There has been a trend for some time for conservatives to consider themselves the staunch defenders of patriotism. They shake their heads and fly their flags in response to social change in today’s times just as they did through the cvil rights movements. Fear of progressive change is masked behind the idea that any criticism of current ideas and policy is, in and of itself, an unpatriotic act. Nevermind that America was founded on the idea of free expression and disaffection with the establishment. In this age of instant communication, the connotation of patriotism within conservative politics has become even more warped. What was a basic fear of change, has morphed into the more insidious ideologies of nationalism, racism, even mysogony. The 2016 election cycle has brought this distorted view of patriotism into stark relief against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign.
A quick dive into social media demonstrates that the majority of Trump supporters are primarily relying on non-mainstream “news” resources and blogs to bolster their ideas. Many of the sites they post articles from are heavily laden with conspiracy theories and thinly veiled white nationalism. They operate in a fact-free zone and are no more legitimate that a supermarket tabloid. Yet, so many gravitate toward these sources. Why? Because these sites are designed to appeal to a conservative’s existing sense of entitlement toward patriotism. Disinformation sites such as InfoWars and Breitbart provide the content which is then disseminated through pseudo-patriotic channels such as The Federalist Papers, The Powdered Wig Society, and True Pundit, to name a few. A literal deluge of misinformation is spread across social media this way, wrapped up nicely in full patriotic regalia.
In this form of conservative patriotism, the American ideologies of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equal rights are disparaged, while the right to bear arms is of singular importance. The vision of America as a safe harbor for immigrants where freedom and opportunity is available to all is obscured by the fearful rhetoric of white nationalism. Those who exercise the right to protest peacefully are villified as ungrateful haters. None of this is true patriotism.
True patriotism is preserving the integrity of American ideals. True patriotism is respecting our differences and working together to find solutions for our ever-changing circumstances. True patriotism is standing up and fighting for social justice for all Americans. True patriotism is progressive by nature-it is always looking forward to a better future for everyone.