“Oh but ain’t that America, for you and me, Ain’t that America, we’re something to see baby, Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah, Little pink houses for you and me, oh for you and me” John Mellencamp
We all want to belong to something greater than us. Not only is there a need but we like to define ourselves by such inclusions.
Think about sport’s teams. Society spends millions of dollars on sports jerseys. Whether it is baseball, football, basketball it doesn’t matter. Of course we all want our teams not only to win but to be champions. That way when the Yankees win the World Series and I walk around with my Yankees jacket, I too am seen as a winner.
Nationalism is teaching us to give our allegiance to our country. There are a set of ideals or principles countries adhere to. Not only that but there is history, folklore and culture as well. Countries have tangible symbols of their existence called flags. So I as a child would go to school everyday and speak to a colorful cloth. Not only would we talk to an inanimate object but we would put our hand over are heart signifying devotion. Then we would ‘pledge allegiance’ to that colorful cloth.
I am not against the good things of the United States. I’m all for freedoms and liberties. What I am against is ‘blind’ allegiance to anything. You see we are taught to love our country in both blatant and subliminal ways. Our history is distorted. Examine the American Revolution as expressed historically from scholars of the states and scholars of England and you will see two conflicting sides. But who is right?
That is the problem of the whole matter. I believe that every nation twists things to make their own nation as glorious as possible. In the United States we are to remember the Maine while some urge to forget slavery. History, as it is taught in public education, is full of twists and lies.
The people in power play off our longing to belong to something greater. After all, just like a sports team, we want to belong to something great. When the Olympics come around and our athletes compete we route for them solely on the basis that they come from our nation. When they stand receiving the gold medal, with the national anthem playing and the stars and stripes boldly displayed, Americans feel a sense of pride.
But beware for ‘patriotism’ is a form of manipulation. After all if you want to be great one has to make sacrifices. And thus by nationalism are droves of poor people set out to fight. The official reason being defense of country but the real reason corporate profits.
In the same way other groups will compete for loyalty. There is no shortage of things that one could belong to. There are states, towns, cities, various religions, clubs and organizations. Some of these don’t have open membership. After all you have to have a certain amount of clout to belong to the country club. Or you got to be liked to pledge the fraternity. Even groups that aren’t selective have demands. If you come to church to be a pew sitter it’s not pleasing God.
I think it is good to associate with something greater. I think it is natural and healthy. However one must never lose sight that these organization are fallible. After all any group consists of people and none of us are perfect.
So what do you identify with? As someone with bipolar I am relegated to the mentally ill community. That is the thing about some groups is that we belong to them whether we like it our not. I have lighter skin and all my roots in Poland so I am labeled as ‘white’. Others with darker skin are put in the African American community. The way groups are viewed, fair or unfair, effects how we are viewed as individuals.
Our groups exert peer pressure upon us. Wave the flag and the people will salute. That’s great as long as you understand that it is what the flag represents you support. Being a blind follower of anything is sheer stupidity. But as social creatures identifying to greater things is both normal and healthy. In fact for people with mental illness such socialization is a key to recovery. It’s great to have friends and comrades but just make sure that the affection is reciprocal.
Check out my book “I Should Have Been A Rock Star” https://johnkaniecki.weebly.com/i-should-have-been-a-rock-star.html
Photos by ZoiKoraki,