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Jewish World Review March 17, 2003 / 14 Adar II, 5763

David Limbaugh

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Consumer Reports

Dissent does not equal patriotism

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Many extreme leftists have a funny idea about patriotism. The more they show their disgust with America -- especially on foreign soil -- the better patriots they believe they are.

First we had David "Baghdad" Bonior and Congressman Jim McDermott parading around the streets of Saddam's capital decrying President Bush and the United States and saying Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. McDermott suggested that Bush would knowingly mislead the American people in furtherance of his war aims against Iraq, and was planning to attack Iraq as part of a plot to crown himself "Emperor of America." While it's probably fair to say this regrettable delegation doesn't represent the Democratic Party, it's noteworthy that when pressed, few, if any Democrats condemned these men for their contemptible behavior.

Then the erudite actor Sean Penn made a complete moron of himself stumping for Saddam in Iraq before realizing he'd been duped, and actor Danny Glover, while in Brazil, called President Bush, instead of Sean Penn, a moron. There have been plenty of others, but more recently the Dixie Chicks in a live performance in London said they were sorry President Bush was from Texas.

As passionately as these people castigate President Bush and American policy they are equally passionate about their patriotism. You don't dare question their patriotism. Indeed they are proving themselves to be super patriots through the very act of dissenting. Without them, we are led to believe, the First Amendment would just dry up and blow away. (Personally, I'll be more convinced of their indiscriminate passion for free expression when I see them lobbying against college speech codes and the like.)

Let's get something straight. As much as they practice the art, the far left has a limited comprehension of the role of dissent, the concept of patriotism and their ostensible interrelationship.

Liberals confuse the right to dissent with the act of dissenting. My liberal friend Alan Colmes recently said, "I think protesting is actually very pro-American. It's what a democracy really is."

No, Alan, protesting against America is not "very pro-American." Being pro-America is pro-American. Defending one's right to protest is celebrating America's freedoms. But the act of dissing America while exercising those freedoms is not pro-American.

It is not the act of dissenting that makes this country great. There is nothing noble in trashing America and her leaders on foreign soil, especially as we prepare for war against a foreign country. It is disgraceful. Anti-war protestors are not exhibiting their patriotism when they dissent; they are exercising their freedoms -- and there's a big difference.

The right to dissent -- included in the First Amendment -- is part of what makes America great (but far from the only thing). That right carries with it a duty of responsibility and a measure of accountability, such as incurring the scorn of the many who do love this country. You may dissent to your heart's content, but the substance of your statements will not be exempted from scrutiny merely because you are exercising rights we consider sacred in America. You are not fooling many people by wrapping yourself in the flag of dissent, trying to pretend that it, too, is red, white and blue.

Patriotism is not about worshipping dissent. It is about love of country. Since when are expressions of contempt considered outpourings of love? It is about appreciating America's uniqueness, including her unparalleled freedoms, not about casually dismissing America's sovereignty in favor of one worldism or love poems about "our common humanity."

Patriotism is not "talking across national boundaries" as part of "a global debate about this war," as the Nation's Bruce Shapiro lamely characterized Hollywood's anti-war drumbeat. Nor is it "pledg(ing) to make common cause with the people of the world to bring about justice, freedom and peace," as Hollywood leftists and others did in their "Not in Our Name" diatribe.

It is not patriotic for antiwar protestors to burn and rip up flags, flowers and patriotic signs that residents had erected on a fence along Whittier Boulevard in California to commemorate those lost when this nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. And it's not patriotic for antiwar types to try to censor the unmistakably patriotic song of country star Darryl Worley about 9/11, "Have You Forgotten?"

By no means are all those opposed to war against Iraq being unreasonable. But those extreme leftist antiwar protestors are different. They have every right to belittle this nation as it prepares for war, but they shouldn't expect to be exalted for it.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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