Brock Willard editor in chief
In any modern country, patriotism is a prevalent feature. It’s a tool to build community cohesion, and reinforce connection with your fellow countrymen, or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be about. I would argue that patriotism has undergone a significant shift in the last 100 years or so from being about community to being about supporting the military-industrial complex.
The modern brand of patriotism can be traced back to the World Wars. World War One, as an historical period, contains the germs of what we would consider patriotism today. People during World War One on average were far more likely to serve in the military willingly rather than be forced by a draft, and those left at home due to gender or other separating factors were more willing to help by working extra or going without some products if it meant supporting the war effort. The image of Uncle Sam saw quite the resurgence during this period.
Fast forward to World War Two. We see a slightly different landscape. After the horrors witnessed by soldiers in World War One, many people didn’t think it couldn’t get worse. Additionally, the United States was decidedly reluctant to enter the War for a whole host of reasons. Some of these included baked in antisemitism, economic struggles after the First World War, as well as simple geographic distance from Europe. Once Japan attacked Pearl Harbor however, the US was singing an incredibly different tune. They went full force on the Nazi-Japanese enemy and, in case of the Japanese, mortally wounded them via the use of the atomic bomb.
Now contrast those events with the way we talk about them today. I would be willing to bet that when you learned about the creation of the atomic bomb in school you were taught that there was absolutely no other way the situation could have been resolved or that members of the Japanese public have to die so that the war could end. I would posit that this represents a perfect case study into how rampant patriotism has infected our brains.
We dropped the atomic bomb because we wanted to win quickly at any cost, even at the cost of as many as 200,000 civilian lives. What kind of world do we live in where we say, “Yeah, 200,000 innocents is a fair price to pay to end a war?”
How this relates to issues of patriotism today is simple: not everything your country does is inherently good. In fact, most things a country does isn’t all good. We live in a world gripped by capitalism where the supposedly “richest country in the world” for some reason can’t afford to provide its citizens with anything they need to sustain themselves and live a fulfilled life. We struggle in the real world with expensive education, no real access to healthcare, skyrocketing rent costs, and systems that actively protect bigotry as “free speech.” You do not owe your country more than what is necessary to help provide the benefits of society. Right now, those benefits only include sanitation, roads, and public schools. It is my opinion that we should ask our government to provide more and ask for less, instead of the other way around.