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Patriotism with liberty and justice for whom?

What defines a patriot these days is a matter of speculation, and fodder for late-night laugh shows. Surely it’s not, as it once was, the willingness to fight for, perhaps die for, the freedom guaranteed by our country’s constitution.

Since Sept. 11, patriotic displays formerly reserved for July 4 celebrations are seen everywhere. Flags, red-white-and-blue ads for everything from vacuum cleaners to underwear and refrigerators. What’s patriotic about a $1,500 side-by-side cold closet for beets, eggs and blue cheese (well, there isn’t much blue food, is there)?

Our legislators are being called upon to show their patriotism by passing pork packages favoring industries near and dear to the heart of the administration. Some particularly egregious bills have already passed the House and are headed for the Senate. Tell me, if you can, congressman, what is so damn patriotic about bison. Oh sure, this is the land where the buffalo roam and all that, but a be zillion-dollar bailout for bison farmers? In the name of patriotism? So what about the deer and the antelope? Well, major contributors are farming them, but shouldn’t we see that they still have a place to play? And are Alaskan caribou expendable because they are not as patriotic as, say, petroleum engineers?

Surely they could do better than that for our great country in its time of need. The House energy bill (favored by our prez) is worth $34 billion in tax breaks to companies that are doing nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It gives a token to producers of renewable energy. Next thing you know, they’ll be bailing out Enron (well, at least it has a subsidiary that builds and runs wind turbines). The bill also declines to tighten fuel-efficiency standards on cars and light trucks or reward makers of hybrid or fuel-cell-powered vehicles. Come on, guys. Honda and Toyota can do it. Why can’t GM and Ford? Can you say, “No incentive”?

And how about all those flags flying atop gas-guzzling SUVs? Wouldn’t it be more patriotic to just drive leaner cars? And when the vice president puts down conservation as no basis for sound energy policy, what signal does he send? It’s not worth the effort to change our wasteful habits and come to grips with the fact that this country will never be in control of its energy supply if we squander our limited capacity to produce oil and gas. Weren’t any of these guys around in the ’70s? When the Arab oil embargo cut our supply to a trickle, we waited hours in gas lines to buy 5 gallons every other day. We instantly learned to conserve, to carpool. And it worked.

The same way Californians conserved electricity when the threat of rolling blackouts loomed. That worked, too. Less peak-hour usage, no blackouts. Mr. Cheney hasn’t been paying attention. Maybe we could send him a message to his undisclosed location.

I’ve always loved this country, maybe not fighting and dying so much, but the country, the mountains, and the prairies, “and the oceans white with foam.” I feel patriotic in a way that doesn’t demand flying flags on my car or buying into all that methane coming from Washing-ton, D.C. In my own way, I’m doing my bit for God and country: composting, hanging the laundry out to dry, turning down the thermostat (even Jimmy Carter knew to put on a sweater), and if I outlive my Saturn, I’ll buy a hybrid or an electric car, if Detroit finally gets its act together.

Meanwhile, our children are being asked, once again, to show their patriotism by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We did that when I was a kid, before the Supremes ruled that enforced loyalty oaths were unconstitutional. And that was even before President Eisenhower added the “under God” part. Avoiding constitutional challenges by the likes of the ACLU, teachers had pretty much given up on the Pledge until this fall. Now, every 5-year-old can say it, albeit with just a few misreadings. I swear I heard: “I pledge Elisha to the flag of the you nice taste of America; and to the republican witch hands, one nature, under God, invisible, with liver tea and justus for all.”

Close enough for government work, as they say.

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13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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