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I thought it would have taken the election of an avowed communist to the White House to make it happen, but all it took was Barack Obama:
The hundreds who massed at the University of California on election night responded to Barack Obama’s victory by heading off on a route that has been for a generation the sacred way for the activist left: out the campus gates, through Sproul Plaza, and down Telegraph Avenue toward People’s Park.
By the time they arrived at the intersection of Telegraph and Durant avenues, where a tie-dyed vendor occupies one corner, it became clear they did not come to challenge the system now preparing to consecrate a new regime in Washington. At one point, a man scaled a lamppost and unfurled the Stars and Stripes. The crowd broke out in the national anthem.
“People finally felt like our generation had reclaimed patriotism,” said Haley Fagan, 24, a Berkeley paralegal who got stuck in a car trying to cross the street as the crowd surged. “It was a moment that we felt comfortable with it.”
After generations of finding their voice in dissidence, some on America’s left wing are adjusting not only to a new, postelection comfort with patriotic symbols, but the political reality they represent. Believing in Obama after inauguration day will mean identifying with the machinery of American power.
The reaction in Berkeley — confirmed by other anecdotes in this story — makes pretty clear that the radicals celebrating Obama’s victory can only stomach a show of ‘patriotism’ when it can be equated with a vindication of their political views. But that’s not a love of country. It’s more akin to a love of oneself. If the Berkeley activists want to demonstrate their love for America, they would swallow their pride and fly flags even under President Bush. To wait until the inauguration to brandish them suggests the reverse — it implies that their political views take precedence over their love of country.
I would not call the people in this story either un-American or unpatriotic. I’m sure that in a way they love America. But if they can’t separate their love of country from a political outlook, they’ve got their priorities mixed up. And of course, they’re also headed for disappointment. Because neither Barack Obama nor anyone else who’ll win national office is likely to put forth an agenda that keeps these radicals happy. If Obama hasn’t made it clear yet that he’s to the Right of the people of Berkeley, it’s only because these folks are dimmer than the rest of us.