Oh my God, David Brooks is just the worst. The worst!
The Uses of Patriotism
In today's column, Uncle Dave explains which types of patriotism are acceptable and which forms of dissent are not. Basically, if it bothers David Brooks, it is unacceptable, as everyone's main purpose in life should be to prevent people like David Brooks from ever being uncomfortable!
This column is directed at all the high school football players around the country who are pulling a Kaepernick — kneeling during their pregame national anthems to protest systemic racism. I’m going to try to persuade you that what you’re doing is extremely counterproductive.
So this column is directed at teenagers, exactly zero of whom are reading this column. Does anyone under 21 even know what a newspaper is? Or was? See, kids, newspapers used to be these sources of information from all around the world, kind of like the internet but only once a day and without naked people. Now they exist largely to make sure that people like David Brooks never have to get real jobs.
When Europeans first settled this continent they had two big thoughts. The first was that God had called them to create a good and just society on this continent. The second was that they were screwing it up.
And by "settled," I of course mean "committed genocide against the people who were already living there."
And by "A good and just society," I mean "a society in which their particular religious dogmas would be the only ones indulged or even tolerated."
And by "God had called them," I mean "had delusions of grandeur."
By 1776, this fusion of radical hope and radical self-criticism had become the country’s civic religion. This civic religion was based on a moral premise — that all men are created equal — and pointed toward a vision of a promised land — a place where your family or country of origin would have no bearing on your opportunities.
And since black people were literally considered property and women were second-class citizens at best, and the Native Americans were considered pests in need of extermination, this civic religion was obviously a huge vat of lies and bullshit. I mean, for fuck sake, who could possibly believe that the founders envisioned a land where a person whose family came from England would have the same opportunities as someone whose family traced back to Mozambique?
Ugh, and don't get us started on the Irish!
Over the centuries this civic religion fired a fervent desire for change. Every significant American reform movement was shaped by it. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not entirely unworthy of its almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country.”
And every significant American reform movement was opposed tooth and nail by conservatives like me, David Brooks. Now listen to my advice, black teens!
Martin Luther King Jr. sang the national anthem before his “I Have a Dream” speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it.
Ah, the favorite rhetorical device of the Brooksian conservative. Invoke Martin Luther King to show today's black youth that they're being black all wrong while pretending that conservatives didn't despise King while he was alive. And for some decades afterwards. And still do when he can't be used as a convenient moral cudgel.
This American creed gave people a sense of purpose and a high ideal to live up to. It bonded them together. Whatever their other identities — Irish-American, Jewish American, African-American — they were still part of the same story.
You know, in the sense that Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert were also part of the same story.
Hey, it can't be a happy ending for everyone, just be glad your ethnic group gets to be in the same book!
See how these guys are both in the same scene? So, you know, even-Steven!
Over the years, America’s civic religion was nurtured the way all religions are nurtured: by sharing moments of reverence. Americans performed the same rituals on Thanksgiving and July 4; they sang the national anthem and said the Pledge in unison; they listened to the same speeches on national occasions and argued out the great controversies of our history.
Yes, everyone in America had the exact same experience. Oh, how we loved to perform the July 4th and Thanksgiving rituals, at least those of us who didn't have to work those days, but come on, if you're working on Thanksgiving, are you really an American?
Oh, and the shared moments of arguing out the great controversies! How that brought us together. The black guy arguing that he was a human being with rights and the cracker arguing that no, he was not. Ah, the sense of unity! The suffragist making the argument that women should be treated as adult human beings, sparring fervently but lovingly with the man shouting "get back in the kitchen!"
Why can't we go back to those wondrous days when everyone got along and everyone was happy and knew their place and didn't make David Brooks feel things?
All of this evangelizing had a big effect. As late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth, according to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.
Mainly because there was a rush of mindless, misguided, jingoistic "patriotism" after 9/11/2001.
Recently, the civic religion has been under assault. Many schools no longer teach American history, so students never learn the facts and tenets of their creed.
Sure, I can't name a school that doesn't teach American history, but trust me. There are "many." Many many school districts these days are run by Soviet spies who eliminate history to allow more time for the teaching of sharia law! It's true, my mom e-mailed me a story about it that she got from a very reliable webpage.
Also, I'm fairly sure that the purpose of teaching history is to indoctrinate kids into the "tenets of their creed." It only takes a few minutes to teach American History properly. It's George Washington, then Lincoln freed the slaves, then we defeated Hitler, then 9/11 happened because they hate our freedom. You can skip over the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, you know all the stuff that makes people feel doubt that America is the greatest country in the fucking world!
A globalist mentality teaches students they are citizens of the world rather than citizens of America.
Because you can't be both! You can't be a citizen of America without saying "fuck the rest of the world." Pick a side! It's us or them! You're either for us or against us!
Critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen, arguing that the American reality is so far from the American creed as to negate the value of the whole thing. The multiculturalist mind-set values racial, gender and ethnic identities and regards national identities as reactionary and exclusive.
Um, I would never presume to speak for Ta-Nehisi Coates, but I'm pretty sure that the point he's arguing is that he would like to maybe not see so many unarmed black people shot down like dogs in the street? By the people sworn to "serve and protect?" And maybe it would be nice if Republican legislators spent a bit less time trying to prevent black people from voting? I don't know if that's considered a "multi-cultural mind-set" or not, but I'm pretty sure that dismissing it out of hand and painting it as anti-American makes you a pretty huge bag of dicks.
There’s been a sharp decline in American patriotism. Today, only 52 percent of Americans are “extremely proud” of their country, a historical low.
And that has nothing to do with constant right-wing attacks on our government, our media, our schools and colleges, and every other institution that isn't a mega-church. And it certainly has nothing to do with the right's incessant attempts to undermine and de-legitimize this country's first black president! No, I'm pretty sure it's Colin Koepernick!
Augh, look at that muti-cultural mindset!
Sitting out the anthem takes place in the context of looming post-nationalism. When we sing the national anthem, we’re not commenting on the state of America. We’re fortifying our foundational creed. We’re expressing gratitude for our ancestors and what they left us. We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.
We're ignoring our long history of racial injustice! We're sweeping systemic racism under the rug! We're pretending America is even trying to live up to it's supposed ideals! How could you not want to be a part of that?
Oh, and by post-nationalism, I'm certainly not referring to corporate post-nationalism in the age of "free trade" agreements. No, it's perfectly fine for American companies to ship their factories to China, their tech support to India and their profits to the Caymans. What could be more American than that?
If we don’t transmit that creed through shared displays of reverence we will have lost the idea system that has always motivated reform. We will lose the sense that we’re all in this together. We’ll lose the sense of shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives.
Got that, teens? If we start acknowledging America's faults, we'll never be able to fix America's faults, if she had any, which she doesn't!
If these common rituals are insulted, other people won’t be motivated to right your injustices because they’ll be less likely to feel that you are part of their story. People will become strangers to one another and will interact in cold instrumentalist terms.
Why should a policeman stop shooting black people in the back for no reason if you're not going to be part of his story? Why should anyone want to right an injustice if you don't act in a motivational way? What, are they going to right an injustice just because it's unjust? What are we, Quakers?
Look, if you're upset about the violence perpetrated on innocent people by those in authority, that's understandable. But that doesn't mean you should go around being **gasp!** insulting! Or acting like we're not all part of one big happy family story. I mean, my God! What would Dr. King think?
Mainly, I'm thinking how fucked up it is that this generation still has to fight the same battles.
Also, I'm thinking about how I was all peaceful and patriotic and respectable
and they shot me anyway.
You will strengthen Donald Trump’s ethnic nationalism, which erects barriers between Americans and which is the dark opposite of America’s traditional universal nationalism.
Right. Donald Trump is not the inevitable result of the last 40 years of right-wing fear-mongering, race-baiting, misinformation, and dumbing down of the electorate. He certainly can't be blamed on the right-wing media infrastructure whose raison d'etre is to find a way to twist every story into their narrative of white resentment and xenophobia. No, if the blatantly fascist wing of my Republican Party succeeds in taking the White House, the blame will fall squarely on the shoulders of you teenage football players and your shameless exercise of your First Amendment rights.
Et tu, Number 60?
I hear you when you say you are unhappy with the way things are going in America. But the answer to what’s wrong in America is America
Oh, my God I'm gonna win a Peabody for that line!
The answer to what is wrong with America is America! Can anyone else string together that many words that add up to nothing? Nope! That's whay I get the big bucks!
Oh, and all kidding aside, when I say I "hear you?" Yeah, I don't really "hear you." I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. No one I know has ever been shot by police, so I'm pretty sure that things are just fine. Now stand up and salute the goddamm flag!
But the answer to what’s wrong in America is America — the aspirations passed down generation after generation and sung in unison week by week.
Yes, generation after generation of hoping and wishing ad praying that America will someday live up to it's promise. You know what I mean. You're hoping that America will aspire to be a better country, just as your parents did and your grandparents before them, and. . . wait. You know, when you put it like that, it sounds kinda bad!
We have a crisis of solidarity. That makes it hard to solve every other problem we have. When you stand and sing the national anthem, you are building a little solidarity, and you’re singing a radical song about a radical place.
Way to appeal to the youth! Oh, Brooksie, you've done it again!
Yes, it's a "crisis of solidarity." That's why back in the good old days when we all got along and everyone felt good about America, there was no racism or sexism or homophobia or Islamophobis, or anti-semitism, or anti-immigrant. . . wait. What was I saying?
Oh, yeah. The reason we can't give you your civil rights is beacuse you're upset about not having civil rights. So, just stand up and sing the anthem like Dr. King did, and everyone will be so happy and feel such brotherhood that equality will rain from the sky. Just like it did in Dr. King's day!
See? Sean gets it!