The USA and Patriotism

July 4, 2002

When you think about it, Patriotism (at least when practiced by native people...and by that I mean people who are in the country in which they were born) is the exact same thought process as racism or any other bigotry. You might as well be proud you're white or proud you're 6'3'' as be proud you're American. Again, this goes for people who were BORN into citizenship...people who immigrate to a country and study and work and EARN citizenship, they can feel patriotic I guess. Though I still think it's silly. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to take “pride” in something you had nothing to do with. Now, if people who’ve served the country in some manner or another want to take pride in what they’ve done, or if people want to pay respects or give thanks for the accomplishments of people like WWII soldiers and civil rights pioneers, that’s great, but waiving a flag and yelling USA makes no sense to me.

It's interesting to get in a debate with someone who challenges my anti-patriotism and ask them, "so why do you love this country?" They spout off platitude after platitude but can't give any real answers. "Because we're free", "Because we have the best court system." "Because we're a democracy". Digging deeper, I always (so far) find that they've never even lived in another country or studied the government, legal systems, or culture to compare. It's blind acceptance of a line they've been fed since childhood: "America is the best". That, my friends, is what we call PROPOGANDA and BRAINWASHING.

When we see films of young German kids giving the Nazi salute, we all feel revulsion at the sick sight of children brainwashed into nationalistic automatons...yet how is it any different from our kids being forced to say the pledge of allegiance in school? It's not. Teaching children the aspects and history of our nation that make it great is educating them. Teaching them rote memorization and repitition of jingoist slogans and sayings is NOT.

Someone putting a flag on a gas-guzzling SUV is a perfect example of the brainlessness with which patriotism is often practiced. The single greatest reason that the USA is involved in the quagmire of Middle East politics is because of our over-dependence on foreign oil. So, if you really want to help this nation, buy a vehicle with good gas mileage. Sticking a little piece of paper on your car, or hanging a piece of colored fabric on it is pointless.

In my opinion, a true patriot is someone who fights for the betterment of his/her country and struggles to uphold the ideals of peace, love, and freedom, not merely someone who stands on the corner, waiving a flag and yelling "my country is the best". This is often done in the face of extreme opposition, and the true patriot is often alone in a see of opposition. No, I'm not talking about Timothy McVeigh. I'm talking about the Freedom Riders in the 60s. I'm talking about those incredibly brave black children who were the first to go to "integrated" schools in the South where they were assaulted and insulted on a daily basis. I'm talking about people like my grandfather, who was labled a communist and black-balled out of much of middle-class society because he fought for civil rights in the 40s and 50s, before it was okay to do so.

Patriotism: Love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country. (Webster's dictionary).
Jingoism: Extreme nationalism characterized especially by a belligerent foreign policy; chauvinistic patriotism. (American Heritage dictionary).

"Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about."--Mark Twain
"Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his."--Mark Twain

Just as during WWII and the early cold war, the umbrella of "patriotism" was used to stiffle any sentiment not on board with US foreign policy, the same thing is happening in the USA since September 11th. Just as anyone who spoke out against the unfair and illegal internment of Japanese Americans (who were not simply rounded up in camps, but had almost ALL their belongings taken away and NEVER returned) was labeled anti-American, so too are people who plead for peace and level-headed thinking labeled. The Bush administration and the conservative media that serves it has not been reticent with the message that you're either WITH the government and everything it does in the name of "fighting terror", or you're WITH the terrorists. That's bullshit. I can be for protecting our citizens from terrorists and still be against the destruction of the constitution. In fact, true patriotism DEMANDS protection of the constitution. And it is still my job as a patriot to point out things our government does that are always will be.

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