Vice President Mike Pence's decision to walk out of an NFL game on Sunday after several San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem raises a question: If the kneeling football players are patriots — as many keep insisting — does that make what Pence did unpatriotic?
Well, sure enough, Nancy Armour, who writes about sports for USA Today, said Pence had made a "mockery" of the anthem by "co-opting it for a stunt." It was, she said, "a shameless bid for political points" and that "he tried to play the country for a fool."
So, to sum up: When millionaire football players turn the anthem into a divisive stunt, it's patriotic. But when a sitting vice president walks out of a game to show respect for the flag, it's shameless and disrespectful.
Time was, being patriotic meant supporting the troops, honoring the flag, loving the country and its many freedoms. It was pretty simple. But progressive sophisticates have been trying for years to redefine what patriotism means, and the result is a muddle that requires a pro-football-size playbook to figure out.
To that end, we've reviewed a multitude of stories and commentaries from some leading politicians and the best and brightest of the pundit class to put together a brief tutorial on the current thinking about this word:
What Is Patriotic?
- Disrespecting the flag. The endless encomiums to football players is clear enough, but in addition, read any story about flag burning and you're likely to find someone praising it as the "highest form of patriotism."
- Taking guns away. Sure, there's that inconvenient Second Amendment and its "right to bear arms" line, but it's gun control that's patriotic. In a piece published by the Huffington Post, for example, the author explains that gun owners are the non-patriots because the way they "interpret the Second Amendment endangers our safety. As a patriotic American, does that sound right to you?"
- Violent left-wing extremists. Antifa has made no bones about its intentions: It's a violent, far-left organization that aims to use whatever means necessary — including violence — to silence speech it doesn't like. One Antifa member tweeted: "Let's get one thing clear. Antifa is an Anarcho-Communist cause." But Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson explained on CNN that Antifa is actually "interested in preserving the fabric of America."
- "Occupying" Wall Street. Although the occupy stunt was dreamed up by editors of a leftist magazine in Canada, had a standard-issue list of socialist demands, and the tent city became a cesspool of rape, sexual assaults and gropings, OWS was praised by many as the height of patriotism and by one observer as being on the right side of "a battle for the soul of this nation."
- Revealing national secrets. In 2010, Pvt. Bradley Manning indiscriminately released hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents, revelations that compromised national security and put American lives at risk. Manning was charged with, among other things, "aiding the enemy," a crime punishable by death. But after Manning, who now goes by Chelsea, was released from prison, the New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy puff piece titled "The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning," and Manning was described in the press as "a patriot of the highest order."
- Paying more in taxes. In 2008, Joe Biden defined tax hikes as patriotic. "It's time to be patriotic," he said, "time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."
- Supporting ObamaCare. Former Obama Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said back in 2013 that "the patriotic place to be is in support of implementing" ObamaCare. Earlier this year, Andy Slavitt, the acting director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, attacked Republicans for trying to repeal ObamaCare, saying that "there's been a, one could even say an unpatriotic level of uncooperation in making the ACA work."
What Is Unpatriotic?
- Criticizing President Obama. Salon's Joan Walsh said in 2009 that "Republicans use everything they can to undermine and delegitimize this president. And it's actually un-American. It's traitorous, in my opinion." Time magazine's Joe Klein said it "borders on sedition." Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter said Republican criticism of Obama "emboldens the terrorists."
- Supporting President Trump. Things changed when Trump became president. During the campaign, Rolling Stone declared that "if you support Donald Trump, you are unpatriotic." More recently, CNN's Jake Tapper recently labeled Trump himself as "unpatriotic" and "un-American."
- Praising Putin (but only if your last name is Trump). During the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton said that praising Russian President Vladimir Putin was "unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country." Trump had said that Putin was a better leader than President Obama.
Obama, shortly after he assumed office, also offered fulsome praise for Putin, telling him "I am aware of the extraordinary work that you've done on behalf of the Russian people" and "there's an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations on a much stronger footing." We couldn't find anybody questioning the patriotism of that statement.
- Peaceful right-wing protests. In 2001, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., attacked the tea party — which did not espouse or commit violence, but did push tax and spending cuts. Sanchez said: "These are not patriots. They don't love this country because they have this petty little spitting match with the president."
- Budget "cuts." After President Trump released his 2018 budget proposal — which proposes to increase spending by 7% from 2017 to 2019 — California Gov. Jerry Brown called it "unconscionable and un-American" because it imposed "painful and debilitating" spending cuts as well as "a massive tax break to the wealthiest."
- Criticizing illegal immigrants. In 2015, Obama blasted attacks on illegal immigrants as unpatriotic, saying that "this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that's out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are."
- Protecting the border. In July, three Texas Democrats signed a letter declaring that building a wall on the southern border to make it harder for people to illegally enter the United States "serves as an un-American symbol of hatred toward immigrants who contribute so much to our country."
The complete story here > What Is 'Patriotic' These Days? A Guide For The Perplexed