Columns Opinion

American flag exhibits toxic nationalism

Embed from Getty Images

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].


  • Put aside the Football/Trump situation and do take a moment to think about some important considerations. You may consider a respect of the American flag “yielding before state symbols”, and it is your right to not respect the flag at all. If you so choose, the constitution protects your right to burn the flag. However, It is important to understand that there are ways to be critical of government and patriotic at the same time. I stand for the national anthem with my cap off not as a sign of bowing before some authority, but out of a sense of pride and to honor what the flag represents. The very same flag that we have a right to desecrate symbolizes our freedom to do so. The flag may be flown atop government buildings, but it represents far more than government. Likewise, I honor and respect veterans and those serving in the military because they are sacrificing themselves for a larger purpose, and they are not the ones who choose their involvement in war, our elected government does. So, I will continue to stand for the national anthem, honor the flag and applaud our military members…and then go on with a critical skepticism of government. It is possible to do both at the same time.

      • Of course I respect your anti-state sentiment and even more I respect your right to have that feeling. I prefer the idea of taking more specific actions, finding specific grievances. I simply think that the flag represents an infinitely greater amount of positive than negative and I wholeheartedly disagree with your idea that ideas and symbols are not deserving of respect. The American ideal is greater than any person or number of people, and I consider the ideals that allow us to have this discussion, or you to post your opinions on an open forum to be worthy of our respect.

        • Yes, the ideals are to be valued, not because they are products of the state, but rather because they are ((approximately) correct, and therefore inherently valuable insofar as we value Truth.

  • Let’s be honest … President Trump is winning the issue on the Flag and Anthem. You can’t win going against the Flag and Anthem; and essentially, the players and owners are killing their own goose.

    The NFL is dying a quicker death that I thought. I originally thought the concussion issue was going to kill it, but the sitting and kneeling issue is causing a much bigger backlash. I refuse to watch NFL, and I’ve stopped buying season tickets to Cougars football games when I saw one fan sitting during the Anthem last year in front on me last year. And I refuse to be part of that crowd anymore.

    Football was one of the last bastions of fans to get away from all this political dribble that CNN and MSNBC throw at us. Now Democrats have ruined that too.

    I watched a kick-off of a highlight of tonight’s NFL Thursday Night game between two good teams, the Chiefs and Raiders (I didn’t watch the game), and it was apparent that the Oakland stadium was far from full. They have a lot of covered seats in the stadium upper deck, and for the upper deck seats not covered; the camera angles were very selected to give the illusion of a full stadium with many fans disguised as empty seats.

    Monday Nights Titan-Colts game garnered a 6 share, while this game may accumulate, since it was a nail biter to the end, a better share (be looking for a 9-10 share). But that won’t last.

    The NFL game I did watch tonight was on YouTube … and it was a full game played on MNF Week 7, between the Raiders and Steelers. in which Jim Plunkett’s Raiders defeated Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers by a score of 45-34. A lot of these old broadcasts have the commercials of the day, and you can how far we have come technology wise.

    Marshawn Lynch will probably be suspended (after tonight’s ejection) for pushing referees around, after he came off the bench of all things. Good riddance to him.

    It is The Law that we must all stand for the Flag and Anthem, ask Roy Moore, you the media thought he was off his rocker. Don’t waste your time asking for the source, treat yourself like an adult and Google it. You’ll also find that the Penguins are dying in Antarctica because the ice build-up is forcing them to travel farther for food.

    So I’m starting to call all Climate Change advocates … Penguin Murders.

    • The entirety of my argument against this flag situation has been that we are having a giant national discussion, but not about what they were supposedly protesting in the first place. With their plenty of money and off time in between games or seasons, How many NFL players are in cities like Detriot, Chicago, Cleveland, Oakland etc. giving back or attending meetings with officials or representatives about their ACTUAL concerns? Probably only a couple if any at all. They aren’t interested in actually helping but rather political grandstanding, while disrespecting long held beliefs and the very people that watch their games and but their jerseys. Meanwhile, the shooting in Chicago continues and the problems are no closer to being solved….

Leave a Comment