Donald Trump is officially the 45th president of the United States. Since the inauguration, our eyes and ears have been saturated with a declaration from Trump’s speech: “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice”.
The problem here is that patriotism and prejudice are framed as opposites. However, 241 years of American history prove that these terms are synonymous. Just look at the word ‘patriotism’: the prefix is patri, which means ‘father’. This prefix appears in the term patriarch – which means ‘ruling father’. At bottom, what we call ‘patriotism’ is a celebration of patriarchy: the domination of women by men.
Beginning in elementary school, we are brainwashed to believe that the Founding Fathers fought for the freedom of everyone. This is false. The American Revolution was fought to free rich American white men from rich British white men. As the Declaration of Independence and Constitution make clear: freedom was not granted to the poor, women, and/or people of color. There was a prejudice against these groups; meaning if you were not a rich white man, you were pre-judged as inferior and treated accordingly. The so-called heroes that we blindly refer to as ‘patriots’ were virulently racist, sexist, and classist in their theories and actions. Patriotism is a euphemism for heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and class exploitation. There is no such thing as non-prejudiced patriotism; each concept requires the other.
Patriotism goes hand and hand with nationalism: pride for one’s country above others. First of all, the national borders that we ‘secure’ are products of politics, not nature. These imaginary lines vanish from a bird’s eye perspective. Patriotism divides the globe into arbitrary pieces – and tells us to pledge allegiance to one. Identification cards, anthems and flags convince us that we ‘belong’ to that one fragment – and that the other fragments are inferior and/or enemies.
In reality, however, we all share common struggles. The oppressed vastly outnumber their oppressors – a fact which frightens those in power. Patriotism is a tactic introduced by the ruling classes to prevent global solidarity among the downtrodden. Patriotism is a classic ‘divide and conquer’ strategy which teaches the oppressed to fight against each other instead of coming together to fight a common enemy.
When you close your heart with patriotism, there is no room for unity.