The Question of Who Gets to be Called a “Patriot” | Kaepernick, Jones, and Other Dark Subject Matters

“For some, being American is conditional on behaving like a grateful guest: You belong here because we tolerate your presence.”

“Love of country turned performative. As a result, modern patriotism has become Kabuki citizenship. It’s Joseph McCarthy; it’s the House Un-American Activities Committee. It’s “Freedom fries” and “These colors don’t run.” It’s American-flag pins and the people who go nuts when a politician is caught without one.

But is it also Leslie Jones.”

[…. Fisher is the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, who, in an episode of the reality football show “Hard Knocks,” told his team that standing for the anthem was sacrosanct: “It’s an opportunity to realize how lucky you are.” Yet here was Kaepernick, sitting down.

……………

That’s one rejoinder to the unconditional gratitude — the compulsory expression of thankfulness for a nation that prides itself on freedom of expression — that the Jeff Fishers of the world demand. If you’re a black man, as Kaepernick is, your ambivalence about patriotic rituals may be a way of asking the same question Fisher raised: How lucky arewe, exactly?

…………….

When a black American protests the demoralizing practices of American government, there is always a white person eager to unfurl the welcome mat to Africa. This is where racism and patriotism tend to point: toward the exits. For some, we learn, being American is conditional on behaving like a grateful guest: You belong here because we tolerate your presence. We don’t yet appear to have settled the matter of citizenship — not even for our president, another black man backhandedly accused of harboring terrorist sympathies. We operate on the old logic that only members of the family are allowed to tell hard truths about the family’s flaws. And when black people speak about America, they’re informed that they do not actually have a seat at the grown-ups’ table and that they should be grateful to be around at all.

……………..

“I support our players when they want to see change in society,” Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, told The Associated Press. “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the N.F.L.”

Of course we do. Football has long sought to conflate itself with the military, making it easy to confuse players with troops and political protest with treason. Last year, a report by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake investigated the $6.8 million the Department of Defense had paid sports, mostly to pro football, for recruitment and promotional activities over a four-year period — including full-field displays of the American flag and surprise reunion events between service members and their families. The league announced that it would return $723,734, money spent not on recruitment but on what McCain and Flake called “paid patriotism.”

……………..

“Patriot” has a concise definition: “one who loves and loyally or zealously supports one’s own country.” Support can take the form of dissent just as readily as cheer-leading — each is a way of suggesting what kind of nation America is to become, and patriots have lived and died on all sides of the argument. But during the 20th century, patriotism began to treat the question as one we’ve settled.

……………..

Jones had been redefining the face of patriotism — a face that has been evoked by both Marvel’s Captain America and Peter Fonda’s counterculture version. But to some of her fellow citizens, she’ll only ever be an interloper. Soon after her return, hackers invaded her personal website and aired private information. Whiteness and America have always been kept synonymous, conjoined, fiercely paired. Attempts to problematize that marriage — to open it up and show whom it excludes — are reliably met with fear and resistance. New expressions of patriotism always make certain white people fear that a wedge is being driven between them and their America — whether by Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the Army, or by Black Lives Matter, or by a backup quarterback for the 49ers. The fear is almost as old as the nation. Sometimes it feels as if the fear is the nation…..]

 

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One thought on “The Question of Who Gets to be Called a “Patriot” | Kaepernick, Jones, and Other Dark Subject Matters

  1. For many Blacks – certainly all of them who are deemed “Black Enough” by their culture’s gatekeepers – being “patriotic” is acting as a grateful guest and they do only “belong” here because we tolerate their presence.

    They are, after all, Americans only in legalistic terms, not in way that matters outside of a legislative chamber or courtroom. Their culture is deliberating separate from America’s and, whenever they could make it so, antithetical to it.

    But, as is almost always the case, it has nothing to do with “race.” It has to do with culture and the loyalties that are part and parcel of that culture. This can even be evidenced by the Blacks’ own terms of: Oreo, Uncle Tom, Sell-Out, Too White, House Nigger, and others. It is further evidenced by their consistent description of two Americas: White American and Black America.

    Like

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