Not long ago, I was debating via social media something pertinent that I cannot recall. I took a quick look at the profile of the person with whom I was engaging, only to discover his cover photo was an image of the Constitution of the United States. At that moment, I was struck with a feeling similar to déjà vu; I had seen it so many times before, and lately!
I realized it is now fashionable for Americans to profess our alleged patriotism—I suppose, as some sort of proof of our “inherent” nationalism—and particularly so if we are of the conservative persuasion.
That said, I cannot help but notice the overwhelming number of Facebook and social media users posting images of the American flag and things like the text of our Declaration of Independence as their cover photos, profile pictures, and avatars. From outside the context of the American political sphere, one might assume these individuals are patriots to the core—proud citizens willing to uphold the values of our nation to the absolute extent of their ability.
Instead, and unfortunately, they are usually uninformed, misled people appropriating such images to selectively represent their side of the political dichotomy to other Americans. Given the polarized state of the country, I have sadly come to view these images, when posted online, as a warning signal regarding the individual displaying them: “I have strong, oft conservative views and I will angrily accuse you of being un-American if you contradict them.”
Certainly, these people feel pride in their nation; this is instilled in all of us from a young age. We are socialized to love and honor our country, and rightfully so. We are educated on our origins and instructed in our history from the time we enter grade school.
However, folks like these tend to use logical fallacy and other techniques to push their uneducated, dogmatic, and prejudiced delusions, beneath the clever guise of “differences of opinion” onto anyone who will listen. This is so effective that the entire nation legitimizes said delusions because they represent such a vast percentage of our citizen body.
Although I was far from born, I look upon the days of our Founding Fathers with nostalgia. Their message was so wholesome and unsoiled: all men deserve safety, freedom, and the ability to live as they please. While still exclusionary to various groups of people, the message stood clear; yet, it is such a simple message that it has endured multitudinous interpretations. ‘Life,’ ‘Liberty,’ and ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ are terms that have seen such regular and convenient modification that one could use them to argue near anything.
Our Declaration, our Constitution, and our flag are symbols that stand for our entire nation—a nation of stark differences by which we are paradoxically bound. They do not exist to represent a small portion of us; they are for and of us all.
If we are true patriots who stand for what is right, we need to address the issues facing our nation with honesty. Essentially, we must stop treating the crazed delusions of one political side as functionally equivalent to the reasoned thoughts and data-supported conclusions of the other. Only then will we have a chance at achieving what our Founding Fathers envisioned. Only then, when half of this nation is no longer obliviously swallowing the ignorant, fear-based nonsense they are so regularly fed by the corporate-owned media, the lobbies these corporations employ, and the policymakers who see to their demands will we have a real chance at democracy again.