What is patriotism? That is, if I am allowed to sharpen the question, who is the real patriot? Is it the person who stands to their nation’s call at every opportunity?
Looking at Australia’s own history, acting this way is clearly a fool’s errand. We celebrate the heroism of Australia’s soldiers at Gallipoli, but at the same time we acknowledge the foolish nature of the escapades there - as big a hero as the Aussie digger was at Gallipoli, that guy should not have been there in the first place. The same applies for Vietnam, and if we fast forward Iraq, too. Even key Republican figures, including president elect Trump, admit the war in Iraq has been a mistake; by proxy, the same applies to Australia’s involvement there, too.
So who is it, exactly, who is the true patriot? Is it the guy who answered the call and went to fight that foolhardy war because that’s what his country said, or is it the person who protested against the war in the street and got arrested for it?
I’m firmly on person B’s side of the equation, given that I am a member of that minority that considers nationalism to be one of humanity’s greatest illnesses. But even if you disagree with me on nationalism, as you probably are, you’d have to concede that true blue patriotism can come in many shades.
Which is why I truly do not get the fuss Americans are making over Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand up to the national anthem. Seriously, if this is the one problem in this world of ours that troubles you, you’re in an awkwardly privileged position. A national anthem is just a collection of musical notes, the same way a flag is just dyed fabric; any meaning it holds is meaning given to it by us, and if Kaepernick refuses to give it the same meaning as the majority of other Americans then good on him. Last I’ve heard, we take pride in being able to make autonomous decisions.
But it gets worse. I was under the impression the whole Kaepernick affair is old news, forgotten by now through the mighty eclipse called Trump. Turned out I was wrong: the Pentagon and non other tweeted the other day against him. They then deleted their tweet, probably upon realising they broke the law by getting themselves involved in purely civic affairs, but the point has been made. The strongest army in the world, by far, and one in control of a nuclear arsenal that can wipe our planet clean, considers true patriotism the act of doing what one is told without daring to ask any questions.
America is so fucked up and, by proxy, so is the rest of this world.