Tag Archives: patriotism

When Patriots Inflate

Surprise!  There’s not going to be a lot of football in this post.  But I’ll work it in where I can.

I grew up within a thirty minute drive of one of the most deployed military bases in the U.S., so it’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to just about every brand of hyper-patriotism in existence.  Every house on every street sported an American flag, and Memorial Day was actually more than just “Giant BBQ Day,” because everyone knew/loved somebody who was literally putting their life on the line for their country.  Because of this, there’s almost a sense of urgency to the way people there go about loving their country.  Basically, your friends and family may die for the USA at any point, so you need to love your country to pieces, because otherwise questions about the necessity of their sacrifice will eat you alive from the inside.

And you know what?  I get it.  I really do.  I know people who’ve lost parents, siblings, and spouses in the military.  It’s heartbreaking.  However, emotions only ever get in the way of rationality, and when you take all of that away, I can only reasonably come to the conclusion that patriotism–or at least, the inflated emphasis on it that I encounter daily–is straight up dumb.  I really could go on and on about this, but for now, I’ll sum up my problems with patriotism in a few points.

1. It’s Practically Nationalism.

In most cases I’ve encountered, the two are inseparable.  There’s a reason why synonyms of nationalism include both “flag-waving” and “jingoism.”  Sure, you can argue that the two are distinct; patriotism, at its core, is devoted love of your country, and doesn’t necessarily have to lead to all of the negative “us vs. them” bulls**t we so often see.  I’m not about to go the route of the “slippery slope” argument, but seriously, that’s a fine line to tread.

Most American patriots I know will throw around phrases like “the greatest country on earth” or “the city on a hill.”  It’s sickening, but we put up with it because, in our case, there either aren’t any major negative consequences (yet) or they’re so far removed from us as to be a non-issue (unless you happen to live in a country where we currently have boots on the ground).  It could be worse.  It could be ethnic nationalism, or religious nationalism. The fact is, inflated patriotism generates a pretty prime climate for that sort of nonsense to proliferate.  This would be forgivable if it actually did us any good otherwise, but… Continue reading

Advertisements

Culture War Correspondence: Patriotism

GORDON: Friends, Romans, countrymen, this post is being written by the rocket’s red glare. Or whatever they have in Canada- not usually a nation I associate with explosives.

EVAN: Funnily enough, it’s my turn to do the intro.

GORDON: Your intros are bad, and you should feel bad.

EVAN: I mean, you’re not wrong. [ . . . ] Is this part of the thing?

GORDON: Yes. The audience will find this little bit amusing and endearing.

EVAN: It’s actually funny that you mention my country and explosives given that it sounds like a literal war zone outside. Happy Canada Day, everyone. What better time to discuss the topic of patriotism?

GORDON: With the rapid approach of July 4th, no better time at all. Though perhaps you could enlighten our readers south of the wall as to what exactly Canada Day is…

EVAN: It’s . . . Canadian Independence Day. That’s pretty much it. An opportunity for those close to the border to catch some lovely fireworks three days early. I’ve never celebrated the 4th down south, but I can only assume they more or less work roughly the same way.

GORDON: If you mean hamburgers and standing around in a mosquito ridden park for four hours waiting for a deeply underwhelming fireworks display, then yes.

EVAN: That’s it. That’s exactly it. Continue reading

Shame Day: Nationalism

Imagine for a moment, the existence of two mythical lands: Acirema and Adanac. Imagine that you are a citizen of Acirema, living in a little town bordering Adanac. Despite your isolation, you’re just as patriotic as any another Acireman. You wave the Acireman flag, salute it, pledge your undying allegiance to the homeland, and swear to defend her against all attacks. You cheer on your Acireman compatriots competing in the Olympics. You stand up and applaud when they win, and howl with despair when they lose. As far as you are concerned, you are a proud Acireman, a citizen of the greatest nation on earth; you love your country just as every red-blooded Acireman is expected to.

And then it is discovered in an old, forgotten document that a century earlier your far-off neck of the woods was actually purchased by Adanac from some forgettable Acireman president. All this time the Acireman-Adanacian border was actually twenty miles further south, making your town and everyone in it Adanacian. What do you do? You were born in another country, making you a citizen from a country that has until now been foreign to you. Do you still salute the Acireman flag? Do you still cheer for the Acireman athletes? Do you still decry the metric system as a tool of the devil?

You probably get the point by now.

Nationalism, boiled down to its most basic components, is the idea that borders matter. That being born on one side of an imaginary line fabricated by affluent racists a few centuries ago should make you a different person than if you were born a few miles north/south/east/west of it.

Now we’re not exactly caught up in some series of Napoleonic conflicts, so why bring up nationalism as the topic for this week’s shame day?

It’s because of this quote by President Obama:

“America remains the one indispensable nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office…”

Now let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the sheer arrogance of that statement.

Done?

Good, now let’s break it down.

According to the president, America, and only America, is the one necessity in the world. Brazil, we’re ok if that goes away. The UK can sink into the ocean. China, Russia, Nigeria, Japan,  Italy, Laos- these places are “dispensable.” They don’t serve an important function like America does. America is “indispensable”- the one indispensable nation.

Now if this quote came from some goose-stepping splinter cell in Nowhere, Arkansas, we could probably ignore this. However, as it came from the single most powerful man on the planet, we’re probably not crazy for raising some concerns.

I mean, let’s assume the guy is right- America’s existence is the cornerstone of all stability and decency in the universe, and it is simply more important and valuable than all the other nations of the earth. Shouldn’t we then be concerned about damaging this sole stitch in the fabric of civilization? Puerto Rico, a US territory, is currently petitioning to become a state. If it does, will the America that Obama calls indispensable change in such a way as to unravel all of that? What about selling an acre of land in the south to Mexico, would that shift in the border constitute a change to this indispensable nation?

Or maybe it has nothing to do with borders- maybe America’s indispensable nature has to do with its people. Obviously to protect this, we must maintain things the way they are, and keep any immigrants from entering into the nation, or any Americans from immigrating out, lest we screw up the quota that makes us us. Or maybe it’s not about borders or people- maybe America’s unique nature as “indispensable” comes from its values- that’s why we need to never add or abolish any laws or rules or alter our culture or worldview in any way.

Let’s be realistic here. I’m an American, and I am not exceptional. God Almighty does not smile more upon me for have been born in square A than in square B. My blood is not somehow more precious than that of someone who lives a few feet across an imaginary line in the dirt. If a Mexican, a Canadian, and I were drowning in the ocean, you would not be more obligated to rescue me for either of them. I am not any less dispensable than any other human being on the planet by virtue of my passport or my heritage. This idea that we are somehow inherently divided as human beings on the basis of where we were born is unspeakably stupid. There’s nothing wrong with liking the unique things about the place where you live, or the good and courageous things that are being done, or have been done, or the noble values that your countrymen hold. But ranking these things- the unique things, the good and courageous actions, the noble values- as being less or more important on the basis of their proximity to you is just a flipping shame.

Why I Like Captain America vs. Why Other People Do

I’ve been wanting to do a post about Captain America for some time now, and with the breaking news that the Star-Spangled Avenger will be taking over the presidency of the United States, what better time than now?

To backtrack for all you non-comic-readers, this will be taking place within Earth-161, or the Ultimate Universe [the standard canon is Earth-616]. This is also the universe in which Spider-Man is black, so things are very, very different.

Captain America is my one of my favourite heroes. As a Canadian, I love the fact that he exists as a character that exemplifies the ideals of a country but does not in fact represent all of its actions. He’s neck and neck with Superman as being comic books’ most wholesome, and the words “boy scout” are used to describe him more than just a little.

The character, as he exists in the Ultimate Universe, is none of the above. Someone on the Marvel subreddit put up an image a few months ago in honour of the Fourth of July, citing it as their “favorite Captain America line.” Blown up, for your viewing convenience, is that image:


Clicking on the image will bring you to a fuller version in which Cap yells the question “SURRENDER??!!” Compare this to the 616 Captain America who stars in the following panels:

I could leave those two images to sum up the difference between the two heroes, but there’s more. Ultimate Cap has an affair with a married woman. Ultimate Cap is a bully. Ultimate Cap has no qualms whatsoever when it comes to killing his foes, and in fact brutally murders Azerbaijani superhuman the Colonel at the climax of Ultimates 2 Vol. 12.

Abdul Al-Rahman had once been a scrawny teenager enraged at the invasion of Iraq by American super-soldiers, who as the Colonel later led a group known as the Liberators in an invasion of DC. After he has been literally disarmed by a shield thrown by the Hulk he is knocked into the fountain of the World War II memorial and impaled by Captain America with his own weapon.

This man who did that has apparently been inducted as President of the United States.

It’s difficult for me to understand how Marvel got away with publishing Ultimates 2. It’s even harder for me to understand how fans were okay with the Living Legend becoming a xenophobic jingoist, and how some even liked it. At the heart of the character is something that the film made abundantly clear: Captain America is a good man.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing: that you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” -Dr. Abraham Erskine

The fact that the image of Ultimate Captain America pointing at his forehead and slamming an entire nation is cited by more than a few as being their favourite Cap moment is, well, disappointing. Especially when panels like the following, from the Marvel Civil War event, exist: