The Character of Superpatriotism

Consider the rhetoric and tone of the right-wing and conservative memes we see every day on social media. Love of country or admiration for the teachings of Jesus Meek and Mild are not behind the energy expended. There really isn’t any love in these memes. They are, for the most part, expressions of belligerence, chauvinism, and jingoism. Staged photos of soldiers and police praying, saving puppies and kittens, buying a random poor (black) child a toy. Kids pledging allegiance or praying in a public school setting. Confederate flag waving and wearing. All dressed in chintzy wear and sappy sentiment.

Beneath all the flailing symbolism is a desire fueled by hatred for those who love humanity, oppose war and imperialism, choose not to participate in mindless expressions of obnoxious loyalty to flag and deity, are down on their luck, want to give those who are down on their luck a hand up, are different. These memes are really a reaction to the acceptance, compassion, justice, love, and peace expressed and practiced by the “bleeding hearts,” “commie scum,” “hippies” and “treehuggers.”

Humanist values deeply irk the conservative personality, which is, beneath all of it, an authoritarian personality in wait, the seething tendency of a perverse collective psyche (and I use perverse here in its intended meaning). We have seen it before. At its core, superpatriotism and hyper-Christianity represent loathing of rational thought, intellectual pursuit, artistic adventure, and ethnic and racial and sexual diversity. In sum, and ironically (if we take them at their word), conservatism is contemptuous of individually differentiated attitudes and conduct.

The fascistic character of these expressions – authoritarian, conformist, disciplinarian, patriarchal, pro-corporal punishment, pro-gun, pro-hierarchy, pro-masculinity, pro-police, pro-war, pro-warrior – becomes self-evident with a bit of historical awareness. And a willingness to accept truthful comparisons. Authoritarianism, wherever it manifests, is a controlling and destructive tendency. Its desire is see people under the thumb of a rigid ideology. Tragically, good people get sucked into the irrational hatred and resentment because they want to be good patriots.

True unity is not obtained by rallying around flags, but by rallying around each other. We all know which social class benefits from dividing working people. We need to collectively focus our attention on the real enemy.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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