Barack Obama has castigated the Steal and Spend party for their ads in Tennessee “featuring” his wife Michelle saying that she finally has some pride in the United States. The SS party is trying to rub that comment onto Obama’s reputation. I don’t think it’s going to work, and here’s why.
I was a youngster of 14 in 1960, living in a small village outside Washington DC, when JFK was running for President. I distributed literature, rang doorbells, called potential voters, and did other such local precinct work to help elect this man. I was a Boy Scout who helped shovel the streets for his inauguration on January 20, 1961. I was shivering, but not from the cold, from the awe I felt at being some small part of history.
On November 22, 1963 I was helping a neighbor move some furniture when her daughter called from Dallas. The woman turned to us and said, “Someone shot our Governor.” It was only when we turned on the television that I learned from a sobbing Walter Cronkite that my hero was dead. And all this woman from Texas cared about was her governor. Then I stood on Memorial Bridge at the age of 17, sobbing uncontrollably as I watched a broken-hearted but proud woman follow her husband’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery.
After that terrible weekend I felt very little pride for my country.
Within months we went from having Pablo Casals entertaining in the White House to Martha and the Vandellas. We lost all sense of style! I had no pride in America.
We were soon mired deeply in a war that was obviously unwinnable from the start, fought for reasons that seemed even then to be suspect, using the bodies of over 50,000 young Americans and untold numbers of Vietnamese as scaffolding to prop up one small domino in the war against godless Communism. I had no pride in America.
Not quite five years after the murder of John Kennedy we had seen the deaths of two other great Americans. I helped fight fires in DC during the riots after King was gunned down and my college graduation was the day Bobby Kennedy was foully slain. Many of us refused to wear our gowns so our black armbands would be visible. I had no pride in America.
Then in November the voters chose Richard Nixon to lead our nation into the sewers of vicious partisan politics, corruption, dishonesty, Ratfuck. I had no pride in America.
Within months of his assumption of office Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for any and all crimes he may have committed in office. I had no pride in America.
Scant months later the United States slunk out of Vietnam, leaving behind thousands upon thousands of our former allies to face retribution from the Communist forces which had overrun the South. I had no pride in America.
There was little room for pride in our country in the face of the Iran hostage crisis, Iran-contra, Oliver North and all the others, an invasion of Grenada! One of the big powers in the western hemisphere. And then we invaded Panama, followed soon thereafter by the failure of the US to finish its job in Iraq by getting rid of Saddam Hussein. There was little room for pride during the administration of Bill Clinton, who brought the reputation of the Presidency to a new low. Then of course came the leader of the SS: Kaiser George III. I would have thought it was impossible for the United States to sink any lower, but I was clearly wrong.
I could go on, but I think the picture is fairly clear.
Is there any wonder that Michelle Obama said that she felt little pride in the United States during her lifetime? She was born less than two months after JFK was slain. There has been little reason for pride in our country during the last half century.
And is it any wonder that the perpetrators of many of the high crimes and misdemeanours that have contributed to the downfall of our country have turned on her? She spoke the truth, something that is in short supply in this country.
It is unfortunate that the majority of Americans cannot remember the joyful way we felt about our country during JFK’s too-short time in office. We felt good about ourselves. And while Kennedy undoubtedly had his flaws and may well have gone down in history as at best a mediocre president had he lived, the country was thrilled at the way he went from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to the apparent triumph against Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yes, history says that it was a draw, what with our giving up missiles in Turkey in exchange for the removal of missiles from Cuba, but the most important thing in terms of our view of the world back then was the pride we felt.
The style of the Presidency is a vital part of national pride. I believe that if we feel good about ourselves we will do good for ourselves and for the world. We need pride. And it’s beginning to look as though we may, after far too long, have an opportunity to feel good about ourselves by electing a man who can project to his country that positive image we all want of ourselves and our country.
I know that I will be criticized for being all touchy-feely. That’s fine. But I hope that one or two or maybe even a few more will understand what I am trying to say. It is time to hold our heads up and move forward to restore our reputation in the world. We can start by nominating and then electing Barack Obama.