Maybe I saw it first when Ariana Grande licked the donuts. She, in reference to this country’s obesity rate, said she hated America (and also proceeded to lick the donuts in a donut store). All in a day’s work for a 22-year-old, unfiltered pop star. Yet, her annoyed musings were scathingly dubbed offensive and un-American, her caustic misspeak covered by ET, CNN, and LA Times, working its way up to the first result of the Google search “donut controversy.”
Or maybe I saw it first in American Literature class, when we were reading Arthur Miller’s “Are You Now or Were You Ever” that discussed the parallels of hysteria and calamity present in The Crucible and in 1950s America. I remember reading it and thinking that I could replace “anti-communist rage” with “blind patriotism,” and it would still be true that “we rapidly passed over anything like a discussion or debate, and into something quite different, a hunt not just for subversive people, but for ideas and even a suspect language.”
Or maybe I saw it first when College Board had to redesign the redesign, because the new AP United States History curriculum focused too much on slavery and exploitation of native peoples, and not enough on how great privileged Americans were.
People I knew cared more about denouncing Ariana Grande than about Mike Brown or Freddie Gray or Samuel DuBose or Sandra Bland. They cared more about Mexicans taking the working American’s jobs than about the prejudice immigrants faced under the (coincidentally named) Patriot Act. They cared more about supporting attempts at defunding AP United States History than about how much of that history was being spliced out of school curriculums and tossed into a garbage incinerator.
Issues of race and social injustice on the basis of anything not Euro-centric or white-centric are consistently marginalized. Fervorous love for our country is often the ideological and emotional foundation for fervorous hate towards “other” ethnic and racial groups. For example, extreme, almost militaristic patriotism, particularly after 9/11, created a culture of purposed islamophobia and racism that transcends the historically American ideals of freedom and diversity. My immigrant friends have never felt welcome here, where their first thought after hearing about the Charleston shooter was – “please don’t be Muslim.” The fact that Dylann Roof was given the excuses of “mental illness” and a simple “hate crime” instead of being called a terrorist only furthers the idea that extreme patriotism and devotion to this country protects the privileged.
Personally, I’ve never viewed patriotism the same way an all-white, all-American family would — and how could I? Being an American-Born-Chinese always seemed like a double-edged sword. I was never victim to blind and uneducated devotion for a country that treated immigrants and unabridged American rights as mutually exclusive. But then again I was also taught that love for the country my parents came from made me a communist, a la McCarthy.
So maybe I’ve always seen it, the attempted erasure of American minorities from their own narrative. In its place, a sugar-coated depiction of the vitality of the American Dream and pride for the American spirit. Little attention is directed towards the version of America that was born from immigrants and revolutionary nonconformity, from exploitation of natives and the labors of slaves. All because it painted a picture patriots couldn’t be proud of.