On yesterday’s first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth, President Barack Obama has in one of his more strikingly Bushian moments (of which there are many) declared “Loyalty Day” as a national holiday to be celebrated annually.
Now, at first glance, this seems fairly innocuous. The press release drops a lot of distinctively American, feel-good rhetoric — “Founders,” “Constitution,” “liberty, equality, and justice” — these are things which, by and large, we all like. To observe Loyalty Day, we are encouraged to display an American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, presumably while pondering the principles and history the release discusses.
And yet — Loyalty Day is hands down disturbing, but I’m glad this declaration is getting so much attention.
You see, as it turns out, Loyalty Day isn’t a brand new thing, though you might get that impression from the White House press release. It’s been around for decades, and most recent Presidents have made one declaration about it over the course of their time in office. But, whether because ofgrowing cynicism in American politics or thanks to the GOP’s short-term memory loss in its opposition to Barack Obama, this particular declaration seems to be sparking more outrage. Here’s why that makes the declaration, though not the holiday, a good thing:
1. That press release could have been written by Glenn Beck at the height of an on-air frenzy, but it was released by the Obama White House. The tone has every bit of the most concerning strain of red-state genuflection before the military and other “patriotic” aspects of our government and history, but it isn’t a red-state document. It demonstrates the equal willingness of both sides of the aisle to play on emotion — on love of country and pride in history — to advance uncritical allegiance to the state.