I’m at the point where I pretty much hate all forms of patriotism. Like, I see an American flag hung conspicuously on the outside of someone’s home and think to myself, they are either a grateful immigrant or they’re one of those white people who care more about red-scare-era symbolism than about the freedom of speech. I mean, outside of the Fourth of July, Veterans’ Day, or Memorial Day, I’m out here side-eyeing every flag I see. I don’t own an American flag and I won’t be buying one. I’m not saluting no American flag. I’m not dressing my kids in red-white-and-blue. I’m not putting my hand over my heart for nothing. I’m not singing for God to bless this country for its own sake.
It has nothing to do with disrespect for our professed ideals or for veterans or first responders. I will never forget, for example, the selfless bravery of the soldiers who fought to preserve the Union and free enslaved people, or the sacrificial courage first responders displayed during the 9/11 tragedy. I am the child of a veteran, the grandchild of a man who volunteered to serve this country after the Pearl Harbor attacks. I believe in the genius of the Bill of Rights and a living Constitution. I will never forget the pride I had for my fellow Americans on the night Barack Obama won the highest elected office in this land. Great things are possible here. There is a reason why immigrants come here. I am proud of what my ancestors’ labor has built here. The ideals of America are inspiring and beautiful. In these dark days, I don’t know if I’ll live to see my country actually realize them, but I truly believe they are right and good.
My profound distaste for patriotism has nothing to do with protesting police brutality, either. I did and do support Colin Kaepernick sitting and kneeling, Malcolm Jenkins raising a fist, and the many other athletes and other public figures who have used their platforms to call attention to the country’s shortcomings. I have no such platform, however. My refusal to fly or salute or display the flag accomplishes nothing in the way of bringing attention to the issue, and there are other ways that I can express my solidarity with others who are concerned about bias in policing.
But what I have noticed since the Colin Kaepernick protests and all their aftermath is that displays of patriotism have become a more visible way for people to agitate for a status quo that supports white supremacy by misdirecting people away from addressing race-related problems. That is, of course, why 45 inserted himself in the the NFL’s little PR problem. He and his constituency used patriotism to hijack the conversation away from the reason for the protests. They see a wealthy black man exercising his first amendment right to express his feelings and they want to put him in his place. They exalt patriotism to a virtue, and then excoriate people based on their choice to opt out of “virtuous” behavior. They see unpatriotic black people – especially wealthy ones – as ungrateful for the good life they’re living that is better than some struggling white folks. There’s nothing worse to people who believe in white supremacy than an ungrateful darkie. They figure the least we can do is thank them from rescuing us from the poverty, disease, and awfulness of Africa, and the least we can do is sing America’s praises, especially if we’re not trapped in one of the ghettos that was created for us by de jure Jim Crow or de facto redlining. When some black person has the audacity to believe that the first amendment is theirs to embrace and that they can call the status quo into question or speak truth to power, white supremacists lose their collective shit. (Hence the NFL’s recent ruling that players must stand for the anthem at games.)
My understanding is that the pledge of allegiance and standing for the anthem in public sporting events is Red Scare bullshit imposed upon Americans by leaders who wanted to propagandize the American public into loyalty against socialism and communism. My understanding is that there was no such social obligation when the republic was formed. My observation is that there is absolutely no reason for displays of patriotism or the pledge of allegiance at any sporting events any-fucking-way. My observation is that this whole military parade, celebration of country, deport them if they don’t show loyalty rhetoric coming from D.C. is more like North Korea or the U.S.S.R. than it is like the United States of America I was raised in. My opinion is that, “If you don’t like it, leave,” sounds a lot like, “Go back to Africa,” just like how “Make America great again,” sounds a lot like, “Segregation now, segregation forever.” “Build the wall,” sounds a lot like, “No bussing,” to me. And I am not here for it. It’s propaganda and it’s bullshit. I will not take part in the mob mentality of shaming people over not being patriotic enough. That’s exactly the freedom my many military family members have protected with their service. Bending to demands to show my appreciation for that freedom waters down the very thing that they’ve sacrificed for, and I won’t do it.
True power and confidence and love of country is lived, not shouted. As was said in the America that I am from, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.” I am over here actually living the ideals of the country these racists are out here professing to love. I pay my taxes, I follow the laws, I volunteer to be useful to someone other than myself. I give to causes that further the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for other Americans – and not just English-speaking people. I vote in every general election. I report for jury duty. I hold the door open at Wawa. I try to treat people the way I’d want to be treated. The fuck I need to honor a flag for? I honor this country’s people. Fuck the symbolism, embrace what the symbolism symbolizes – the American people. If you’re out here worrying about what athletes are doing on the field instead of what the pompous head of the executive branch is doing to American credibility and leadership on the world stage, with his authoritarian and white supremacist temper tantrums, you’re focused on the wrong way to make this country great, and you can kiss the blackest part of my ass for your part in turning this country from a moral leader on the world stage into a modern day adaptation of the 1984 novel.
And oh yeah, GO EAGLES!