Hooray For The Red, White & Who?

Posted by admin on September 25, 2017 in The Soapbox |

DKfvD2cXoAAXie2There’s a lot of people whipped up into a real frenzy these days, largely because of the caustic remarks of a president who had the nerve to call American citizens choosing to take a knee at a football game, “sons of a bitch.”

Well, that’s a first for me. I’ve never heard a president call a rank and file American a name, and then spin around and claim that he’s all about patriotism and honoring the flag when he can’t even honor the people he governs.

Let’s jump off the crazy train for a moment. First, it’s all cool to honor the flag and veterans and such. If that’s your bag, then go for it! You feel it’s your patriotic duty. Woohoo! Good for you!

But those who feel oppressed in our country have a right to protest. If you’ll all open your history books to page 10, you’ll see that America was founded by protestors (remember, the guys who dumped the tea?). Our forefathers fought against the tyranny of an unjust king. To the British, these “patriots” were terrorists and traitors. Those who sided with the king and remained loyal to him back in the colonies, they were tarred and feathered, had their property seized, and were beaten and often hanged – by so-called patriots.

Let’s remember what patriotism really is. It’s a relatively new word by the way, dating back to the middle of the 16th century. Its origins are from the French, dating farther back to the Greek root word (where’s the Windex?), “patrios,” which means “of one’s father.”

Patriotism is a love or devotion to a homeland.

On the dark side of that is nationalism. The two used to be virtually the same. But in the 19th century, they went in different directions. Patriotism is still about love for and devotion to one’s country, something I think most of us feel, no matter how we display it.

Nationalism though, is patriotism on crack. It’s about exalting one nation above all others and placing its culture and interests above all other nations and supranational groups. It’s what the president was pushing this week – a blind loyalty to the U.S. above all else.

These days, patriotism tends to be all about bravery, valor, duty, and devotion. Good stuff! And we should all aspire to have these qualities. Nationalism, however, is not about these amazing qualities. Nationalism is about superiority and putting national interests above self. Take that in for a moment. Putting national interests above self. 

Here’s an easy way to think about it in your own life. You have the privilege of loving your wife because you think she’s amazing (patriotism). In an alternate universe, your father-in-law demands that you love your wife at all costs, even though she can be a total shrew at times, is a bit of a whore and makes you feel like you’re complete dirt (that’s nationalism).

Nazi Germany is the poster child of nationalism, of course. North Korea is the scary nationalist country today. China comes in pretty close, as does Russia and some Middle Eastern countries. The individual is not important – the nation is everything.

We love to think we’re pretty exceptional here. I mean, that’s what American Exceptionalism is all about. The belief that we are better than anyone else, ordained by the Almighty, even to the point where we won’t dip our flag as we pass the grandstand at the Olympics, even though every other nation does to show respect.

Does this somehow make us a better country? Does standing up for the flag or the National Anthem make you a better American, even though many of us harbor our own personal version of nationalism, thinking that we are better than other Americans because we were born a certain color, we have a certain religious belief, live in a certain neighborhood, or even drive a nicer car than the guy the other guy?

America is a great melting pot. Democracy is messy by design. Get over it. Protest is part of what makes this nation so wonderful. If we hadn’t embraced it 242 years ago as a foundation of democracy, we’d still be celebrating the Queen’s birthday. At the very least, we would have never have had unions that protected worker rights, got kids out of dangerous sweatshops and got African Americans out of the back of the bus. And we would still think it’s OK to let private police posses beat men, women, and children in Selma, Alabama for walking across a bridge.

I love how we want to change our nation’s history to suit our own belief systems. But history doesn’t lie. We did and still do hang people because they are a different color than us. In the south, all they did really was take down the signs on the water fountains. We still discriminate against women with every paycheck we hand them. We pretend that we’re not racist, but we have no idea what’s it’s like to be in the minority.

So, we rally around the flag, claiming we’re being patriotic when we’re really showing our own true colors. We want the safety of not having to question who we are as a nation, or even as individuals. We want to take the easy route and say we’re turning off our televisions or giving away our sports jerseys in protest, which I find a bit ironic. We draw a false line in the sand because it’s too hard to take a real look at the issues we are facing today and how our own ethnocentrisms color our responses to what’s really going on.

Spare me. I can safely say that my brother, a veteran, would have been one of those on his knee this weekend. He felt discrimination first hand when he returned from Vietnam. He was spat upon and couldn’t get a job. He ended up tossing all of his military gear, decorations and famously, an American Flag, off the Green River Gorge to protest his treatment by the nation he fought for.

Our forefathers would be proud of those today who protest the injustices, the inequalities and the hatred we continue to harbor in our country. Quit trying to whitewash history. It’s messy. We’re messy. And thankfully, there are those of us who still have the courage to fight for what is right, not what is expedient. We should be celebrating this, not griping about it because it ruined our Sunday Sports lineup.

Perhaps we should all take a good hard look in the mirror and come to terms with who we really are and what we really stand for. Quit hiding behind the red, white and blue of indignance. Have the courage to show your true colors.

In the Emerald City, wondering what flavor of Kool-Aid everyone seems to be drinking these days,

  • Robb


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