Just to make a point. Or rather, a handful of points.
As someone who does not (and, definitely at this time, would not want to) live in the USA, I have some questions.
First of all, what is this fascination with national symbols? Why, in the name of all that’s holy (that might be a point) are US citizens so focused on their national anthem that they insist it be played at the start of sports events that have no relationship to the nation whatsoever?
In Europe, the national anthem is only played at the start of a match involving a squad representing their country, not for club teams. You guys make it sound like you will play the Anthem before having sex.
Same thing with the flag. All Americans are supposed to honour the Flag. Unless you’re in the South, then you can desecrate the American flag all you want in favour of the Confederate flag. I’ve never seen a nation of flag wavers as incessant as the USA.
And is it really true that, at the beginning of a school day, children have to stand during a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance?
What is it that causes the USA to insist that it is so great, and to incessantly ram that in the minds of their citizens? I mean, if you’re not in doubt about something, you’re not going to repeat it over and over. Nobody is going to take a stand every day to convince us, or themselves, that the sun will rise next morning. We know that. I have yet to come across a situation wherein, each morning, school children are supposed to proclaim that the earth is, in fact, not a flat disc, but a sphere.
The only reason I can think of to, as if it were a mantra, glorify your nationality over and over again is that there is some innate doubt.
I am Dutch. The Dutch are not flag-wavers, and they’re not particularly hot on singing our National Anthem at every possible occasion (even though our national anthem is, musically, one of the most interesting anthems around). We’re not particularly “patriotic”, and we do not use “unpatriotic” as a magic formula to invalidate someone’s argument.
We do not have to assert that we are The Best Country In The World – we know we aren’t. According to whatever statistic you can come up with, we’re usually doing pretty well these days (around the top 10 or thereabouts), but if there is a Best Country In The World, it’s not our country. Just after WWII, this country has committed some war time atrocities itself, when it tried to, against better judgement, cling to The Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) as its territory. The Netherlands has also been involved in slave trade for a long time. So there is enough not to be proud of. Even today – although we take a lot better care of the sick, the disabled and the elderly than the USA does, there’s still quite a bit to be desired.
But that’s not the point. The point is to acknowledge where we went wrong, recognise what we can do to do things right, and take care of the here and now without harbouring any false pride.
For that reason, a sentence like “right or wrong… my country, sir” has not really taken root here.
And it shouldn’t. If it is evident that your leaders are telling you to commit atrocities against humanity, it should be ok to say “My country… sorry, sir, but that ain’t right”.
I am also not stating that this is a universal Dutch trait. Like any European country, The Netherlands has a rather noisy minority of racist, deeply nationalist folks that would like nothing more than kick out anyone who is not a member of their group (foreigners, LGBT people, refugees, and anyone sympathising with the above) and essentially recreating society as it was in the late fifties. But that is definitely not the consensus here – even though people like Geert Wilders would like you to believe otherwise.
But during every election, that nationalist movement fails to come out on top. I truly hope it will stay that way, because not a single divisive attempt at us-versus-them-thinking that we have seen in the history of mankind has ever led to something good. History has already borne me out here, and I am convinced that it will keep doing so.
I don’t mind if you guys love your country. Without thinking The Netherlands is the best thing since sliced bread, I like this country – and everything and everone that’s in it — a lot. I just think that, as soon as loving your country implies hating folks who just so happen to not agree with you – or worse, to hate folks whose only crime is that they do not have their ancestral roots in your country – then I think you are crossing a line of human decency.
And if you are an angry white male who is about to state that I should STFU, please bear in mind that your ancestral roots, wherever they may belong, they do not belong in North America – you’ve only been there for a couple hundred years, and you started out committing atrocities to those who were there first.
I love the fact that we can agree to disagree. I love the fact that, around here, you can demonstrate your opinion without being fired or demonised by whoever happens to be in the driver’s seat.
I love the fact that we are not told to love this country, but have the freedom to do so if we want.