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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Columns

American flag exhibits toxic nationalism


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While political correctness is typically associated with the left, modern conservatism has its own sacred totems that dare not be criticized. Like its progressive counterparts, the right’s choices of sanctification fit together like an elegant jigsaw puzzle to form an internally consistent worldview.

The police, the military, the Bible and the flag are all symbols of the right, each embodying order, tradition and Americanism to varying degrees.

In response to our president’s provocative tweets, many NFL players are now kneeling during the national anthem. While many conservatives are criticizing this tactic and position, neither concerns me. Those who have watched NFL games are familiar with jets flying overhead, soldiers touting the American flag and other theatrics.

Like any other advertisement, this is intended to sell to the American people the most sugarcoated view of the product at hand. It has drilled into the American collective consciousness that it is un-American and, therefore, immoral to reject its product: the military.

Children are told to put their hands over their hearts and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. I thought that the United States respected a tradition of the separation of church and state, but those in power have discovered a loophole — infusing religiosity into itself until the state becomes a church in its own right.

A common rebuttal to perceived cynicism is that the pledge is merely a way to imbue patriotism into society’s youth. Acceptance of moral dicta from authority is a sign of religion at play. The religion of the state has instilled in the masses the need to dichotomize people into moral categories. Those who revere the flag, the military and the president are obedient while those who reject them are not.

There have been unintended consequences to the state indoctrination of Americans. The factory of schools — and the rest of the state apparatus — churns out not just patriots, but nationalists, a phenomenon that now has many concerned. While nationalism is inherently an innocent, albeit irrational form of tribalism, it does lend itself to damaging economic policies, such as protectionism and closed borders.

Trade tariffs, often used in protectionist policy, are a form of right-wing socialism. The wealth of American consumers is redistributed to those American companies who benefit from the tariff in the short-term.

At least with traditional religions, one may decide to not participate. I never chose to support the war on drugs and any military adventures overseas. Yet support them I do, through the coercive measure modestly known as taxation. Never has the saying, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” been more fitting.

On Sept. 25, President Donald Trump tweeted, “The issue of kneeling…is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem.” But ideas and objects are not deserving of respect.

People are to be respected, not symbols or the ideals they embody. To be sure, I am not advocating gratuitous acts of disrespect toward the state’s totems any more than I would advocate burning Bibles or stomping on Qurans. Courtesy should not be thrown by the wayside. It is not immoral, however, to burn a book or to reject patriotism.

People in the United States have much to be grateful for. Our society is one of the most prosperous and freest that has ever existed. But society and government are not the same, and we would do well to remember that.

Those who refuse to yield before state symbols are not immoral in their actions. While many view the NFL-Trump drama as an impetus to discuss race relations and police brutality, another opportunity has been unleashed: Why should the state be revered at all?

Guest columnist Logan Chipkin is an ecology and evolution graduate student and can be reached at [email protected]

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