A few years ago, Phil Donahue changed my thinking.
As a guest on The O’Reilly Factor, he played the patriotism card to argue against the war.
This was a first, for me: antiwar rhetoric with a pro-American slant. Usually nationalism gets invoked to amplify the battle cry, not silence it, and those wishing to incite peace have to accept the “traitor” tag they’re branded with. Some antiwar activists even come to embrace “anti-American” as part of their political stance.
Not Donahue.To him, attacking Iraq was more than just a mistake—it was unpatriotic. It was refreshing that night to watch the alpha-male Bill O’Reilly off-balance for once. Donahue repeatedly addressed the Fox pundit as “Billy,” and asked: “Why can’t you become the patriot that your loud voice proclaims to be?”
Donahue’s language was fresh and forceful as he pummeled O’Reilly. He spoke in a style all his own:
- “This war is not fair to the American troops.”
- “This war turned its back on the people who framed the most fabulous document in the history of mankind—I speak of the United States Constitution.”
- “There is no democracy without dissent.”
- “You should be proud of people who protest, Billy. A lot of fine young men and women went and died to give me that right.”
In using patriotism to make the case against war, Donahue showed how questioning the U.S. government doesn’t mean one has to question one’s loyalty to America. If anything, those who question nothing are the ones who don’t love their country.
Donahue gave me a voice more authentically mine, an expression of dissent that felt genuine, and actually seemed purposeful—unlike, say, leaving my hat on during the national anthem, as a fruitless gesture to one-up the pointlessness of bumper stickers.
Last night Donahue again braved the corrupt waters at Fox News, this time to promote his new documentary, Body of War. Again his performance was impressive, if hindered slightly by the unfortunate handicap that weighs on anyone who tries to debate Sean Hannity: that is, being stuck with Allen Colmes on your side.
Despite Colmes’ resolve to interrupt Donahue to make his points sound generic and less powerful, Phil’s message got across. It is anti-American and unpatriotic to support this war.