Most Americans are exposed to jingoism on a routine basis, but many cannot define the term. Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Jingoism is the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries. While it is good to be proud of our country and support those who defend it, jingoism is as ugly in meaning as it sounds.
We are a people of imperfections, yet our forefathers were able to craft a government construct that is the envy of many. Our government construct lives up to and supports our ideals and democracy. The problem has always been we have imperfect people who lead the country and their biases and conflicts of interest cannot help from being exposed. Even though leaders try to hide their biases, with so much money influencing elections and decisions, their opinions will flip back and forth depending on who they’re talking with. *
However, many politicians, funders and pundits like to play the jingoism card to garner support and gain public sentiment on doing something that usually needs much due diligence. The reason is jingoism is sells. And, the peddlers of this naïve “we are the champions” mentality know this. It makes the peddlers richer or promotes a cause that will win votes. Jingoism is intended to influence people with simple concepts, when the issues are more complex. A few examples may help:
- After 9/11, the White House portrayed anyone who differed with their plan to invade Iraq as unpatriotic. Although I voted for President Bush, this offended me. The band “The Dixie Chicks” were vilified for daring to speak out against invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. Yet, they were representing what is best about our country, the right to speak up against our leaders. By the way, looking backwards with 20/20 hindsight, they were right to question the invasion.
- We have many politicians beating on their chests to use more ground troops to fight ISIL. ISIL wants this as they can make it about “an us against the west fight.” Yet, this has to be a coalition effort where we support Muslim countries fighting these terrorists. One of the challenges for Americans getting involved is this is an extremely complex situation. Our troops are valiant warriors, but they have thanked others for speaking up against sending them to fight unwinnable fights. In fact, they would use a common military phrase, saying fighting in countries with so many factions is a “clusterf**k.”
- The commercials that play on our competitive nature are back saying we are number one in the production of natural gas and soon to be oil. The caring and earnest actress notes how safe hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is. This is to combat the mounting evidence to the contrary. Our energy future must involve the growing renewable energy industry more than it is now. Yet, these commercials and similar ones tout our number one status like it is a football game. This is one game which we don’t necessarily want to win, so we need to think about the best path forward.
I will leave it at these three examples, but there are many more. We are a great country, but we are not perfect and it is more than OK to speak about where we have dropped the ball and where we could do better. This year will be the 50th anniversaries of some very ugly events in our country around denying blacks the right to vote, so we should never forget this history to avoid it from happening again. We must question things and protest when things are out of sort.
Yet, the folks playing these jingoistic cards want to gain by creating and playing on our fears. The issues are more complex than portrayed. Jingoism sells and the peddlers tend to profit. We need to listen, but ask many more questions and hold people to answers. This is the patriotic thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
* Note: Please check out this excellent post by Roseylinn about Jonathan Swift who saw the lack of truth-telling in politicians over four hundreds years ago. https://roseylinn.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/jonathan-swift/