Patriotism is a hot topic issue nowadays. And our social definition is increasingly becoming something much closer to nationalism — the get off my lawn type.
The type where no one is allowed into our country because they don’t belong. Patriotism has become standing up for the national anthem or dedication to the original words of our founding fathers.
Which is, of course, a type of patriotism, but this faith in the ‘purity’ of what our country was and what it could be if we just followed exactly what the founding fathers said isn’t something most would characterize as loving.
After all, would any of us claim to love our best friends if we didn’t also tell them when they look like a mess or when they’ve got spinach in their teeth?
What is Patriotism now
We characterize patriotism as adoration for what the country represents and denial of its mistakes. We pretend that acknowledging the fact that we have screwed up is an offense to the country we live in.
We saw this in the NFL when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, and a cacophony of voices rose in protest.
“Unpatriotic,” “Disrespectful,” “disgrace to the country,” “slandering the flag,” in the months following his decision and the subsequent decision of many NFL players, people from every side put in their two cents about what he had done.
They screamed from one side that he was disrespecting the United States by not showing the respect he ought to — characterized by standing, not kneeling. And from the other, they called him a hero for having the bravery to call out the US on its continuing difficulty to eliminate racism.
Both sides had their points, maybe Colin could have found a different way to stand against the racial issues in the country, but maybe the other side could have found a better argument than it is disrespectful to the flag to convince him his protest wasn’t effective.
Instead, hell was raised because of disrespect. His argument was that he did respect the people who had served and fought for his freedom — hence the kneeling instead of sitting — but that he felt he couldn’t stand for a symbol that represented the US he lived in — one fraught with police brutality and systematic racism… still.
Patriotism has become blind faith in a symbol, we have to adore the symbol, and when that symbol also represents immorality and violence, calling it out is considered unpatriotic.
Patriotism has become a commitment to men who wrote up a document hundreds of years ago as universally as they could, but at the same time were just men — fallible, and subject to their culture.
Why is that patriotism?
The Definition of Patriotism
The ol’ google helped me with this -
Patriotism is the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.
Which doesn’t seem too far from the people we currently categorize as patriotic. Certainly, they have a deep devotion to the US and they support it in the ways they know how, but what about the others? The people who kneeled during the anthem? Or those who think that maybe it is time to work on our constitution because the world has changed and as brilliant as the Founding Fathers were — their wisdom may not be infinite.
Are these men really less patriotic? Do they love the country less because they want to push the country towards justice?
Is someone truly uncommitted to their country if they want her to fulfill her promises — equality, justice, and hope — so much that they would lose their job and their physical possessions?
Does it take more commitment to a friend to simultaneously tell them they are awful at what they want to be but to then come alongside them in learning and growing or to just tell them they’re wonderful and let Simon Cowell tell them in front of the world?
The first is harder, but the second is the person you want as a friend.
We’re terrified of criticism
Patriotism has turned into nationalism.
But in the US, the two are mutually exclusive. The US was always, in theory, a place where the rich, poor, black, white, women, and men of the world were supposed to be equal.
The US was supposed to be a refuge for immigrants and a melting pot of cultures.
But somehow our patriotism has become associated with barring immigrants from our country — be they legal or not — and denying the inequality and immorality that goes on in the bloated belly of an Uncle Sam in the midst of his mid-life crisis.
When did criticism or stating “we haven’t reached the equality we were supposed to be fighting for,” become disrespectful?
Someone can love their country without having any illusions about the oppression she carries out.
What makes a person love their country is not that they believe their country has always had it right or better than other countries, but that they are dedicated to making it the best it can be.
This may mean calling Lady Liberty out on her closed arms and kicking Uncle Sam off the couch. This may mean being honest about the America who has some stairs to climb before she reaches the haven she is supposed to be.