Waving the American Flag
What a past few years it has been for the American flag … embraced throughout the world after the Sept. 11 attacks; denounced throughout the world not long after; subject to a Republican attempt to make it fireproof during the last two national election cycles…. So with flags waving high during this Fourth of July, Truthdig invites its readers to reflect in the comments box on the nature of patriotism. Here are a few primers:
The true genius of America has always been its capacity for self-correction. I?d assert that this is a better argument for patriotism than any effort to pretend that the Almighty has marked us as the world?s first flawless nation.
On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.
Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?
These ways of thinking — cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on — have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.
National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica and many more). But in a nation like ours — huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction — what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.
However appealing our individualism and positive thinking may be, such traits easily translate in the global context into hubris and a refusal to cooperate with others ? in other words, into unilateralism. Americans may cherish in themselves what, in the military, is called the “hoo-ah” spirit ? an optimistic mind-set that, as Kohut and Stokes put it, fosters the belief that “technology, and Americans, can fix anything.” But in our soberer, less celebratory moments, we know that there are no unilateral American solutions to multilateral problems and that most of the great challenges we face in today’s world are multilateral ? from terrorism to global warming, and AIDS to mass migration. In the streets of Baghdad and the deserts of Al Anbar, we have learned that optimism and self-reliance are simply not enough.
Patriotism also means dissent ? when it?s hardest. The bedrock of America?s greatest advances?the foundation of what we know today are defining values?was formed not by cheering on things as they were, but by taking them on and demanding change.
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