This Colin Kaepernick thing has got me thinking.
Love of country is pernicious. Patriotism all too easily becomes jingoism, a wellspring of delusion that vomits forth such gems as “Damn liberals got us gone soft, nobody’s scared of the US anymore” and “Support the troops!” and “He didn’t stand for the national anthem? Crucify him!”
We “love” our country for two reasons: one, most of us don’t know anything else, and two, we’ve been swimming our entire lives in this toxic soup of “America is great rah rah rah.” Fact is, there’s little about this country that merits any kind of love or devotion:
- America was built on the backs of ten million dead slaves and a hundred million dead natives, leavened with the active, brutal suppression of their culture.
- For the last hundred years the US has been conducting a campaign of hegemonic domination, first over the Western Hemisphere and, since WWII, over the entire world. This campaign is primarily military and interventionist in nature and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people around the world and the destabilization of a generous handful of countries with no end in sight.
- Our police forces are militarized, our interactions and communications monitored and stored, our every movement tracked. Our civil rights are being slowly eroded in the name of increased “security” — for the wealthy.
- We have completely lost control of our political process. America no longer functions as a democracy in any meaningful sense of the word — we’re still allowed to vote, but as this election cycle has clearly demonstrated, that “power” isn’t particularly meaningful anymore (if indeed it ever was).
- The United States is, and always has been, a straight, white, Christian man’s country. Everyone else is, to some degree, “other” and excluded and/or oppressed.
- We maintain a nuclear arsenal that by its mere existence threatens the survival of the entire human race. We are also the only country ever to deploy nuclear weapons against a population — both Japan’s and our own.
- We as a culture espouse the ideal that money is more important than people. We take care of our poor and disadvantaged only begrudgingly, bitching about our “tax dollars supporting freeloaders” instead of pointing the finger at the fantastically rich corporations and bankers who need us to buy their shit but house themselves overseas to avoid paying their share of the taxes — an option which us plebes don’t have.
- We continue to wage unnecessary wars. Our military hasn’t been used to “defend our freedom” since 1945, and arguably since 1783. Our troops overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the almost 1000 military bases encircling Russia and China aren’t defending our freedom, they’re advancing the agenda of the rich and creating a highly-profitable state of perpetual war at the expense of human lives.
- Our “impartial” justice system is neither impartial nor does it provide justice. White men receive lighter sentences than black men, and the rich can and have gotten away with murder even after being found guilty. Meanwhile every minor offense leads to fines with a host of surcharges which can result in a pauper doing time over a parking ticket.
- Extrajudicial drone assassination is a thing we do routinely.
These are the facts, indisputable. These are the truths of the country called the USA. Tell me then: how can “love” for a country for which all this is true be anything but cognitive dissonance?
Furthermore: how much “freedom” do you think you have? You’re free to spend money on mostly whatever you want (unless it’s, god forbid, a happy-making plant). You’re free to see any doctor (as long as they’re in your health network) and free to take any pharmaceutical you’re prescribed (which was probably developed using tax dollars and yet is sold at ridiculous prices by a pharmaceutical megaconglomerate). You’re free to worship how you want (as long as you’re Christian or Jewish). You’re free to fly anywhere you want (as long as you’re willing to endure the security grope-down). You’re free to associate with whoever you want (unless they’re Muslim, or on some kind of list). You’re free to say whatever you want (but certain things will get you some unwanted attention), free to dress how you want (as long as the naughty bits are covered, think of the children), and free to spend your leisure time however you see fit … presuming you have any to spend, because at least a third of your life (and increasingly more) must be given to laboring within a limited pool of jobs for someone much richer than you, to make them even more rich and to allow you to continue existing. You’re free to buy your utilities (from the local monopoly) or do without (as long as you don’t mind having your home condemned). You’re free to build whatever you want on your own property (as long as you have a permit) and exploit the resources that can be found there (unless it’s rainwater, wind, or oil). You’re free to love whomever you want (as long as genitalia and gender identity are appropriately complementary). You’re free to make your own reproductive choices (as long as that choice is abstinence outside of marriage). And God forbid you should put even one toe out of line or you’ll be free to sit in a dirty cage surrounded by violent psychopaths doing slave labor for slave wages.
The vast majority of us are American by accident of birth, and we have been trained since birth to “love our country.” This indoctrination is so thorough that most people, when America is criticized, blindly defend it. You get angry, as if someone had insulted your mother. Someone refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance (think really hard about a room full of children being pressured to recite a loyalty oath every morning) or the National Anthem (which celebrates slavery in the later verses) and we start burning their jersey in effigy. We signed away a significant chunk of our privacy to something called the PATRIOT ACT, and in the wake of an attack on our shores we silenced all dissent by accusing the dissenters of being unpatriotic.
Kaepernick is right.
There comes a point in every abusive relationship where the abused has to step back and take a good, hard look at things. A time when they need to decide if the status quo can continue or if changes need to be made. I urge you to haul your love of country out of the closet and examine it, really give it a good once-over. Try and figure out why you love your country, and if what you’re loving is real or just a picture in your head, crafted by your abuser to blind you to its many, many faults.
I do not love this country. The United States has been a monstrous force for evil over its entire history. The crimes against humanity perpetrated by this country are as numerous as they are indefensible. And all of it — every last bit — is a product of a body politic that is conditioned to “love their country” without question and sedated with fast food and reality television, distracted from an impenetrable political system that pays no attention to what said body politic wants and so disillusioned that it accepts the corrupt, oppressive system as a given instead of voting it out or rising up against it.
There are three hundred million of us, abused spouses of the country called the USA. Most of us can’t leave (another “freedom” that exists in principle but not in practice), so we have to make the best of what we have. Fortunately, we are not yet entirely powerless.
You want to love something, love humanity. Love all the people of the world, not just those who happened to be born in a similar geosociopolitical sphere to your own. Love what the United States could be come, and then fight. Fight with all your might, by any means you have at hand, to turn this country from an exploitative, oppressive cancer to a shining bastion of peace and goodwill. Use your power, whatever you can muster, to transform the United States of America into something worth your love.