The hyperpatriotism trap

Bill Maher had a good segment on the deep strain of jingosim in America that demands that one should never say anything negative about its past or present actions. The problem with such a stance should be obvious. If you think that your country can do no wrong and has never done anything wrong, then you are going to continue doing those wrong things. Politicians of the major parties relentlessly pander to this way of thinking, making it worse. Obama panders a lot too but not enough for some people because he has the audacity to say that maybe not everything was always great.


  1. Holms says

    Is it true that US schoolkids are required to swear loyalty to USA every school day?

  2. Mano Singham says

    Almost all schools today begin with a period in which students are asked to stand and say the following:

    “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    Are all students required to do so? No, but only after a series of court battles. This Wikipedia article gives a good summary of that history.

    In 1940, the Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools, including the respondents in that case, Jehovah’s Witnesses who considered the flag salute to be idolatry, could be compelled to swear the Pledge. A rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah’s Witnesses followed the ruling. In 1943, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette the Supreme Court reversed its decision. Justice Robert H. Jackson writing for the 6 to 3 majority went beyond ruling that public school students are not required to say the Pledge on narrow grounds, but asserted that such ideological dogma is antithetical to the principles of the country, concluding with:

    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

    In a later case, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that students are also not required to stand for the Pledge.

    Of course, students feel a lot of peer and teacher pressure to go along with a ridiculous practice (forcing people to praise liberty?) that is so suggestive of authoritarian states.

  3. Ed says

    The concept of love promoted by this kind of patriotism is disturbing. Does love mean total agreement with everything the beloved does or has done? I think it’s OK to love a country as long as it’s affection, not cultish devotion. People love their families without denying their imperfections and absurdities.

    America is your old Uncle Sammy with a drinking problem, gambling debts, a pistol in his jacket pocket and some scary friends. He eats nothing but junk food so you worry about his health. But he’s an entertaining scoundrel, so you loan him some money every once and a while, fix him a good meal and hint around about rehab.

    What would some other countries be like if they were people? Imagine them as part of the planet’s big, dysfunctional family.

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