Periodically there is a kerfuffle over some tragedy of patriotism. Whether somebody forgot to salute somebody, their flag lapel pin was at the cleaners, a senator who had spent his life milking a failed military career is criticized, or, in the latest mishap, a crappy NFL quarterback chose not to stand and show respect for the national anthem, the usual suspects go on the warpath. You know the types: non-veteran soldier supporters, conservatives who love liberty until somebody says something they don’t like, and the gaggle of self proclaimed American Patriots found all over Facebook proclaiming their outrage from the comfort of their own keyboard. Why are they upset? The first obvious reason is they really haven’t thought through that whole “liberty” thing. And they are like a herd of sheep.
The mutton-like behavior of the Patriots is intentional. Not by them but by the purveyors and propagandists of patriotism. The reason for most “patriotic” symbols and culture is to inspire people to sacrifice themselves for the collective. The “nation” is a mystical and irrational idea for an entity that does not exist in reality. An accident of your birth should not automatically bond you to the land or the people in close proximity to you at birth. That is just stupid. A nation, like an individual, deserves respect to the extent it is earned by acceptance and implementation of rational ideals that uphold individual liberty. While I do not think it is wrong to be respectful of the symbols that represent the ideals of our nation, it is important to admit and understand that many of the people who ostensibly subscribe to those ideals have failed in their implementation and that many in these United States utterly reject those ideals. And the government that was created to ensure that liberty would not perish from this earth is largely responsible for killing Lady Liberty with every chance it gets. Without the ability to reason from the principles of liberty to recognize our current problems, patriotism is just a meaningless, mindless devotion to irrationality. It is an act of replacing the individual with the collective.
The people that get all emotional about disrespect to those national symbols tend to be the ones that have bought into the mysticism and reject individualism and reason. Bizarrely enough they also tend to claim those symbols represent the military and veterans while themselves not even being veterans. As though the “military” is some canonization of the individuals who join it. For most of American history, the military has been used for goals contrary to our national ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and “all men created equal”. At the very least, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, the Philippines Insurrection where we literally put down people trying to be independent, the Boxer Rebellion where we used US forces as hired thugs for business in China, and the interventions in the Caribbean and central America in the first half of the 20th century, were all unjustified wars. World War 1 is less obvious but I would still argue that if we had actually behaved neutrally while proclaiming neutrality we would not have needed to declare war on Germany. We probably would have had to fight the Axis in WW2 eventually although it would have been later because without the S-A War, the Japanese would not have had obvious targets in the Philippines. Post WW2 is tougher as the Communists clearly were bent on global domination. It probably was better to fight them elsewhere but even there we went overboard and spent a lot of treasure and effort supporting petty dictators and toppling governments in Latin America and the Middle East whenever we thought it might be vaguely in our “national interest”. Desert Shield/Storm was a waste of lives and treasure to protect a bunch of corrupt Arabs from another bunch of corrupt Arabs. And the war on terror has been one misadventure after another all with the likely result of making us less safe at a tremendous cost in terms of lives and money.
Domestically, our tyrannical government has just about bankrupted itself and continues to spend us into oblivion while infringing on our rights and creating an ever growing police state. Our politicians are for sale and the woman with the biggest for sale sign is likely to be our next president.
But hey, a football player sat on the bench during the national anthem. Vent your anger at him. Bread and circuses anyone?