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Stop Being so Patriotic, You Idiots!

James Chang

   Sweet land of liberty. Of thee we praise. American patriotism is among the most formidable forms of patriotism in the world. In a YouGov survey of 20,000 individuals, U.S. citizens were the most likely to say their country was the best on Earth. But is it?

   In a world dominated by modern globalization, the othering in patriotism is the blight holding the U.S. back. When an ‘in-group’ is created around a nationality, immigrants and people of color can often be excluded from those groups, thus pushing them away from important resources and communities. Our inability to learn from other nations makes us immune to modern ideas surrounding democracy, even as change is becoming a necessary part of the modernization of a system so ancient.

   Patriotism implies conservatism. Thrown around by Fox News hosts, the term “anti-patriotic” is used to describe participants in democratic movements, such as Black Lives Matter, to make them out as scoundrels who want to overturn the way America “has always been.” And that’s the problem: America “has always been” horrible. I know we like to think of our country as great, and even I occasionally indulge myself in the sweet nectar of American ignorance. Still, the truth is this country – whether it be the federal government or the majority opinion of the public – fought against the Civil Rights Movement. We fought against the right to gay marriage and the right to abortion. We fought to bomb Cambodia, torture victims in Abu Gharib, and kill 2 million innocent Vietnamese people. We fought to kill 60 million enslaved people and to genocide 95% of the Native population. Patriotism excuses our crimes and washes us our sins away.

   Some of the ancient structures of the U.S. that patriotism supports include the right to gun ownership, individualism, and the glorification of the Constitution. Gun ownership in the U.S. has caused significantly higher rates of gun-related homicides in comparison to similarly developed countries. Still, because it is “American” to own a gun, American civilians refuse to identify the good of their communities over their liberties. Countries with stricter gun laws, like nearly all of those in Europe, have significantly lower rates of gun deaths.

   This idea transitions well into individualism. Countries like Sweden and the Netherlands focus more on maximizing access and quality of life; American patriotism pushes strongly for “to each his own.” As a consequence, American cities are built poorly, with the perfect individualist house in the expensive suburbs being subsidized by the state while homelessness soars as a result of a lack of housing and opportunities.

   Finally, the edification of the Constitution. Nearly every major country in the world has one. But it isn’t substantial. It is an assertion for the future, not a framework for government. The U.S., however, is distinct. Our constitution is edified in our halls and etched in our skulls. Should the words written by some rebellious slave-owning frat boys less than 250 years ago provide the foundation of our governance?

   I am already reading your mind: “But Simon, isn’t a criticism of the United States also patriotic?” That depends on who defines patriotism, which is currently the American right. You know, perhaps it is right to give this country a few whacks in the buttocks. Shake it around a bit.

   But even if criticism is contained within the definition of patriotism, I still critique the concept. Why should we value our country over others? I know we internally desire our country to “be the best,” but that doesn’t have to come at the expense of other nations. “The best” implies someone has to be the worst. The idea that countries should compete with one another is the thinking of Neanderthals. I live here, not in any other country. That does not mean I want to fight over the superiority of my nation. If other countries have something we can learn from, we should. Patriotism denies our right to learn from our mistakes and others’ mistakes. It makes us the losers.


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    Anton OssaFeb 9, 2024 at 1:08 pm

    Excellent article, realistic ideas!