern for all of our citizens. While he is a Christian; he can also relate to the Moslem people. We need to heal the wounds between the Moslem faith and the Christian faith. They are the same religion with different Beliefs. They worship the same God. The world is too small to retain religious bigotry. It is important that religion is a source of peace not a source of death and destruction.
If we are going to avoid becoming another fascist state; we will need to work together to preserve our Humanistic Democracy.

Jack Martin,
I share your concern about the present level of violence promoted and practiced in the US.
As long as we are willing to kill each other for personal gain: we are not civilized no matter what.
We are indoctrinated to defend our nation which is a necessary evil in a survival of the fittest environment. We can do better than that but it is not an easy discipline.
We need to honor our military because they do what is necessary to preserve our freedom. We also need to honor our patriots who sacrifice to preserve our honor, our freedom and our constitution. At the present time; all of these are threatened by the present administration and their supporters.

Thanks Michael Winship for writing on an off week to remind us about people like Major David Frakt who are trying to rectify our troubled legal system. You quoted Frakt's closing, that he feared no retribution for his arguments in representation of his detainee client. Considering the extreme misinformation being circulated about Obama (and McCain too) I wonder how confident the Major should be of his insularity.

On another point you say that Gen. Wes Clark (ret.) was awkward in his criticism of McCain. How can any fighter-bomber pilot be considered a hero? How is remote mass murder any better than car bombing just because the earthbound murderer may see his victims up close.(Maybe because he lacks a half billion dollar piece of machinery?) And what is a prisoner of war besides a collateral victim of a genocidal system? Let's don't compensate damaged McCain with the presidency. I'm not too wild about corporate minded Obama, but right now he looks like a life jacket to me.

Michael, you opened with a description of dirty campaigning. The material was so awkward and foolish it seemed ineffective. It was blanket racism. The problem comes when such material is directed at people who already wish to believe it (or those of diminished capacity who retain voting rights). There is something incipient in the mass media that cultivates such perverse need. Some people are wrestling with a subconscious that can see only a vindictive black man when they look at Senator Obama, and their rationality is abused by their primeval anxieties. Racism (dehumanizing of supposed enemies)remains a strong American product and export. Without this toxin it might be harder to recruit bomber pilots.

Anyway, thanks Michael Winship, for keeping watch while we indulged in our debauched revels, pretending we still love this monstrous enterprise.

David Eddy
I fear you are far too optimistic about Obama. I have listened to him, and I am not impressed. Yes, he is better than McCain, but that is not good enough.
Being the better candidate is not good enough, you have to actually deserve my vote. This election there have been several strong candidates for president. Mike Gravel first among them. There was also Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
Now the only two I would consider voting for President are Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney.
In fact the Democrats and Republicans are not polar opposites. That is only a false image. They both want more war, bigger government, more central control, and less freedom for the American people.
If only there was polarization! If only the Democrats would stand against the neocons. If only the true left was actually represented in the congress and in the media, anywhere really besides the internet. The sad reality is that much of the government has been united for fascism.

What are you trying to say?
Your post does not contain any facts. The fact is that Obama is one hundred Eighty out from the Bush administration disaster.
The fact of the matter is that We need to give up the polarization and work together to save our constitution, End the Iraq occupation and stabilize our economy. Far right and far left has to go away so that we can work together for the benefit of all.
Rocking the Ship of State until it sinks is a bad idea. If the ship sinks all the oil in the middle east will not save us. Get your head out of the sand if you want to uderstand the facts that are consistent with reality.

Pariotrism is standing up to a crooked election and demanding justice even when your candidate is the beneficiary of a rigged nomination process.

And patriotism is keeping an open mind and reading articles critical to your candidate even when you think he walks on water.

Action Alert to get the Senate Commerce Comm. to investigate the media's interference in the 2008 election:

A Closer Look at Why Obama Represents Bush's Third Term

Every time I tune in to Bill Moyers' Journal I become incensed again! Not at Bill, but at the "leaders" of our country (not all of them, of course, mostly just the Executive branch - no wonder Colin Powell wanted out). I have never been so ashamed or embarrassed of this great nation as I have been since 2000, and it seems to just keep getting worse. The latest memorable quote from Bill's show was when Phil Donohue said "This is not the country my mother and father raised me to pledge allegiance to". That about sums it up for me. And here's the weird part - in spite of the fact that our nation's economy is at a relative low point right now, we are still the luckiest people in the world to be living here. And I think that's part of our problem. Another thing Phil said was "All it takes for Evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing". I think we have a lot of good people in this country who are doing nothing because they are just too comfortable - I cop to that! I am a Boomer, nearing retirement, and I recall riding as a boy with my family in our 1953 Buick and complaining of hunger. I said "Dad, I'm starving". My Dad (who of course lived through the Great Despression), driving, said over his shoulder "You have never been hungry a day in your life!". At the time I thought he was nuts, but years later I realized the truth of his statement, because there ARE people in our world who ARE hungry (and, inexplicably, in this country as well). If we were starving, or downtrodden, as others of our country have been at various times in the past, I don't think we'd be putting up with what's going on. I'm not advocating revolution in the streets here, but I sure wish people who think things are as they should be would wake up! I don't know what the answer is (although thankfully the current administration appears to be just about finished) but I do hope something will happen to make Bill happy - it'll make me happy too.

Well written. If only we could get the Republicans to live by that sentiment.
Hopefully, the next administration will get its actions consistent with its promises. The lies and deceit of the present administration have caused us dearly in lives, credibility and finances. The cost of the mismanagement and corruption will take generations to repair.
God will bless this country when they do what is good and right not when they do what is destructive and foolish.

Patriotism is love of country.
Not love of government.

It is love of principles.
Not love of leaders.

It is love of truth. Not love of lies.

Patriotism is being willing to be labelled a traitor to fight against the true traitors.

It is being willing to be called a lunatic to speak wisdom.

It is saying no to war.
And yes to peace.

It is saying no to slavery.
And yes to freedom.

Major Frakt will be interviewed on the 4th of July on the PRI/WGBH/BBC radio program "The World". The interview will include a reading by Major Frakt of excerpts of his oral argument.

Patriotism may be defined as a love of country, but that can also accurately describe nationalism. The defining difference between these can be found in their purpose. One can not be patriotic to America without respect for the underlying love of humanity represented by our founding principals, for America is nothing if not the expression of belief in the worth and value of all humanity.

American politics has become lost in a struggle between ideologies of taxation and spending with disregard for the greater ambitions of our founders. We should take the opportunity afforded us each anniversary of that founding to evaluate America's value to humanity, and not simply to those who claim it as a birthright.

Many American patriots have served and died for their country, but many more have done so for others. That is the defining difference between Americans and any "patriots" of other nations. True patriotism to America can not recognize "others" in extending it's protections and freedoms.

Patriotism may be defined as a love of country, but that can also accurately describe nationalism. The defining difference between these can be found in their purpose. One can not be patriotic to America without respect for the underlying love of humanity represented by our founding principals, for America is nothing if not the expression of belief in the worth and value of all humanity.

American politics has become lost in a struggle between ideologies of taxation and spending with disregard for the greater ambitions of our founders. We should take the opportunity afforded us each anniversary of that founding to evaluate America's value to humanity, and not simply to those who claim it as a birthright.

Many American patriots have served and died for their country, but many more have done so for others. That is the defining difference between Americans and any "patriots" of other nations. True patriotism to America can not recognize "others" in extending it's protections and freedoms.

Thanks for sharing this piece; I truly enjoyed reading what would otherwise have been something to be read with a sense of shame and sadness, that is, Major Frakt's closing arguments. He captured an essence of what has been wrong in our country since the start of the Iraq war (which is to say, since the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency.)

In the past seven years, I've often found myself wondering how the country I grew up in in the 1950's could come to this inverted representation of our own core values. 9/11 is the most obvious, visible cause, but I believe the country has been deliberately and cynically manipulated in support of advancing the interests of a small wealthy few. That's not patriotism, it's treason.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president." I wish someone - many someones - in the press had highlighted that statement five or six years ago, when disagreement with the administration's policies was routinely branded as unpatriotic.

We are a great nation, with a bright future still in front of us, but we now have a chapter (sadly not the first, but arguably the darkest) in our history that will require atonement and reparation. May the future grant us the wisdom and the strength to realize both.

This president is going to start another war, this time with Iran. They say the bill going thru congress that will give this president the power to engage in a naval blockade plus other powers against Iran, basicly waging war against Iran. How can this happen?? This is insanity. Our insane president will give Israel the green light to use Iraqi airspace to bomb Iran. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN??? This is a complete disaster.People need to know what is happening.

Basically, Patriotism is the love of and devotion to one's country. A patriot is person who loves, supports and defends his country. the word patriot comes from the Greek word Patrios which means one's father.
These definitions are according to the American Heritage Dictionary.
There is no mention of getting teary eyed when ever someone waves a flag.
Patriotism is definitely not defined as a cover-up for government corruption, immoral agendas and/or undermining of the constitution. Many patriotic citizens have died for their country while other citizens have made their fortune at their county's expense.
Love is not having to say you are sorry. Love is long suffering, kind, not easy to anger, Does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth.
New King James Version of the Bible.
Devotion is being there when your country needs you; not considering what your country can do for you. It is not the gratification of greed and animosity.

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