There was a time, back when she was with the National Endowment for the Humanities, when I thought Lynne Cheney was a serious intellectual. That time is long gone. Like her husband and her daughter Liz, she’s a tiresome political hack and a right wing shill, as she proved yet again in an interview with Steve Malzberg.
Malzberg asked Cheney why Obama “isn’t proud of our history” and believes America “was built on the backs of slaves and the poor,” noting the president’s recent comments on “the legacy of race and slavery and segregation” in response to a question on the Don Sterling scandal. Cheney responded that she agrees Obama doesn’t like America, which she believes is partly due to his time as a professor.
“Part of it is, we forget that President Obama comes out of an academic background, you know he was teaching constitutional law,” Cheney said. “There’s this idea on campuses that is mostly about how this country has oppressed people.”
“In the rest of the country,” Cheney added, “parents want to teach their kids about what an amazing piece of good fortune it is if you’re born in this country.”
I think this highlights the key difference between liberal and conservative conceptions of patriotism. For a conservative, patriotism means pretending that your country is perfectly fair and just in all ways (except, of course, when they’re ranting about how evil we’ve become because we don’t throw gay people in prison). The mere mention of America’s legacy of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination sends them into this kind of “OMG, you hate America” tizzy.
It also highlights their aversion to reality. Racism in the United States is not some long-dead feature of the distant past. We had slavery for the first 80 years of the nation’s history. We had segregation for another 90 years after that. And to this day we have a criminal justice system that is so pervasively racist that Michelle Alexander correctly calls it the “new Jim Crow.”
For liberals, patriotism does not mean mindless cheerleading and denial of reality. It means demanding that your country live up to its stated ideals. It means working to make society more fair, more just and more equal. I’ll take that version over ignorant demagoguery any day.