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Put Your Right Hand Over Your Heart, Ready… « The Washington Independent

BEREA, Ohio — At first it was an inaudible scream, then it became clear. The man yelling at the start of Sen. Barack Obama was angry that he’d begun the town hall meeting here without leading the crowd in the pledge of allegiance. In quick order, Obama rectified the situation, leading the crowd in those words we all learned long ago as children.

Needless to say, such a comment would perhaps never be heard at a McCain event, whose opening often seems like the beginning of a military ceremony in full regalia. The pledge is always a given, as is, most times, a singing of the national anthem and maybe a presentation of the Color Guard.

Throughout this campaign, we’ve heard not-so-silent whispers taking shots at the patriotism of Obama. His decision to wear or not wear an American lapel pin for many was a barometer of how strong he felt about his country. And his mixed heritage and foreign schooling led many to openly question the heart of his true allegiance.

As I’ve written about several times over the course of this campaign, if anything, this country is very much at grips with what it means to love one’s country. We have, in the course of our story, elevated brief symbols of our allegiance to unprecedented heights so that they serve as litmus tests for our love of country. As a result those who’ve chosen to abstain have been labeled traitors or worse. As much as things like the pledge are supposed to show a devotion to our best ideals, they also unearth our blind hatred to those who find other ways to express their gratitude for everything this country is and can be.

After today one thing is certain: In every event going forward, Obama will stand, hand over his heart, with his face tilted up towards an American flag, reciting the pledge. It will be a purely symbolic moment, with little to do with the systemic problems we commonly face. It will be fleeting and fast.

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