Patriotism, Post-Racialism and Prima Donnas

July 4, 2011

US Flag and Lower 48, July 3, 2011. Source: http://mapsof.net

It’s yet another 4th of July, number 235, and I find myself tired of how the prima donnas in this country think it their right to define for me what patriotism is and isn’t. Last I checked, carrying an M-16 rifle and wearing a uniform overseas isn’t the alpha and omega of patriotism here or anywhere, and saying that it is doesn’t make it so. By that definition, it would mean that Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Susan B. Anthony weren’t patriots, while Timothy McVeigh and John Allen Muhammad were. Those who serve in combat are obvious American patriots. But hiding behind our military in defining patriotism allows us as a nation to ignore so many things that contradict our sense of nationalism and patriotism.

Call of Duty Screen Shot, July 3, 2011. Source: http://independent.co.uk

Patriotism is about much more than guns, battles, taking flanking positions or making perfect speeches wholly incompatible with the imperfections of our society and people. As anyone in the education field knows, Americans in general know about as much history as my son knows right now, and he just finished second grade.

Our aversion to history is especially noticeable when it comes to race. We’ve declared ourselves post-racial when we haven’t even been pre-racial. Meaning that in order to get beyond race, we actually have to deal with it directly, head-on, without holding back, the ugly history of race and racism that is as American as apple pie. I’m afraid that it’ll take a national tragedy, though, for more Americans to dare be that brave, that honest, that, well, patriotic.

It’s sad, because most of us are prima donnas, or rather, imperial narcissists who talk about patriotism without understanding that being a patriot often means using one’s brain and vociferously resisting the status quo. We’re more concerned about winning Mega Millions and Powerball or the price of gas than we really are about troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan or making US foreign and economic policies more equitable abroad and at home. We somehow assume that “America is #1!” is our birthright, even as many of us haven’t the socioeconomic capacity to partake in America’s remaining riches.

Alexandra Pelosi (a documentarian and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter) has been doing the media circuit talking about her latest film, Citizen U.S.A., the story of immigrants becoming naturalized

Citizen U.S.A. Poster, June 2011. Source: http://www.jfklibrary.org

American citizens and their appreciation of what they believe America is about. Her message has essentially been “shame on you” to native-born Americans for not seeing our nation the way these immigrants can and do.

But even Pelosi’s perspective is limited in its prima-donna-ness. There are millions of us who see the direction of the nation and work not to illuminate its already over-hyped greatness — a classic sign of imperialism, by the way — but to make the nation a better one, a nation that lives up to its ideals. Isn’t this another example of one’s patriotism, one that’s forward-thinking enough to work for the long-term success of a nation, rather than chest-thumping about greatness in the present?

It seems to me that we should illuminate the fact that we expend so much energy making millions of Americans who are not with the prima-donna program into unpatriotic outcasts. So much so that most of us have never had an independent thought on this topic in our entire lives. And if the 4th of July is to be about more than guns, speeches, guns and denigration, we need more people to think for and beyond themselves about patriotism, even if some of us are incapable of accepting independent thought and criticism from them.


Noah’s Ark, Judges & Lessons Not Learned

May 3, 2011

Celebration of Osama bin Laden's death outside of White House, May 1-2, 2011. http://cfnews13.com

One of the really cool things about having lived an eclectic life — whether by choice or parentage — is that I often see things around me very differently from most people. It may make me goofy or an oddball, but it also makes me the thinker that I am.

Even on matters of belief, I find myself at odds with most Christians. It’s made it hard for me to find a church that I’m comfortable with for more than a few services. Today’s American Christians, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical or otherwise are for the most part a bunch of hypocritical and self-absorbed — but hardly self-reflective — imperialists who use scripture and religious traditions at every turn to thwart equality and peace. We lack the wisdom necessary for real faith, and knowledge necessary for real understanding.

In the case of global warming and climate change, this deliberate ignorance has bothered me for years. The fact that so many have been willing to ignore droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes in favor of “drill, baby, drill” has been a point of disgust. Add to it the belief for many that these are the signs and wonders of the book of Revelations is somewhere between absolutely stupid and arrogance unlike few

Johan's Ark, a half-sized replica of Noah's Ark, in the port of Schagen, The Netherlands, September 3, 2006. Ceinturion (via Wikipedia), in public domain via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license versions 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0.

other than God has ever seen. Even theologians have trouble interpreting the many contradictory messages of Revelations. Yet most of us prefer this explanation to the scientific proof that our burning of oil, coal, forests and vegetation over the past 250 years has done damage to the global climate.

Fewer who claim to be Christian use the Bible as a way to understand what’s happening beyond fire, brimstone and thunderbolts, making these folks no different from Norse or Greek pagans scared of Thor or Zeus’ wrath. Take Genesis and the story of Noah. It’s ultimately a story of great faith and climate change. Noah had the unique wisdom — some would say revelation — that a great flood would eventually arrive, and dutifully prepared for it while everyone else refused to believe and conducted business as usual. Eight millennia later, with enough scientific evidence to convince a doubting Thomas of climate change, and denial and debating Revelations is all that most of us do.

Or take the historic announcement Sunday night. After nine years, seven months and twenty days, the architect of 9/11 — not to mention the embassy bombings in ’98, attacks in Indonesia, the UK, Spain, and other parts of the world — Osama bin Laden, was killed by US special forces in Pakistan. As conflicted as I can be about many things, I wasn’t conflicted about US forces capturing or killing him. Not because I’m a bloodthirsty person, and not because I believe in the cause of invading other countries to capture leaders of a global terrorist organization. But because a billionaire global terrorist leader is a danger to us all.

So relief, a little bit of vindication, even, is what I felt, followed by the thought that this helps Obama and completely invalidates Bush’s preemptive war and occupation doctrine for both Afghanistan and Iraq. Not to mention thousands of dead and $4 trillion spent. Then followed by dread, because of the idiotic giddiness and hyper-patriotic vitriol spewed Sunday night and all day Monday by my fellow Christians. I’m not arguing that some folks shouldn’t have been a bit happy, felt some relief, and shouldn’t have been in tears. It’s been a long decade of intolerance, ignorance and insecurity that’s followed 9/11. But “USA! USA! USA!”? We took out one man. Al Qaeda still exists, along with a whole bunch of other homegrown and foreign terrorists, many unaccounted for.

Many of my fellow Christians would deny a peaceful afterlife to bin Laden’s spirit because of the evil that he did while here on Earth, playing the role of judge, jury and executioner. Not entirely unlike the judges in the Old Testament, providing law in a leaderless land of lawlessness. I’m hardly suggesting that we should all forgive and forget, even though that’s what we should ideally do. I doubt, though, that expressing glee equivalent to the Pharisees after the Romans crucified Jesus is high on the Christian playbook list.

All of this also leaves me sad. Because it shows that there’s no way on what’s left of God’s green Earth that most of us American Christians can repair the damage we’ve done to ourselves, our country, and the rest of the world. We won’t admit that jobs and gas for our cars today are more important than the environmental, economic and geopolitical future of our children. That the underlying conditions that led to the rise of Osama bin Laden — US political and economic imperialism all over the rest of the world — haven’t changed enough to prevent the rise of another in his place. We might as well keep doing what we’re doing. Chanting patriotic slogans while waiting on the side of a road, bags packed, waiting for Jesus’ return. While the world around us burns.


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