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The unhealthy American patriotism

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I figures this deserved its own thread since it isn't really about politics. It sprang out of the ongoing discussion on respecting the American National Anthem.

I just read this article and have to say it resonated highly with my own thoughts:
 

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Is American Patriotism Getting Out of Hand?

Patriotism shouldn't be hostile, divisive, and uninformed

 
 

It’s been called the last refuge of scoundrels. It is undeniably linked to “us-against-them” tribal impulses, rooted in emotion and often impervious to reason. It feeds nationalism and militarism, making it a potentially dangerous phenomenon in a world of modern weaponry. Yet patriotism—outward, vocal, and enthusiastic patriotism—is still considered a vital element in American politics, an aspect of our culture that we not only tolerate but encourage.

To many humanists, this is worth rethinking.

The American patriotic impulse was on display last week as a controversy erupted (link is external) over a photo, shown above, of a baby cradled in a flag. The venom of so-called patriots permeated the blogosphere and social media, as photographer Vanessa Hicks was on the receiving end of intense vitriol. For depicting a baby wrapped in the red, white, and blue, Hicks was called “disgraceful” and even told that she should kill herself.

Hicks, who happens to be a veteran, fended off the cyber bullying and gained many supporters in the process, with many agreeing that the photo was indeed patriotic (not to mention cute). The father of the baby is a military man, Hicks pointed out, as she rebuffed the notion that the photo should be considered “desecration” of the flag. Nevertheless, the scrutiny and criticism continued. “Is this photo unpatriotic?” (link is external) asked CNN and just about every other major media outlet, making it one of the top stories in the week’s news cycle.

The real question here, however, should be why a controversy erupted at all. Even if some people didn't like the photo, surely nobody could ascribe bad intentions to the photographer. The very fact that the photo generated such widespread hostility and vitriol is a sign that the patriotic impulse is getting out of hand in America.

Whereas a healthy love of country would nurture a sense of unity and common values in an atmosphere of intelligence and maturity, modern American patriotism has instead become a vehicle for division and aggression. Ugliness in the name of patriotism has occurred in the past in America—the Palmer raids (link is external) and McCarthy era (link is external) are easy examples—but modern times easily rival those periods, as patriotism has become increasingly zealous, immune to critical thinking, and unquestioningly militaristic.

Reverence for patriotic symbols has become paramount in America, as citizens place ribbon magnets on their SUVs and political candidates are questioned when they fail to wear a flag on their lapel. Such gestures are easy to make (a candidate with a flag pin, after all, is hardly exhibiting political courage, and even a terrorist could put a yellow ribbon on his vehicle) but nevertheless they are seen as evidence of true patriotism.

Unbeknown to many Americans, particularly young people, much of this heightened patriotism is relatively new. Flag pins have become compulsory accessories for politicians only in the last generation, and it is the post-9/11 era that has given rise to widespread ribbon magnets and "God Bless America!" recitals at major league baseball games. (As I've pointed out elsewhere, many of America's common patriotic symbols and gestures, from "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance to the national motto of "In God We Trust" to use of "God bless America" in political speeches, are much newer than many realize.)

Amid all of this symbolic and emotional expression of patriotism, critical thinking is rarely encouraged. Out of concern for American troops being sent to the Middle East to die, for example, one could seek out information on the underlying reasons for strife in the region—an intellectual journey that would go back at least a century and reveal an array of colonialism, western-backed coups (link is external), and exploitation—but this is much more difficult than slapping a magnet on one’s car, and it might lead one to question the wisdom of militaristic policies that benefit from blind patriotism.

This aversion to facts is a defining characteristic of modern American patriotism. As Americans wave their flags and puff out their chests with national pride, they are oblivious to facts relevant to their own civil discourse. Only 35 percent of Americans could name even a single justice on the Supreme Court, according to the New York Times (link is external). The same piece revealed that 30 percent could not name the vice president, while even fewer could place the American Revolution in the correct century. It only gets worse when we ask Americans to consider facts outside their own borders. Reports show (link is external) that as many as 85 percent cannot locate Iraq on a map and more than half can’t locate India.

This staggering lack of knowledge, combined with a blind and emotional patriotism, is a formula for disaster. The result is a proliferation of uninformed American exceptionalism that is akin to a social narcissism, a self-centered sense of importance and superiority that can have dire consequences.

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Consider that when America marched to war in Iraq in 2003, driven by an unstoppable wave of patriotism and militarism, seven in ten Americans (link is external) falsely and inexplicably believed that Iraq was responsible for the September 11 attacks—a shocking ignorance that led to incalculable destruction and misery. And we continue to see the effects of misguided patriotism play out in the state of affairs in the country. Today’s divisive political arena and dysfunctional government are the natural result of a system that responds to such uninformed and hyper-patriotic demographics.

Love of one’s country—its culture, its people, its history, etc.—is an understandable human phenomenon, perfectly natural and not inherently problematic. A healthy patriotism would reflect that attachment without simultaneously stirring up egotism, aggression, and hostility. Sadly, such is not the state of American patriotism today.

 

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201503/is-american-patriotism-getting-out-hand

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Good read.  I actually found the baby wrapped in flag to be an unsettling display of patriotism, so was especially taken aback to read on.

Also, for me, the level and type of patriotism described above is Idolatry.  Strange how the people who are said to be opposed to idolatry are over represented among the hyper patriotic.

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We need to have critical thinking as part of the core curriculum from a young age. Religious people won't want that though and probably neither will a lot of parents or teachers.

Edited by Oldest Goat
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11 minutes ago, Oldest Goat said:

We need to have critical thinking as part of the core curriculum from a young age. Religious people won't want that though and probably neither will a lot of parents or teachers.

I agree with first sentence.  Guess that kind undermines your second one though.... sorry :lol:

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8 minutes ago, soon said:

I agree with first sentence.  Guess that kind undermines your second one though.... sorry :lol:

I mean strict religious/parent/teacher types who don't want to be questioned won't want kids being able to discern things for themselves logically and may see it as a threat.

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3 minutes ago, Oldest Goat said:

I mean strict religious/parent/teacher types who don't want to be questioned won't want kids being able to discern things for themselves logically and may see it as a threat.

Oh, I forgot that Im illogical. :P

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I find it weird how patriotic Americans are, especially in regards to their flag. If people hang flags outside their houses here they are considered to be racists unless the World Cup is on.

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Having pride in where your from is awesome, but radical and blind nationalism is dangerous in any capacity imo

Edited by ZoSoRose
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The flags outside the house - ordinary American houses, decent people - is weird for British people. The English (well, ''the common ones'' as my mother would say) put flags out during the FIFA World Cup, then they all come down again within a week: the whole procedure is a sad indictment on English sporting failure haha. Up the flags go. Down they come down haha.

Although there is a chap near me with an Ulster Unionist flag in his garden (I live in Northumberland, not exactly a bedrock of Irish sectarianism!!). 

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Hmm, patriotism can be reduced to the belief that your country is the best in the world because you happened to be born there. 

If that's what you believe, your country really doesn't need you. 

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My mother once bought an England ironing-board cover ahead of some doomed English campaign - it might have been the 2006 World Cup. It was awash with the Three Lions as I recall. The thing went in the bin when England flopped out of that competition.

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Patriotism is great.  I think people confuse patriotism with radical nationalism.  Apples and Oranges. I love seeing patriotism.  Not just in the US...which, it's always great to see here.  But European patriotism is equally fantastic.  I think European patriotism is different than patriotism in the U.S.  It has as much to do with culture as it does with the love of the nation itself.  The uniqueness of Europe can be attributed to patriotism.  To be able to jump on a train, then within a couple of hours, be in a completely different country, with a different culture, language, food, drink etc is awesome.  If it wasn't for patriotism, Europe's cultural diversity would simply fade away.  

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I really don't get the outrage over the photo. 

I guess thats the culture we're living in now. everybody wants to be mad about something :rolleyes:

Edited by -W.A.R-

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I think it's cute personally.  Patriotism isn't really my...uh, thing so much but if other people want to do it and it's not hurting anybody then hey, we're all free people in the free world, right?  Sure a lot of bad could probably be rooted in some convoluted way in patriotism but so can a lot of bad.  Perhaps one day we'll be some kinda fantastical fuckin' society with no borders or race or nationality and the world'll be a big circle stroking each other off but hey, its kinda like sitting here and dreaming about the age of the Jetsons, we got a lot of evolving to do for that boys and girls, until then and in todays reality, patriotism ain't all bad and there's better things to be chewing your tongue over than a kinda cute picture of a baby wrapped in the stars and stripes, its no more offensive than Noel Gallaghers Union Jack Epiphone.  Probably  a lot less actually considering how insipid that Cool Britannia shite was but thats another discussion folks :lol: 

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3 hours ago, janrichmond said:

I find it weird how patriotic Americans are, especially in regards to their flag. If people hang flags outside their houses here they are considered to be racists unless the World Cup is on.

Up here, plenty of homes have Saltires, if you fly a Union flag it's more typically a marker that you're a right-winger/loyalist.

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True story. I once saw a chap at Manchester airport in a shanter, a kilt and a Scottish football shirt. Scottish themed tattoos were scrawled upon his anemic legs, the aforementioned saltire and the yellow coat of arms both prominent. I said to my mother who I was travelling with at the time, ''I wonder what country he is from?''.

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7 hours ago, Kasanova King said:

Patriotism is great.  I think people confuse patriotism with radical nationalism.  Apples and Oranges. I love seeing patriotism.  Not just in the US...which, it's always great to see here.  But European patriotism is equally fantastic.  I think European patriotism is different than patriotism in the U.S.  It has as much to do with culture as it does with the love of the nation itself.  The uniqueness of Europe can be attributed to patriotism.  To be able to jump on a train, then within a couple of hours, be in a completely different country, with a different culture, language, food, drink etc is awesome.  If it wasn't for patriotism, Europe's cultural diversity would simply fade away.  

You don't see a problem with the patriotism as described in the article? 

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While I think that patriotism is irrational and based on primitive tribal instincts, I recognize that it is clearly a legitimate feeling and crucial. There could be no nation states without patriotism.

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10 hours ago, janrichmond said:

I find it weird how patriotic Americans are, especially in regards to their flag. If people hang flags outside their houses here they are considered to be racists unless the World Cup is on.

 

9 hours ago, DieselDaisy said:

The flags outside the house - ordinary American houses, decent people - is weird for British people. The English (well, ''the common ones'' as my mother would say) put flags out during the FIFA World Cup, then they all come down again within a week: the whole procedure is a sad indictment on English sporting failure haha. Up the flags go. Down they come down haha.

It's the same in Belgium. Suspicious to have a flag except when the football is on or it's the national holiday. But I know in Sweden it's normal to have a flag outside the house. And I saw stores there selling loads of napkins, little flags, cups, teddy bears... in the Swedish colours. No idea what they would do if someone 'desecrated' the flag though.

@SoulMonster Is it similar in Norway or is it only in Sweden?

Regarding patriotism, it's okay to love your country and be proud of it, I guess, but it stops being an okay thing when you think your country is better than any other. Of course the uproar and oversensitivity about the American flag and anthem is ridiculous if you look at it objectively.  But Americans are indoctrinated from a very young age onwards, with pledging allegiance to the flag in school every morning :wow: This behaviour is just a consequence of that, I think.

 

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As far as Britain goes I think this countries ‘patriotism’ was hinted to a fair bit by the whole Brexit thing.

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american patriottism is real. so is dutch patriottism, british, italian, french, german, russian, korean and all other big shot megalomanic countries who, for as long as the sun shines, have always put their own country first. with violence, if necessary.

and while i would never wrap my son in my countries flag (except for if belgium should ever win the world cup - we'll see about that!), there is a fair share of patriottism in our small little belgium too. small, but it's there.

the USA is a big country, so bigger patriottism.

as long as there will be borders, there will be patriottism.

not every american is a hardcore patriot. some are, some ain't.

one thing is for damn sure though: it's fashionable making fun of the USA when they show acts of stupid patriottism. that's ok. it's just not something i'm willing to participate in.

 

 

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If I was an American I'd be thinkin' like, mind your fuckin' business quite frankly :lol:  This 'it effects all of us' stuff is all very cute but uh...no, it doesn't.  You tryna tell me Barry in Carlisles life is significantly altered by the fact yanks have American flags in their front gardens, do me a fuckin' favour.

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4 minutes ago, Len Cnut said:

If I was an American I'd be thinkin' like, mind your fuckin' business quite frankly :lol:  This 'it effects all of us' stuff is all very cute but uh...no, it doesn't.  You tryna tell me Barry in Carlisles life is significantly altered by the fact yanks have American flags in their front gardens, do me a fuckin' favour.

I rather think that, even pertaining to more serious stuff like gun control. Hectoring is a word I would use when describing how non-Americans discuss America. Yes America does a lot that is wrong but it is hard to find a country without serious flaws to be honest. 

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