Pledging allegiance to American nationalism

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SANTA CRUZ, February 18, 2014 — As millions worldwide watched the latest Super Bowl, they were treated to a massive American flag stretched the length of the football field, a fly over by fighter jets, and images of combat soldiers. Strife does exist in the world, and a case can be made that the United States will always need a standing army, but these stark trappings of nationalism do not need to be embedded into every American sporting event. In the United States, organized sports have become the trojan horse with which jingoism is carried into our national consciousness.

Everybody buys in, particularly the major networks that predominantly sponsor American sports. From baseball’s opening day to the World Series, no event appears to be off limits as an opportunity to paint America as a lily-white champion of freedom everywhere. Football broadcasts are especially odious, often replete with gratuitous images of American combat troops. Broadcasters launch into weepy soliloquies about how grateful they are for all the brave men and women out there protecting our collective freedom.

If people want to debate the pros and cons of perpetual war, drone bombing, and targeted assassinations, the arenas do exist to have those discussions. To surreptitiously slip these subtle codes of allegiance into sports broadcasts, though, is at best in poor taste. At worse it is pure propaganda.

Most people tune in to organized sports for a brief distraction from a world which grows more complicated by the day. They want to unwind and watch events which, at their best, demonstrate sacrifice, selflessness, teamwork and an ability to gladly play a small part of a greater whole. These values can be unconsciously translated into Americans’ everyday lives, the ways they interact with their friends, family and coworkers.


There is value in America’s vibrant sports culture, and there are bad apples who can taint the experience. Sports, and the highly paid athletes who play them, must be viewed objectively for maximum social benefit.

When sporting events become free advertising for war profiteers and the dodgy morality which drives them, the country begins to lose sight of sports’ primary role: to entertain. These days, sports broadcasts subtly demand unquestioning submission to a dangerous military agenda, calling us to blindly worship the men and women who are tasked to carry it out. To question or dissent is tantamount to treason, singling one out as un-American. There is no longer anything separating organized sports from this hawkish national identity, and the younger the viewer, the more indelibly the doctrine is planted.

Organized sports has been described as the toy department of life, and that is where it should remain. When it is used to proffer a pro-war message and muddy the waters of national identity, it is ruined for everyone. Leave the flags, guns, fighter jets and soldiers out of it. It is neither the time or the place to invoke these images on an audience which probably does not even realize it is being indoctrinated.

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.

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  • Tanya Grimsley

    I can’t agree. I believe honoring the military men and women is commendable and I believe if the event host arranges it, then it should be allowed and a blessing to remember those past and present who have fought for freedom.

  • Sandra Goetz

    why do these liberals hate America so much?

  • Kathleen Flaherty

    Your disdain for our military men and women who sacrifice their lives so you can have 1st Amendment rights is despicable .You are what is wrong with America Russ Rankin. I believe you have pounded your head against the wall with your “Punk” band one too many times. The only President that is droning Americans without permission is Obama!

    The President who declared his Administration would have transparency. The same President that is spying on you right now as a reporter, as the NSA gathers everything you do. Your columns, phone calls emails and etc. Our soldiers did not lose their lives, sacred honor and sacrifice for this. There would be NO Sporting events if it was not for them. I am sure when the Chinese come storming the beaches of California, you would be the first one cowering down pleading for our military to help you. You are Un-American and you disgust me.

    • Rob Shaw

      I really dont think he’s suggesting disdain. It’s our duty to ask questions, and not to simply blindly follow. And the fact is that the american military isn’t always used to defend freedom. Ask any Chilean you might happen to meet.

      • Kathleen Flaherty

        Rob, since you live in Germany you should know. It starts with the Leader! The one that ignores our constitutional laws and makes up his own as he goes along. It is the Commander in Chief who oversees our military. His leadership sets the direction in which they go. Also, we blindly do not follow anyone and especially those that pervert our laws on a regular basis. I am sure as a German you appreciated Chancellor Merkel’s phone tapping too! The military men and women take order’s from the President. If this Rankin imbecile is going to attack, he should at least direct his comments to the appropriate person.

        • Rob Shaw

          Hey kathleen. Im enjoying these discussions! We must also remember that the debacle in iraq was the idea of a different president. As was vietnam. I think the man that wrote this peice was asking us to question blind patriotism. To discuss it. And that is exactly what seems to have happened due to him writing his opinion.

  • Bren Pool Vignaroli

    Keeping our priorities straight in this country starts with SUPPORTING OUR MILITARY…at all times. THEY are the reason YOU, Russ Rankin, have a voice to splatter your lame opinion across the web. Remember that!

    • Rob Shaw

      Hey bren, i’m glad that you are patriotic. It’s wonderful to have a sense of community that stretches across such a big nation. But… I live in germany, and the scary similarities between these militaristic displays, and the darkest part of our history here, are overwhelming.

      • Rob Shaw

        To say we should support our military AT ALL TIMES is a mistake. We dont support them after My Lai or The Warsaw Uprising for example. It’s our duty to ask questions about militarism. We here in Germany found that out too late.

        • Bren Pool Vignaroli

          Rob…I support our military 100%. Those I do not trust are the ones who are running OUR government…say for instance…um…Mr. Obama and his band of thugs. The real hero’s to me are those men and women who are fighting for and dying over our rights to live free here in the USA. It’s THOSE RIGHTS that are slowly being stripped from us.
          My father fought in WWII…in Germany. He knows what a dictatorship looks like..and what it can do to a beautiful country ran by thugs and tyrants. Hitler was a monster…and Obama is walking that tightrope right now. My beef isn’t with OUR military…it’s with our disorganized weak government who is leading our men and women into battles that we cannot win with our hands tied and our heads bowed. It’s just not our style…

          • Rob Shaw

            agree about Obama. Like most people in the rest of the world I was happy when he became president, but he isn’t to be trusted (like most politicians!) the whole NSA spy thing has made us very angry over here. But questioning militarism isn’t the same as not supporting the military. I pray that your wonderful country (which i have visited many times- 25 states so far!) doesn’t realise that too late. A better world would be one where violence is the very last option, and is undertaken solemnly and after a great deal of thought

          • Rob Shaw

            Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Gutentag.

          • Bren Pool Vignaroli

            Don’t worry Rob…Americans stand tall…common sense will prevail once we give the boot to Obama and his organization. Hopefully that will be sooner then later. 😉 We Americans are NOT a violent people…we are however strong, supportive and yes…extremely patriotic. The man running this country right now is not one of US. He is a socialist…in every sense of the word. We’ve got our work cut out of us..especially during the next election when another socialist named Hillary..has her eye on the White House door. The battles are never ending..but we are ready, willing AND able to face them head on.
            Thank you for responding Rob…it was a pleasure.

      • regbs

        The prize for demonstrating Godwin’s Law goes to Rob Shaw. Name the similarities between Germany’s World War 2 Socialist party and a ceremony recognizing the US military. There are none, much less overwhelming. You are ignorant or dishonest to claim analogy between Fascism and the honoring of an all-volunteer, civilian-controlled military that swears allegiance to a Constitution outlawing tyranny instead of to a government, king, queen, fuhrer, il duce. Fact: Fascism has never been politically viable in any predominantly Protestant country: eg never in any of the WASP countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, nor the Scandinavian countries — never garnering more than 10% of the popular vote even with those countries’ free speech provisions and open political systems. Fascism is a catholic phenomenon. Adolf was born reared and raised a catholic in catholic Austria by catholic parents who valued their catholicism so much they sought and received a papal dispensation to marry. He was educated and came to power in catholic Bavaria. Look up the S in nSdap and see that its policies were totalitarian, a necessary condition of Socialism, hence tyrants’ / the Left’s / liberals’ / Democrats’ / Lefitsts’ / Communists’ contempt for that Constitution — calling it fundamentally flawed. Fascism’s definition is fixed. Calling 5 guys on a field during a once-in-a-year event similar to Germany’s Fascist movement is a disgrace and illustrative of your ignorance of political systems.

        • Rob Shaw

          Thanks for the reply, though i detect a somewhat aggressive tone? Anyway, the rampant militarism and overt appeals to base and unthinking patriotism are comparable.
          Your point about facism occurring in mainly catholic countries is correct, though your reasoning for it might be less so. Most historians view catholic support for fascism as a result of the vaticans stance, supporting totalitarian parties because of their disdain for liberalism. This disdain was likely forged during the french revolution, in which catholics, and religionists in general, were brutalized.

          • Rob Shaw

            The s in nsdap is a red herring. The nazis called themselves national socialists simply to appeal to working class voters who might otherwise have turned to the communists during the depression

          • Rob Shaw

            Bnt regardless of all that, im more interested, in your terms, in the n in nsdap. Samuel johnson once wrote that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. The article discusses if militaristic displays, and requests for unthinking support are a dangerous thing. And that is where the similarity stands. Hitler asked for unthinking support, received it, and the rest is history.

    • ConservativesRUs

      Bren, you are a hyperventilating moron.

  • Kelly Lynn Heil Hudson

    God Bless our military!!!! They should be honored MORE at all events. For they are the reason we are free to attend these games!!!!

  • John Swetland

    I wish this writer would stop and think what this world would look like if there wasn’t an American Military. We defend freedom worldwide, with OUR OWN suffering the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep freedom alive or halt the onslaught by those who wish to enslave or worse, extinguish a peoples. America only asks in return a small plot of land to bury our dead, and the respect of an international community that has witnessed American Exceptionalism in their town or hillside not as invaders, but as protectors. For anyone to dim the great brilliance of such a good people as we are, is shameful. I am proud to support America in all her greatness. I am proud that America has stopped the world from becoming a planet of Nazi or Communist tribes, all left without any freedom or individual certainty of a pursuit of happiness.

  • Denny B.

    Lately, it seems to me, there has been an increasing attempt on the part of certain people on the Left, to impose a new rules regarding Patriotism.The new perception is to have less patriotism, and at the same time, demands unquestioning obedience and zero tolerance, and it vilifies those who dare to disagree with its Alinsky agenda.

    Instead, I prefer a patriotism that is rooted in the vision of America articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the words of Lincoln at Gettysburg.

    I want to live in a country where it is seen as the duty of all citizens to serve something greater than themselves, where an ethic of ‘shared sacrifice’ transcends mere words and that honors all of our military.

    I believe in the type of patriotism that gave birth to our nation with true American Patriots and a strong military.

    I seek an America whose leaders are worthy of its vision and promise, leaders who care as much about the rest of the world as they do about themselves.

    I want leaders who know the difference between patriotism and nationalism, who are personally willing to ‘die’ for that which they would send others to die.

    I want an America that will consistently model, at home and abroad, the principles reflected in the words and deeds of our Founding Fathers.

    Patriotism for me, is found not in the ideology of the moment, but in working tirelessly as patriots to make the premise and promise of government of, by, and for the people come true, not just for just our own people, but I even pray for those other countries that wish for their freedom.
    Just sayin…..God Bless!!

    • Denny B.

      As a proud veteran, I don’t think there is enough Patriotism shown in America today, and I am proud to see it shown at all sporting events, we need to show patriotism now, more than ever..God Bless!!

    • Rob Shaw

      Well said. With words like this, you should go into politics!

  • regbs

    “To question or dissent is tantamount to treason”

    Cite one US Department of Justice indictment for treason in the last 60 years. You cannot name one brought due to questioning or dissent. So, your statement is untrue and unsupportable. In fact, it’s your lot who seeks to ban and punish dissent through the use of censorship: hate speech provisions, hate crime provisions, the fairness doctrine, political contribution laws so complex that without specialized counsel a layperson will break the law supporting beliefs, the IRS persecuting political activists who seek to limit government power. The Leftist dream of Marxism imprisons and kills political dissenters, yet sees Western leftists like you laud the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, the PRC, the PRK, and the FCC’s attempts to censor news and punish dissenters.

  • Robin Neudorfer

    You sit there with your warm dry socks on while our men and women are wearing theirs for the 10 day straight. You are pathetic. Our men and women should be honored daily for their sacrifices.
    God Bless them and God Bless the USA. Why don’t you go find a better place to hand your hat.