Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Patriotism and Pariahs

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A coworker recently told me that when he was younger he thought all young teenagers in the U.S. had closets full of top designer clothes.  “One hundred pairs of jeans,” he told me.  “A thousand t-shirts.  And suits, even kids, I thought they all had suits.”

For my colleague, the U.S. was a collage of American Pie movies… well maybe a bit before those.  His main conduit was Hollywood, and that became his prism.  Today, the filters have changed.  Hollywood may no longer be our largest podium of American idealism, but the stage has remained.  Our closets are not full of suits.  They are full of costumes.

The most popular of which most certainly is the Uncle Sam mask.  Not too many can actually wear the whole suit, because they can’t slide out of it fast enough if they start to feel the heat.  But surely everyone is a patriot these days.  It has long been a badge of merit.  Yes, yes, we are all patriots.  But not soldiers.  No, those aren’t the kind of patriots we care about.  We don’t care about our veterans enough to fund their hospitals.  We don’t care about our children enough to get recruiters out of high-school hallways and the ears of 17-year-olds.  We don’t seem to mind the sacrifice of all our troops doing involuntary return tours, or our reservists being called up.

Nah, those people aren’t our patriots.  Our patriots are those who know the values of our Founding Fathers like they just spoke to them at lunch.  They are our political pundits, broadcasting broad sweeps of criticism, plucking the hart-strings of our true stay-at-home patriots.  Those, yeah, we love those patriots.  You know, the patriots with the yellow ribbon bumper sticker on their Ford Excursion.  The patriots who shop to support our war on terror.  The patriots who don’t hold passports and want border fences.

It’s all about ego, God, and inalienable control.  Acting to secure those interests outweighs the balance of right and wrong for most of these American patriots.  Primarily, it is ego.  Americans are not willing to concede that we are no longer the world’s sole superpower.  We are not willing to concede the fact that our children need to be educated about other cultures.  We are not willing to concede that our lack of understanding how the world works is dragging us under.

Instead, we would rather attack decorated war veterans as traitors.  We would rather ignore the pleas of 23 million peaceful people asking for their democracy to have a seat at the U.N. (beside such beauties as North Korea and Syria).  We would rather sit back and wait for underdeveloped nations to formulate a brilliant solution for global climate change than take the lead.

We talk a big game at this geopolitical card table.  But other players have stopped listening.  Tell someone to respect human rights?  Tell someone not to invade their neighbor?  Tell someone to disarm?

Andre Gide wrote, “The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.”  It’s time to analyze the sincerity of our patriotism.


Written by Miles

April 6, 2008 at 5:04 pm

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