A not so very patriot act

Country first. Does this apply to all parties this election season? Normally one would think so. But since the Republican ticket of McCain-Palin has made it their campaign slogan, we are led to believe that they are the only ones who have enough patriotism to be able to use this slogan.

The point here is not to bash any party, but to clear the air on the question of patriotism, or whether or not it’s even worth discussing in light of all the other crises we are facing that desperately need to be addressed.

It seems as though every election, voters beg the candidates to talk about the issues, and when I say issues I mean health care, the economy, the war in Iraq and others. Whether or not someone is a patriot because they are running around with a flag pin is not a voter issue. It’s a deliberate attempt to distract voters from the real issues that we face in these extraordinary times. If you have no plans or ideas for addressing the voters’ concerns, how easy it is to cop out by ranting about some vague item such as the opponents’ patriotism or lack of it?

After a long and arduous primary season we always end up back at square one – character assassination. One of the most frequently used attacks is labeling the opponent as unpatriotic.

Really, how can one prove whether or not someone is a patriot? Isn’t running for public office one of the most patriotic things you can do to begin with?

Consider all the risks a person takes when running for office. They have to face attacks on their character, have the media delve into private family affairs, the money, the time and energy spent campaigning – the list goes on.

Secondly, since when does any political party have a monopoly on patriotism? Just what is patriotism anyway? Webster’s online dictionary defines it as “devoted love, support and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”

Since both McCain and Obama are running for the highest office in the land, isn’t that one of the most concrete examples of caring about one’s country? The criterion for being considered a patriot seems very arbitrary.

For example, John McCain served in the military, and his service should be honored. However, not all of us choose that route to express love for our country. What about people who choose to help the country in other ways? What about being a Red Cross volunteer, or agreeing to teach in the inner cities? Don’t firefighters and police officers risk their lives daily, not unlike our military personnel to protect their fellow citizens? Does that make them unpatriotic?

Another criteria that continues to arise is that if you criticize the country or suggest the country is having any sort of problems you are labeled as being unpatriotic. How does ignoring reality and refusing to discuss these problems help the country at all? Patriotism manifests itself in many ways and they should all be honored equally.

It speaks to the sad state of public discourse in this country when both candidates have to come out and say they will not question each other’s patriotism. Why did they question it at all when it was never an issue for the voters anyway?

The larger point is that none of this does anything to solve the extraordinary problems that we now face. This election season we, the voters, should make it clear to all parties that we are tired of the politics of distraction. We must demand an intelligent discussion of concrete issues that really affect all of us in our day-to-day lives.

This November don’t let the politics of distraction discourage you from casting your ballot.

Sitzman is a senior print journalism major and guest columnist for The Spectator.