Patriotic Political Correctness

I’m considering forcing my employees to wear American flag pins and say the pledge of allegiance every morning. Apparently employers are allowed to do that now. Oh wait, nope, it’s only in sports where you’re not only expected to bend to societal pressure to enthusiastically worship a flag but you will be publicly excoriated if you do not do so.

Fuck that shit.

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I’ve never been particularly patriotic. Even at a young age I was aware of the many problems in our country. As I become better read, I have developed more respect for the philosophy that created this country but I know that this democracy has a lot of work to do before we fulfill the promise of this nation. I  will always remain leery of mandatory, unquestioning patriotism. That’s the stuff of totalitarian states like North Korea and I will take a pass.

All throughout my school years I felt resistant to saying the pledge of allegiance. It seemed like a form of idol worship to me. I would stand with everyone else but not repeat the words. In response to the curious I would just say: “I can’t. I’m Jewish.” And they would nod knowingly and go back to what they were doing. I have no idea what they thought being Jewish had to do with the pledge but it was easier to tell them that than to have a half-formed ideological argument.

I was completely repulsed by the Star Spangled Banner after learning that it was written by a slave owner. There are actually four verses to this little ditty, one of which includes these lovely lines:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

It’s open to interpretation what he’s trying to say here but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t advocating the freeing of any slaves. And why does a “hireling” need refuge from terror anyway? Jeez.

Recently, my daughter learned to sing the Star Spangled Banner at her preschool and I feel uneasy about it. It’s cute to see her shouting it at the top of her lungs and give a very forceful salute but I can’t help but feel like she’s being indoctrinated. I’m planning a lot of talks about this, among many other things, as she grows. It’s fine if she’s more patriotic than me, there is certainly a great deal to love about this country. I just don’t want her to go about it blindly.

Throughout history, athletes who have openly protested the United States, like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (the men of the 1968 Olympics black power salute) were lambasted and accused of everything from being disrespectful to being communists. But they have proven themselves to be on the right side of history and I believe Colin Kaepernick will be as well. Frankly, it’s the first time I’ve had much respect for him.

People of color have been laying down their lives for this country from the beginning but have not been treated with the same respect as their white counterparts. They are still not. That is what Kaepernick’s protest is about and we lose sight of this when we make the issue about patriotism instead of the deaths and mistreatment due to racism.