Microreflections on US Patriotism

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As a European, I find the ideas expressed in this meme fascinating. We have our anthems and so forth over here, but I know of no country in Western Europe where reciting such things is virtually compulsory. Other than the US, if you were to ask me to name a country with mandatory displays of patriotism, quite honestly, I’d probably say North Korea. Although standing for the anthem or the pledge is obviously not a legal requirement, the controversy surrounding the waves of silent protest among sporting figures in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, following American football player Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem, is a testament to the strength of the tradition.

What’s interesting, and what I think may be a source of some tension, is that perhaps due to the immediacy granted by social media, more people than ever before are getting wise to the fact that their authorities are encouraging and prioritising rote, unthinking allegiance, over independent and critical thought.

This, of course, is nothing more than the modern manifestation of the principle already referred to by the 1st century Roman poet and satirist, Juvenal, as panem et circenses, “bread and circuses”, which were what the common people of Rome were said to crave most of all, and which were naturally only by sheer coincidence remarkably effective ways of entertaining the masses, and of distracting them from weightier matters. Thus far, the only antidote we know of to being herded like sheep, obliviously, in order to be fleeced, is critical thinking.

There is an air of the blue-pill/red-pill about this dilemma, to be sure. The necessary cognitive disruption associated with critical reasoning may not be for everyone, but as with most things, it gets easier with practice. I believe that if you are capable of perceiving, then you have an almost moral obligation to act, if not for yourself, then for others, especially for future generations. After all, if our governments would spend resources in suppressing rational criticism, then it must be something worth cultivating. I’m no Che Guevara, but if I’m being told what to believe, I’ll do my darnedest to ensure I put the idea through its paces.

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