I Pledge Allegiance to What?
by Mark Karadimos (e-mail: karadimosmd@mathguide.com) [October 1st, 2002]

     We recently mourned the one-year anniversary of the destruction of New York's Twin Towers on September 11th. 9-11, as it is referred to, had a huge ripple effect that has contributed to a weakened economy. More so, it has negatively influenced our American collective mindset in regards to issues of security.


“We Americans now feel comforted as we reach to nationalism and flag-waving to inoculate ourselves against the effects that the 9-11 tragedy aggravated.”

     An essay could easily be drafted to thoroughly detail the items mentioned above. However, our faulty effort to curtail and eventually overcome our negatively affected collective mindset has not received much press. It may be unpopular to proclaim, but we Americans seem bent to conquer our predicament by rallying around the flag with hollow acts of patriotism.

     Championing patriotism is not a bad way to heal but what we Americans are doing lacks substance. For instance, shelves across America are littered with items that are covered with stars and stripes. There are patriotic napkins, three-colored camping chairs and fake flags on neckties. Unfortunately, these things do no more than provide us with a place to wipe our dirtied bodies and plant our tired rears. The superficial forms of patriotism land up pacifying us, as if quelling our higher brain functions due to a tourniquet applied about the neck.

     Don't misinterpret what I am trying to say. The American flag is a beautiful sight to be seen. The juxtaposition of colors and shapes create a powerful symbol for inspiration. The triumphant American history for which it stands creates further images of which to be proud.

     Simply plastering the American landscape with Old Glory is not enough. Even though these visual cues should remind us of our personal responsibilities, they alone seemingly are not doing the job.

     In schools across the United States, governments and local school boards are reinstating the Pledge of Allegiance. Now instead of investigating factual reasons to honor our country through science, history and literature, students are being pressured to recite words that ring empty, in a mindless fashion. I never knew that patriotism was instilled through peer pressure and repetition.

     Instead of relying on colorful backdrops and empty spoken phrases, patriotism depends on a deeper understanding of the word. A patriot should be independent, principled, strong-willed and cognizant of the benefits of civic responsibility.

     The flag and the pledge should remind us of our duty to uphold high standards, but how must the full brunt of the American role be imparted? The two together without something deeper do not appear to be inspiring anyone.

     Fostering fertile educational systems that challenge, inspire and enlighten does not elect politicians. Constructing generic, feel-good campaign speeches while rallying around the flag elects them. A citizenry that remains apathetic of such a system fuels our short-term, shortsighted political system.

     Communities are caught up in the same type of downhill spiral. Many turnouts for important elections run high when they reach 50% of the registered public. The primary elections are surprisingly much lower than that still. This speaks to the level of interest and involvement of our citizenry.

     As a result of this lack of participation in the political process, our candidates for each election do not represent us. Candidates must please the few interest groups that do become organized. Beyond that, candidates resort to unsubstanitive rhetoric that dampens the spirit of the general public, contributing to a situation of social inertia.

     The incident on 9-11 last year may have contributed to an existing problem in our country. Our less than involved populace has been reaping what it has been sewing for years. When the 9-11 event occurred, it exacerbated our problem with the political system, while giving rise to feelings of insecurity -- similar to the people of war-torn countries.

     We Americans now feel comforted as we reach to nationalism and flag-waving to inoculate ourselves against the effects that the tragedy aggravated. Unifying ourselves to battle a common enemy will allow us to forget our problems, but the gains we achieve in that direction will only be short-lived. Cosmetics only temporarily hide the bruises attained from one's abuser.

     In order to fully recover from our malady, we need treatment that will eradicate the problem, not just camouflage it. Respecting those who have died for our rights and served our country needs to be recognized. We must do our civic responsibility and take ownership of our communities. Engaging in dialogue concerning deep philosophical issues, matters of government and important current events should be encouraged among all social circles and learning environments.

     As one can see, true patriotism is very difficult to properly instill. All the flags in the world and the countless number of pledge recitals may build a common experience around us Americans, but these acts at most merely plant the seeds of patriotism. A vibrant democracy demands that its citizens tend to the soil, water the seedlings, and monitor their growth so that the seeds become mature and one-day produce more seeds.

     We can try to fool ourselves to believe that purchasing cigarette lighters which bear the flag will ignite our spirit. Maintaining that students publicly regurgitate phrases is another option. Doing these acts will accomplish a false sense of security by expediting the growth of an internal cancer: a citizenry of automatons.

     Real patriotism requires a great deal of energy and patience. The fruit it yields is worth the time and the effort. 9-11 may have taught us that it is easier to destroy than it is to create; yet, something stronger and better can rise from the ashes, much like the will of the phoenix.

     Continue to sport various products that carry the flag if you will, but use them as a reminder to take on the complete role of the true patriot. Breathe life into the pledge with each word spoken and each action taken. It is anti-American to simply go along with the herd.

Resources

  • John Collins: Patriotism
  • National Museum of Patriotism: Online Library
  • Mother Earth: Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty
  • Google Directory: Society: Politics: Nationalism and News: Media: Alternative: Patriotic

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