Country First? A Critical Look at Patriotism and the McCain-Palin Slogan

| October 20, 2008 - 11:28 pm

Tags: 2008 presidential elections, Democrats, GOP, McCain, Obama, Palin, patriotism

In a listserv, a fellow scholar posted an honest question about patriotism. In one post, she asked if being critical about the country would call into question her patriotism. I remembered how Obama's patriotism was questioned when he was found not wearing an American flag lapel. Personally, I don't recall McCain's patriotism being called into question for not wearing an American flag lapel in the last debate. Oh wait, I forgot...his slogan is "Country First," so he doesn't have to wear a lapel to prove his patriotism. Double standard?

What does patriotism mean? What does putting "Country First" look like? Who gets to create the framework for what it means to put "Country First"? 

To the first question: I don't claim loyalty to either of the major political parties, since I find shortcomings in both. Moreover, the political parties have at times, done more to further divide rather than restore the "United" in the "U.S." This is evident in the mudslinging that occurs during campaigns, and in the interactions between Senate/House majority and minority members. I liken patriotism to my relationship with loved ones: I argue with and am most critical of those whom I love the most (just ask my mom). Think of the Emperor's New Clothes. If I know there's something that can be improved about the country, but don't do nor say anything to work to make a better America for fear of calling out the elephant in the room, then I cannot claim to be patriotic.

Nevertheless, I understand that others may beg to differ. Patriotism, particularly post-9/11, means fully supporting all of our government officials decisions even to the point of forgetting that the latter are still fellow mortals subject to fallibility. To not do our part as citizens and hold them accountable would mean that we're not holding up our end in a democratic society. Yes, there more work to be done post-Election Day.

As for the other two questions...McCain's maverick reputation and history of reaching over the aisle, even when that's entailed losing favor with his own political party, supports the notion that McCain has put "Country First." Yes, as CNN correspondents put it, out of all the Republican nominees, McCain was the one Democrats could stomach, relatively speaking. However, his recent VP selection has forced me to revisit if McCain has switched to putting "Party First," for the sake of working his conservative base and winning the elections. As much as I respect Governor Palin as a female professional/leader, I'm troubled at the thought of her running the country, just in case something happens to McCain, if elected. 

McCain: Country First or Party First (at least until he gets elected?)... 

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