The Selective Perception of Patriotism

I know this post arrives a tad late after July 4th, and it would’ve been just a little bit more powerful if it came out the day of, but there’s a lot I want to get off my chest about our concept of patriotism and how it needs to be a tad more nuanced than it currently is. Let me explain.

Patriotism is a concept that I think about pretty often, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country”. Yet in modern day society, there’s lack of room for nuance in our arguments. We see patriotism in action everyday, with traditional examples being wearing the classic old navy American flag shirt while we shoot fireworks up in the sky, snacking on BBQ foods and tossing a football in the backyard. Other definitions of patriotism exist as well, can we support our country while stating that there are things wrong with it that should change? Recent examples of this being movements such as Black Lives Matter, that has been quickly countered by Blue Lives Matter. The concept of kneeling for the anthem has been challenged recently, and a battle over free speech and hate speech has recently taken the media by storm. On Twitter (arguably the most vocal social media of our age), we see people like Megan Rapinoe, Colin Kaepernick, and even Qasim Rahid be given an incredible voice, and at times they are quickly shut down.

What I define as selective perception is the process where people choose to omit certain aspects of an argument or viewpoint based on their own prior biases or beliefs. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum. One can be pro black lives matter and blue lives matter. A person can be morally pro-life, yet vote pro-choice. The world and our beliefs are not black and white. The ideology of selective perception, in my opinion, stems from the rise of identity politics. It’s seeped into our culture and at times, it feels as if we no longer have a sense of tolerance or patience for the other side of the aisle. Of all places, we see this on Tinder profiles in the form of “don’t swipe if you’re a snowflake” or “swipe left if you voted for Trump”. Part of a debate and a discussion is to realize where we disagree and find the common ground on which we stand upon. A nation known as the United States seems to be ununited and splitting at the seams.

Why does this matter? In modern events, we view things on a black or white spectrum. The media, our own bubbles that we have created don’t allow for debate and discussion, but a “you are wrong, and I am right” mentality. The very idea and concept of patriotism has become subjective. We arrive at difficult questions that even though precedence has decided these before, we treat them on a case by case basis depending on our political ideology. Should Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe’s free speech be allowed? Then why not someone like Alex Jones or Tomi Lahren? On one hand, the athletes are representing their right to assembly and right to free speech, yet they are disrespecting the flag in the eyes of a few. Alex Jones and Tomi Lahren are also using their right to use media how they wish and display their thoughts in a public forum. The difference here lies in the aftermath; if someone’s speech incites violence or hatred, at that point is it still patriotism? These questions are tough, and at times don’t have a perfect answer. Maybe this writing piece doesn’t bring us anywhere closer. But at the very least, we should open our ears and listen to each other. We have more in common with each other than we believe, after all, we all love our country, just in different ways.

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