Once upon a time there were people called patriots. These people ardently believed in the independence of the British colonies and fought tooth and nail for it. Their struggle created what we now know as the United States of America.
Fast-forward to today, and the word patriot still carries meaning. In its simplest terms the word refers to someone who has a strong belief in their country. And while this is not a problem in and of itself, it can lead to something I like to call “blind patriotism”.
Symptoms of blind patriotism include:
- Believing that your country can do no wrong.
- Seeing anyone with different opinion as “the enemy”.
- Refusing to accept any criticisms of the government.
Now, while believing in your country and its ideals is perfectly fine, there comes a point when too much faith in them is a problem. And in the United States you see more and more blind patriots, people who refuse to accept anything other than “America is number one.”
Take a look at the response to the various cop shootings that have been reported in the last year. In every case, you see two basic sides. There is the side of people who believe that all cops are just murderous thugs with a badge. Then there is the side that believes that all cops are heroes regardless and shouldn’t be criticized or resisted in any way. This is the side I want to focus on today, even though I believe that the other side is guilty of the same basic thing.
The people who believe that all cops are heroes are also the people who believe that all protesters are looting thugs. Basically, they think that the protesters are all anarchists, when this is simply not true. The Baltimore situation that erupted recently was widely televised as being brutal and chaotic, but the thing that wasn’t made clear was the simple fact that there were numerous peaceful protests before the rioting even began. And there we see the problem with the news media. They are forced to distill everything down into a story that lasts a mere one to three minutes. This leads to them only showing the “highlights” as it were.
The blind patriots are the ones who believe this vision of the protests. They don’t take the time to research anything, to actually back up their assumptions. They don’t care. They ignore anything that doesn’t fit their view of America being the greatest thing on the planet. This worldview gradually wears away at them because they see so many people who dislike the United States government. Eventually, it becomes less about preaching the virtues of the country and more about harassing or snubbing anyone who disagrees with them.
The point I’m trying to make here is that blind patriotism is as dangerous as any other ideology. It leads to a self-contained worldview that won’t accept the broad range of human experience. These patriots may never have experienced hardship that wasn’t of their own choice, so they can’t grasp the concept that sometimes the government fails to take care of each and every one of us, leaving many to wallow in poverty. In their view of the world, that can’t happen. It’s impossible. Therefore, the only conclusion left to them is that these people must have done something to deserve it. They didn’t work hard enough. They’re lazy. They offended God, and so on.
Blind patriotism is like a cancer, eating away at a person until they’re nothing more than a hardened husk of a human being. Like extremist religions, they can’t accept any other way of life aside from their own, so they strive their hardest to force it on people. Don’t burn my flag, they say. Don’t tread on my values, they say. But what they fail to understand is that sometimes to make a point, people have to do controversial things. Flag burning is protected under the constitution as symbolic speech. That is a fact. But it doesn’t stop people from calling it an affront to America.
And what happens when extremist views become the majority power base? You get groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, violent military forces who seek to destroy any who don’t follow their way. Could blind patriotism end up being the same if it had ultimate power? Maybe. Am I being overly alarmist? Maybe. But the fact remains that historically, whenever a group holds power that has a narrow-minded worldview like that, things tend to get unpleasant. They oppress anyone who says differently within their own land, stomping down on any views that might contradict their own. Galileo was placed under house arrest because the Church didn’t like the fact he was proposing that the Earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. Ideology is a dangerous tool.
My advice? Don’t restrict yourself to one group. Don’t call yourself Republican or Democrat. Don’t call yourself a conservative or a liberal. Find the views that speak to you and embrace them. Don’t force yourself to adhere to everything a particular group says just because it’s the closest to what you believe. Just be yourself. Don’t fret so much on the details. Do what feels right for you. Our existence in this world isn’t made up of cut and dry categories. Humanity is a spectrum of different thoughts, ideals, beliefs, and morals.
Don’t chain yourself to an idea. Let yourself be free, and you’ll find your own way.
Well that’s all I have for this week. Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week everyone.