Arash Kamiar: American New Speak
A Warning. Broad and generous generalizations are made in the below op-ed, which solely expresses the opinion of the author.
Why are so many Americans intent on becoming a caricature of themselves? This type of parody should make someone laugh, “‘Merica!” but so many Americans are not laughing, they’re longing. Caricatures are supposed to embellish our worst features and hide our best ones, but these Americans are excited about their ridiculous disproportions. They’re nostalgic for a jaded perspective of themselves and want other Americans to embrace their untoward identity as our nation’s natural state.
Enter modern day American “patriots”. A group of people so fixated on one or two distorted traits of America that they are unable to discern the truer reflection of our nation. Their narrative assumes homogeneity of our culture is the status quo and to write this story they have to steal and redefine words to mean something other than what they mean.
We’re all guilty of obliging their form of American New Speak.
One of those stolen terms is “patriotism, ” which has become another way of elevating one type of American above a multitude of other Americans. It is supposed to identify “real Americans,” which is to say “white” Americans. It is a term that is practically synonymous with “white power”, especially when viewed from the perspective of an American ethnic minority, of which I am.
It’s not the only term that has been co-opted to serve as a racial and political identifier. Words like “freedom” and “liberty” are in the same group. These terms have become pejoratives. Their definitions are a putrid mixture of jingoism, xenophobia and chauvinism. You know, the exact opposite of what they mean. Within the same breath, these individuals shout for freedom, while plotting to infringe on the rights of other Americans. The irony is lost on them.
Maybe I’m alone (I’m not), but when I hear the term “patriot” or “liberty” or “freedom” it rarely calls to mind a varied group of individuals with dynamic political, religious and cultural views. It doesn’t remind me of America’s thoughtful and empathetic. It doesn’t call to mind people who have spent their life sacrificing to create a “more perfect union” by “establishing justice” and “ensuring domestic tranquility.”
It does call to mind a group frenzied trump-esque individuals who have a very static and practically mythological perspective of who America was and is. Their love of country is for a very specific type of country, and it is not one in which all people are created equal, regardless of your measure. It calls to mind a group of people that are selfish, greedy, caustic, ignorant and dangerous. A group of people that I believe would destroy this country and demonstrate a sort of violence that is on par with ISIS if our government was ever to fail. Suddenly, I love government. Obviously, not everyone who is unashamedly patriotic is anything like my imaginations. Much more are genuine and caring participants in our culture than I’m sure I allow for.
Still, I'm left in a precarious position because my words to identify as American are stolen. How do I, as an American born Iranian embrace patriotism without supporting the racial and prejudicial undertones that seem to come with that sentiment? How can I comfortably hang a flag from my front door, non-ironically, without identifying with this group or people? I’m not sure I can, which is unfortunate because that flag represents the revolutionaries of our nation more than it does anyone else. It represents the people who sit in metaphorical sewers circles rethreading the flag and changing the fabric of our country, over and over again.
The self-described patriots can think what they want but they don’t have a right to steal the words and symbols that belong to all of us.
Arash Kamiar, MPP