Blind Patriotism on Display at Super Bowl
Not several years ago, America was a relatively tranquil nation; thoughts of war seemed distant, and rarely did the public consider themselves severely threatened. Then, like a whirlwind, the events of September 11th sprang forth, and this nation was thrown into a state of widespread subservient fear. Eager politicians pounced on the opportunity to use this newly emerged fear as a method of control. Although the United States, throughout its history, has been a militarily aggressive force, it was only in this new environment that the masses began to accept its status as a war nation led by a war President.
In this new era, the American public has been branded with the tacit obligation of carrying a blind patriotism. One who questions the state's actions or objectives is deemed anti-American, while one who condones without critically analyzing is simply fulfilling patriotic duties. Sensing the advantages, leaders have done their best to promote this simplification of feeling; you are either with the state and all of its wondrous ideals, or you are in support of the misguided terrorists who stand in the way of global freedoms.
Over the past few years, this form of patriotism has gradually crept its way into the heart of America. The military, and the soldiers of whom it is composed, has gained an unquestioned position of reverence in the American masses. Ubiquitous references come in the form of, among other things, bright yellow support the troops armbands and bumper stickers, which have become a staple across America. Gun toting teens, back from the killing fields of Iraq, return as heroes, worshipped for making the ultimate sacrifice. Few question what in fact it is that these soldiers have so heroically accomplished (the gratuitous devastation of an entire nation, perhaps?), what only matters is that they fight for us and not for them.
Flooded with this basic mindset, the reverence of soldiers has flourished, not only in a military context, but in a social context as well. Thus, it was not surprising that this very reverence was on heavy display at one of the grandest social spectaculars America has to offer: the Super Bowl. The traditional pre-game military allusion was pushed to the max on Sunday night. The regular midfield procession of members of the armed and naval forces came first amid trumpeters and overbearing flags. Then came a collection of surviving soldiers of D-Day, followed by some of the pioneering women who aided the navy during the World Wars, and then what remained of the Tuskegee Airmen strolled out in grand red blazers. All of this was capped off with the emergence of the nation's two former commanders in chief: Presidents Bush and Clinton. All the while, the crowd clapped and cheered respectfully.
While to most, this ceremony seems clearly justified as a celebration of our heroes, present and past, in reality, it was an overblown tribute to America's military might. It was both excessive and uncalled for. As the representatives of all branches of the armed forces gathered at midfield, one could not help but be reminded of the manner in which Hitler used the 1936 Olympic games as a display of German and Nazi power. The Super Bowl pre-game ceremony was an aggressive showcase of America's military, effected to bolster prestige and drive in feelings of patriotism.
The oversimplification of feeling in America has fostered a widespread indifference to such displays as the one that took place during the pre-game Super Bowl ceremony. Provided with two clear-cut options, blind patriotism or objective defiance, Americans have fallen smoothly into the first, eager to conform with mainstream belief and make clear on which side they stand. With such a decisive outlook, few will question what it is that is so celebrated in a soldier, what it is that we are fighting for, or who it is that we are fighting against. Under this condition, Americans have surrendered all rights of free thought, creating a population uniform in belief, and in the process signing a blank check for leaders in Washington.
By refusing to analyze critically, and instead acting with a blind and subservient patriotism, Americans have thrown away their most fundamental liberties. In this current dilemma, our nation is rocketing towards a state based around the expansion and utilization of military forces. If this patriotism continues unchecked, and its societal effects are propelled, American military ceremonies will not be all that is reminiscent of Hitler's fascist regime.
Francisgo Unger, 15, is a student at Exeter Academy, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.