A TV Star Highlights the True Ideal of Patriotism

Fox News is hopping mad that Debra Messing, star of Will and Grace, gave her 13-year old son permission to protest during the National Anthem at a hockey game and they’re dishonestly spinning the story to gin up outrage by framing it as one of national pride.

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Debra Messing is proud of her son for not being proud of his country…

Messing took to Instagram last Wednesday to show emotional support for her son after he asked for permission to protest the national anthem for the New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.

The post reads:

“’Please stand for the Star Spangled Banner.’

Son: ‘Mom, I want to sit down in protest. Can we do that?’

Me: ‘Yes, honey. We can do that.’

All of this reminds me of a post I wrote almost a decade ago, which took off from something Peter Beinart wrote about the huge difference in the way that conservatives and liberals define patriotism. For conservatives, patriotism is all about empty symbolism, not principles and actions. Liberals, Beinart wrote, “are more comfortable thinking about America that way: as a nation that must earn its citizens’ devotion by making good on its ideals. For conservatives, the devotion must come first; politics is secondary. But for liberals, patriotic devotion without political struggle is often empty. Liberals think lapel pins are fine if they inspire Americans to struggle to realize the nation’s promise. But they worry that those symbols can become–especially when wielded by people in power–substitutes for that struggle and thus emblems of hypocrisy and complacency.”

It isn’t that we worry that they become substitutes for the struggle to live up to our professed ideals; we know that they do and that is simply indisputable. But they don’t just substitute for taking action to make the country better, they are a constant bulwark against it. Those symbols are wielded in a way that shuts down the actions that lead to such progress, especially the act of protest and direct political action. Anyone engaging in protest is declared to hate America, to be a communist, and probably a gay terrorist too. A liberal, on the other hand, knows that the only way the nation will remain worthy of our commitment is by continually striving to live up to those declared values of justice, liberty and equality that we claim to love but so rarely put into practice.

My allegiance is not to a nation and much less to a flag, but to a set of principles. When my country supports those principles, I support my country; when it fails to do so, I do not support it. America can only be great if America is good, if our actions are in line with the ideals we so loudly proclaim. And that’s why Messing is right to be proud of her son. His actions are the very definition of real patriotism.

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