America Fantasyland Part 1

Disneyland, the epitome of the American dream. If you believe hard enough and spend a lot of money, all of your dreams will come true.

Good god. Has it really been just over a year since Donald J Dumbass was elect president? How are you holding up? I haven’t handled it well and it shows. To quote Hamlet, “I have of late lost all my mirth”. I’ve lost the passion to blog, to read, and to some extend I’ve been far to slow to move past the last election.

Looking back to November 8th, 2016, it is clear to me now that I’ve spend the last year going through the five stages of grief. At first I denied it, (oh he’ll never take office-he looks as stunned as the rest of us), then I felt anger, to the point of rage when he was finally sworn in, and then on to a long bout of depression as I watched him make a mockery of the office of the Presidency and everything it stands for. Worse yet, watching as Congress defends his shredding of our Constitution and the principals on which is was written.

The last stage of grief, according to Elisabeth Kubler Ross, is acceptance. No, I am not there yet; I can’t bring myself to say his name and the title President in the same sentence, but I can say I am starting to accept the fact that millions of Americans voted for him. I’ve spent the last year trying to figure out why.

Like many of my fellow liberal Americas I know people who did in fact not only vote for him, but did so not out of a sense of irony or sadistic glee, but because they honestly fell for his bullshit. And not just his bullshit, but also the bullshit being flung around by social media and the sharing of said bullshit. No, seriously, how do you fall for a guy who on one hand says, “I’ll hire the smartest people” and on the other says, “I am your voice, I alone can fix it”. Fix what?? The guy filed for bankruptcy four times! How do you lose money owning a casino?? Damn, I may still be in the anger stage. Moving on.

My questions of why expanded beyond wanting to know why so many people I know and respect (and millions I don’t know) fell for his con. But not just his con; cons and hoaxes in general. Truth be told, I’ve been asking myself for quite a while now, “is America becoming dumber”? Long time followers know this is a topic I hit on once in a while. In 2014 I reviewed a book titled “Idiot America” in which I talked about the dumbing down of America. Who knew two years later millions of voters would prove me right?

I made some connections between our decline in good judgment and religious like idolization of all things connect to consumerism that seems to be paving the way for a dumber America. Whether we are talking about materialism (I’ll feel better, look better, be better, if only I had X) or how we greedily consume our news and “information” without an ounce of critical thinking. How did we become the nation whose mantra seems to now be, “It feels right, so it must be true”?

I wish I could say after careful study of our culture I came to a solid answer; that my months in hiding have given me insight to what is wrong with our country, but I have to give credit to a book I recently picked up. Kurt Andersen’s book, “Fantasyland How America Went Haywire” put a lot of things in perspective and helped me connect the dots. I can’t say it’s a great book (although I do recommend it) as Andersen does tend to veers off into weedy thinking, and expresses some personal opinions in order to make a view seem like fact. Ironically this is the very thing his book argues is wrong with America. Yet some of his simplest statements are powerful truths and should be recognized as such.

America was created by people resistant to reality checks and convinced they had special access to the truth, a place founded to enact grand fantasies. (p.72)

Andersen begins his book with the European explores who risked their lives (and reputations) for the promises of golden mountains waiting to be plundered, and the mystical Fountain of Youth. He then quickly moves to the Puritans with their idea of a religious utopia; setting the stage for a history of people who are resistant to reality checks, even as reality hits back. There were not mountains of gold, or flowing waters of eternal youth. There was no religious utopia; instead, to the Puritans utter shock, there were “pagan savages” everywhere they looked.

One would have thought that the Puritans would’ve had the good sense to go home as so many had done when it was discovered there was no easy spoils to be had, but no. They believed they could convert the savages, and when that didn’t work later generations set out to annihilate them, firmly believing it was their God given right to do so.

Andersen’s book pulls the veil off the myth of American exceptionalism and exposes the truth of how we became fantasyland. How today we’d rather listen to our gut or a conspiracist, rather than a medical doctor. How our political views are shaped by labels rather than ideas. Why being offended now allows us the “right” to protest and boycott free speech and opposing views. And so much more.

Andersen may not have gotten everything right; his bias against religion shows loud and clear and clouds some of his thinking about what is found strictly in America and what is not. Yet he gets enough right that his book is a jumping-off point for cultural self-reflection and deep discussion. So much so, that in the coming weeks it will be the focus of my posts. We will look at various stops on our journey to fantasyland. It is my hope that in time we begin to reflect on what came before and how it has shaped our understanding of who we are now and what improvements we can make so that Fantasyland doesn’t turn into Nightmareland.

 

 

What does Patriotism mean to you?

For those who think the “Star Spangled Banner” is sacred, I’d like to remind you that we once had Roseann Barr belt it out during an important sporting event.

Patriotism: Love for or devotion to one’s Country

How do you show love for your country? What does this term even mean to you?

For many it means giving up personal safety to serve in the armed forces. For others it means celebrating and waving a flag on national holidays, and for some, it means standing up for guaranteed rights in the form of protest and marches. But for many the word “patriotic” seems to only come to mind when the national anthem is being played.

I for one find many ways to show my patriotism; through volunteer work, paying my fair share of taxes and not bitching about it, flying the flag on appropriate holidays, voting, and speaking out when I see the rights of my fellow citizens being trampled on. The thing I detest and pushback against is being forced to show my patriotism. America is a free society so it seems damn ironic that there are times when we are compelled to show our respect for the country we love.

I don’t know about the country you live in, but in America spectator sports always begin with the national anthem. Players and spectators alike are obligated to stand with hand over heart while it is being played. As if all need to be reminded that what is about to take place is “American”.

The history of the anthem and sporting events started during what else, war. Before WWII the Star Spangled Banner was only played during the World Series (the finale to our baseball season for my overseas friends), but during WWII the anthem began being played before all sporting events. It made sense for the time. During a time of conflict playing a battle hymn before large crowds of Americans reminded them and the world that America stood strong. As sports writers Luke Cyphers and Ethan Trex remind us:

Our nation honors war. Our nation loves sports. Our nation glorifies winning. Our national anthem strikes all three chords at the same time.

Yet I can think of other ways of showing American patriotism; after all we are a capitalistic society. What better showing of our love of country than by spending our hard earned money on over-priced tickets, and then driving to stadiums built by local tax dollars to support our favorite American teams? Throw in hot-dog eating and beer drinking and you have the quintessential American outing.

Conversely you can argue that the players are also showing their patriotism by believing in the American dream that says, “If you work hard, you too can accomplish great things”. For many of these players the only way they can hope to escape poverty and achieve this goal is to physically work hard and risk their health in order to entertain an American audience.

When we are asked, both players and spectators, to stand during the anthem, we are being asked to contemplate what it means to be patriotic. In other words, when the national anthem is brought to sporting events, the event itself becomes political. And this act of political contemplation seems to lie at the very heart of the issue at hand. What does it mean to be patriotic? And why does your definition have to be someone else’s definition?

Whenever I am asked to stand and listen to the Star Spangled Banner I am moved to think about America and all it stands for. Some aspects are clearly positive; after all I am free to question my leaders, and free to spend my afternoon at a sporting event. But as politics become forefront in my thoughts I am forced to admit that as a country not all is well, and as a nation we could do a lot better. There have been times when I haven’t wanted to stand up, not because I don’t love my country, but because when politics are forced upon me, I want to rebel and remind those around me that there are better ways to show out patriotism than standing silent during a battle hymn.

In this Colin Kaepernick and I have something in common, though he was far braver about it than I. The false reports (fake news) say that Kaepernick kneeled in defiance of the national flag when in fact, Kaepernick took this political moment to show his displeasure with the government’s lack of motivation to investigate police brutality towards black Americans. It was his way of saying black lives matter too. And that as a country, we can do much better when it comes to racial relations. Whether you agree with his views or not isn’t the point. The point is, he is allowed, under our constitution to kneel as a form of patriotism.

Some may argue that he is being paid a lot of money to play sports and so should stand during the anthem. To you I say, there is nothing in a player’s contract that says he or she has to stand, only that they show up for practice and for games. Perhaps the problem isn’t that Kaepernick didn’t stand, perhaps the problem is that by playing the anthem and bringing politics to a sporting event, we are trying to force our idea of patriotism on someone else. And that is about an unpatriotic as you can get.

No, Don. You are the son of a bitch.

Works cited

ESPN The Song Remains the Same.
Merriam- Webster “Patriotism.” Merriam-Webster.com