Colin Kaepernick once again set the conservative universe on fire on July 2 after he pointed out to Nike, a company with which he has an endorsement deal, that their shoe featuring the American flag representing the unity of the Thirteen Colonies has a connection to slavery. Others have mentioned that the flag has been co-opted by the patriot movement, which consists of a collection of American national extremist groups.
A much bigger issue I feel is one that very few people have pointed out: that the majority of those celebrating “patriotism” are monumental hypocrites.
At the end of the article, the author says he believes that “[i]f Nike is to be condemned, this is the primary reason. And that goes for all of the other companies that disrespect the American flag by using it for their own commercial purposes.”
I feel like he has a solid argument, but I do not think he realized that he also pinpointed the greatest facilitator of national pride: consumer capitalism.
Consumer capitalism has co-opted the American flag for its own use as nothing more than a marketing tool. This type of marketing has led to generations of superficial national pride, and an unfortunate byproduct is the unwitting reinforcement of white nationalist sentiments. This is one of the ways in which propaganda works. One group will begin to use an antiquated symbol that most people do not know anything about and will begin to use it as their own, generating an entirely new meaning for that symbol. And since the symbol was already obscure to most people in the first place, the new meaning becomes familiar as being associated with that particular group. This has also happened with the “OK” hand signal over the past couple of years.
July Fourth is supposed to be about celebrating the country’s independence from a tyrannical government, but consumer capitalism has turned it into a celebration of the country’s entire history post-Revolution, which is where tribalism — a symptom of nationalism — kicks in. The focus has been shifted due to this conflation, which has been ancillary to nationalist sentiment to the point where it’s impossible for one to be grateful for the country’s independence while also being able to criticize it. To put it mildly, the U.S. has a bit of a checkered past concerning human rights, but the inconvenient truths are sadly often drowned out by right-wingers’ strident claims that America is the best country in history, whatever that means. After generations of repeating vague and unsubstantiated claims such as this one without any pushback, it makes sense for any counter narrative to be met with vitriol regardless of its veracity, but the feelings have been exacerbated since Trump took office over two years ago.
This is another contradiction. Trump promised to make America great again, yet Tea Partiers and other types of Trump supporters have been claiming for years prior that America was already the greatest country in the world. In fact, many have been spotted post-election wearing MAGA hats while making this same claim, unaware that their excessive pride could eventually result in a flag code violation.
American influence has been diminishing in recent years due to rampant imperialism and broken treaties to the point where other world leaders are actively working to divest from trading with the dollar. There are more people living in poverty than ever before and homelessness is rising. Our infrastructure gets a grade of D+ while we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined, and they just got an annual raise big enough to pay for public college. Our healthcare system has death panels because it rations care based on wallet size instead of need, yet I am supposed to be proud?
The overwhelming majority of Trump supporters proudly identify as Christian, but I get the sense that the overwhelming majority of those also give off the veneer that they do not often read. I could not find a survey substantiating the second claim, but here’s an unsurprising one showing that most Christians haven’t even read the bible, so I’ll leave the rest of the speculating up to you.
The Fourth of July has sadly turned into a spectacle, and Trumpism is only a symptom of the effect that was catalyzed by consumer capitalism. Just like with Christmas, it has infected our culture to the point where the original meaning has been lost and replaced with vacuous consumerism and dangerous tribalism, such as the “war on Christmas” in a country predominantly run by Christians. Perhaps it is the cynic in me, but I have trouble getting on board with the festivities these days when the narrative is dominated by those using our military members as political props when there are around 60,000 homeless veterans in this country. A narrative promulgated by those same self-proclaimed patriots who continue to wear American-flag apparel after being made aware of the flag code violation. And let us not forget that we have a megalomaniacal president who diverted millions of dollars away from the national park service to hold a parade for himself. All of this happened while poor, innocent children are being kept in cages away from their families in the land of the free.