Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Don't call them patriots
On U2’s 1988 album, “Rattle and Hum,” singer Bono intros “Helter Skelter” by saying, “This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealing it back.”
Well, the dangerous and delusional fringe of the far right has stolen the word patriot from all of us.
And I’m stealing it back.
News out of southern Michigan keeps referring to what is becoming known as the “Patriot Movement.” It implies these people love America so much they will kill to restore it to a presumed purity that never existed.
There’s nothing patriotic about wanting to kill a police officer to set a trap to kill more police officers.
My first thought when I saw the Hutaree group mugshots was, “I’ll bet we won’t see any Obama/Biden signs out in front of any of their trailers.”
So far all we know is that the group were preparing for war with the anti-Christ. Want to take a wild guess on who they think he might be?
It’s people like this that make it so easy to caricature the entire Tea Party movement, whose spiritual godfather is Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh.
And, as I’m sure we’ll see, an ugly mix of racism and righteousness will be at the heart of Hutaree.
I’ve yet to see a single white supremacist that makes me, a fellow white, feel the least bit supreme. These are the chosen ones? Who’s doing the choosing? Jerry Springer?
This is going to sound like a joke, but these guys give trailer trash a bad name. I know and am friendly with lots of trashy people who live in trailers. In fact, one of my pop culture heroes, Earl Hickey, is proud trailer trash. His show, “My Name Is Earl,” is to modern family life what “The Waltons” were to the 1930s.
There’s nothing at all redemptive about groups calling themselves patriots. It’s an insult to our proud history.
America’s Founding Fathers were educated men of grace, class and wit. Egged on by the savants at Fox News, the men and women who today call themselves patriots sneer at anyone with with those nobilities.
Our Founding Fathers weren’t bloodthirsty. They weren’t hot headed. They were cool and deliberate. War was a last resort.
It was an age of reason. They didn’t want to kill all the British. They wanted them to just go away.
It’s wrong to take on of our most proud and cherished words and apply it to groups that have nothing in common with the inspiration.
Want to hear about a real patriot?
Let me tell you a little about the father who founded me.
Paul Rodell was an optician who never earned more than $20,000 a year and worked until the day he died. He loved his wife, his children and I doubt the world’s ever seen a happier grandpa.
A Pittsburgh Steeler season ticket holder for four decades, he’d stand with his hand over his heart and sing the national anthem with a gusto so loud, off-key and joyful beer vendors would turn their heads in slack-jawed amazement.
He paid his taxes without complaint, bitched about potholes and wars he didn’t think were justified. He was happy when men like Nixon and Reagan won elections and chagrined when men like Carter and Clinton did.
He loved this exuberant country with his whole heart. Things like reflexive racism and religious intolerance confused him. He couldn’t understand hating a man he’d never met and every man he ever met became his friend. If it was raining, he'd offer soaked strangers a ride from the bus stop into town.
He believed God had blessed him and wondered what the golf courses in heaven will look like.
He’d rather have spent an hour reading a good mystery than watching partisans harangue each other about politics.
When he died, the government he served without complaint in World War II sent us an American flag in gratitude for his service.
He was the greatest man I’ve ever known and he’ll always be my idea of a true American patriot.
So, please, when it comes to hate-spewing traitors who cherish their access to automatic weaponry more than their flawed fellow man, don’t call them patriots.
They’re just morons with basic cable service.
And save all your hatred for the really despicable Patriots. The ones who play football in New England.
Do it out of remembrance for men like my father.
As I said, Dad was a Steeler fan.