Doing things differently since 1984
As Independence Day / 4th of July rolls around for the 238th time, I am yet again faced with a serious social problem for an American to have:
I’m not patriotic.
Now, before anyone scrolls straight to the comments to blast offensive clichés at me, and before the FBI adds me to their watch list, give me a chance to explain myself.
1) I don’t hate America. I was born here, I live here, and it’s got a lot going for it. I’m not burning any flags. What I don’t buy into is American exceptionalism, or the belief that this country is innately unique and superior to all other countries. If I were to grade America, I’d probably give it a B-; not too shabby, but plenty of room for improvement. If you were a teacher, would you swell up with pride at the sight of your B- student? That’s about how I feel about this country.
2) I do hate ignorance. I am NOT saying that all patriotic people are ignorant (that in itself would be an ignorant statement). However, far too often I’ve seen patriotism taken as an excuse for ignorance. You know, take a terrible idea, slap a flag on it, and BAM! Anyone who hates this idea is spitting on the graves of American soldiers. I will be proud of my country when it does something great; I will be ashamed of my country when it does something not-so-great. Just because my country did it does not make it great.
3) The Pledge of Allegiance creeps me out. For most of my life, I assumed that every country had its own version of the Pledge of Allegiance. Guess what? It’s just us. And I just can’t shake the feeling of how weird and cult-like it is to make our kids to recite a chant (which is actually an oath, like what medieval soldiers would do to pledge their lives to their lords) every day. My kids are 3 and 4, and can already recite parts of it for me. 3 and 4 year olds should not be chanting oaths, guys! It is blatant indoctrination and it is CREEPY.
4) But what about the soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom? Any time anyone speaks out against patriotism, this is the default rebuttal. I want to tread carefully here, because I honestly mean no disrespect. I sincerely appreciate the sacrifices of soldiers and their families that have made our lives possible. I also sincerely appreciate the sacrifices of truckers, emergency personnel, intelligence agents, farmers, fishermen, activists, and many others who suffer more casualties but get far less attention because they don’t keep a flag with them as they carry out their difficult and underpaid jobs that make my relatively comfortable life possible. All of these workers deserve our respect, but they are better respected as individuals than as pawns in political wargames.
So, there you have it. By all means, be proud of whatever country you come from, because it’s part of who you are. March in parades, have a picnic with friends and family, watch explosives make colorful patterns in the sky. But please don’t let this pride turn into egotism. Keep your brain turned on.