On Nationalism: I Pledge No Allegiance

Let’s talk for a moment about the scourge of reason that is nationalism. Nationalism is a biting, blighting plague that creeps its way insidiously into the populace of a scared nation, licking its wounds and growling to make itself seem brave. It causes the nation to raise its hackles and arch its back, attempting to seem larger than it is, more dangerous than it could ever be. At the same time, nationalism wraps a blindfold around the eyes, further enraging the beast it has created, and whispers in its ear that enemies are all around. So blinded and mislead, the nation lashes out at any that would approach it with compassion. The first to fall are its own children.

And that’s that. A reasonable nation becomes rabid, rotting from within, because it wants to seem large in the face of adversity. Potentially the worst aspect of it? The adversary never existed at all. It was whispered in darkness, throwing blame whenever hardship was encountered. The great enemy was but an illusion created so that the cancer could thrive.

Flowery language aside, a casual reader might think that I am blowing this up, using hyperbole. I am not. I speak in metaphor, and rather vivid metaphor at that, but there is no exaggeration to be found here.

Let’s take a look at the roots of the issue.

Nationalism begins as a political tool. A crisis happens, man-made or otherwise. An economy is in shambles. Perhaps the nation is coming off of a war that they lost. In other words, the population is generally downtrodden, scared, or even simply hungry. Something is wrong on the national level. It even might be a single event that gets national coverage, where the perpetrator of the tragedy belongs to a minority of some kind.

Nationalist feelings almost always originate from a party that wishes to exploit them. They are out in a few numbers in communities, doing charity work or holding public office, and attributing their good works to the duty of a humble citizen of Nation ___. They interact face-to-face with members of their towns and cities, especially the elders of the community and the future generation. The elders are heads of households, pillars of the community, and have a strong sense of tradition viewed through rose-colored glasses. The future generation is still at the age where they are highly suggestible, open to others’ viewpoints purely on the grounds that they were kind to them despite their age. Come time to vote, the remembered kindnesses drive the Nationalist candidates into office. Babies are kissed, pictures taken, flags waved.

The Nationalists then go to the working class. The working class is more cynical, suspicious, but their children and parents are both proudly waving the flag of Nation ___, declaring their virtues. Worn down from all fronts, they are willing to hear politicians out. The politicians put on a sympathetic face, pretending to relate with the workers’ problems. They declare themselves to be true patriots, and claim to see the best of national values embodied in the workers. There is chest-thumping, meals shared, and trust is formed. More of them are voted in.

The Nationalists now have sympathizers on every level. Sure, said sympathizers might not have a complete idea of the politics of the party they are now supporting, but they know them personally and they seem like perfectly reasonable sorts. So really, how bad could their policies be?

A word in the right ears, and everywhere the next generation is, their policies begin to take hold. Classrooms are required to Nation ___’s flag on prominent display, and the day is begun by the students reciting the nation’s pledge. Holidays and festivals are held, public displays of national pride in which the Nationalists feature prominently. Their floats are decorated with symbols of national empowerment, heralded by rousing military marches both new and traditional. They stir up old myths and half-truths about Nation ___’s past, claiming the symbolism of Nation ___’s heroes as their own. The populace rejoices.

In those schools and fairs, the problems of the nation are forgotten for the moment. Sure, there might barely be enough money to put on the table, but the citizens are reminded that they have their dignity. They have their pride, and no one can take that from them, for they and their neighbors are all proud citizens of Nation ___.

Then, all of a sudden, the Nationalists bring the problems of the nation to the forefront. They shout them from the town square, waving their flags and playing their anthems. They initially make no claims, but they say what is wrong (Often creating or inflating issues in the process), and say that they will fix these issues, because that is what proud citizens do.

At this phase, the dissenters are phased out of power. The Nationalists have seized the public’s collective heart, and dedicated their victory to Nation ___ and her citizens. While it is never explicitly said at this point, it is strongly implied that any non-Nationalist must therefore not be a proud citizen of Nation ___. They are sympathetic, commiserating with the populace about having to pull the weight of society that people who are not proud citizens do not. They appeal to the individual providers, talking them up while talking an undefined “other” down.

Then, an excuse. Something happens, whether it is another crisis or a sudden surge of support for the Nationalist party. Using the momentum, they quickly find an easy target, and slap the label of “Other” on them. “The ‘Others’ are not like you. You are a proud citizen, a credit to Nation ___. By process of warped logic, the ‘Others’ must not be proud citizens. They are at best simply leeches on our proud nation, at worst, counterrevolutionaries. They see our proud movement, and wish us to fail, and by extension, for our nation to fail so that they can profit.”

Political steps are taken. Sanctions are placed, watch-lists formed, and suspicions stoked. Violence begins to erupt in the dark alleys against the “Others,” but people look away, because they are proud citizens, and they spare no pity for counterrevolutionaries. The climate grows more and more hostile, and nationalism grows, communities banding together over their shared love of Nation ___. The people who don’t show up to these celebrations of national pride are suddenly suspect. Any “Others” that show up are seen as spies, liars, informants. “The revolution is ever so tenuous, and proud citizens should be wary. Enemies and traitors are all around!”

Despite the fact that they have a voting majority in their party, the Nationalists keep up the image of being constantly persecuted. None fight harder for a cause than when they feel they are being suppressed. Slowly, the definition of “Other” is expanded. Proud citizens are offered benefits for informing on “Others” in their community. While some might be squeamish about turning on those they have known for so long, all it takes is one who buys into the propaganda to inform. When those who were squeamish see their friends and neighbors get taken, they suddenly realize what is going on. But by that point, it is too late. The fanatics of the Nationalists are all around them, and when showing misgivings over methods is enough to get declared “Other,” they make a point of attending the rallies, shouting louder than any of their fellows, simply for fear of being taken themselves.

The number of reasonable, scared citizens grows, but so too do the numbers of the Nationalists. The students are getting out of school, swelling with national pride, and are told that there is no greater sacrifice, no greater honor that a citizen can make than to join Nation ___’s army. They go in droves to be handed firearms and flags, and a bit of dyed cloth becomes more valuable than human life. The “Others” are no longer simply non-contributing citizens or potential traitors, they have had the labels of humanity struck from them. They are monsters, waiting in the dark corners of the cities, hiding among honest, proud citizens, looking for any opportunity to undermine national good for their own sick amusement. Again, “Other” is expanded, and “Proud Citizen” is shrunk. The favored people become more and more homogeneous, banding together in like groups against anything different, anything “Other.” Even Party members, who helped start the movement at the core, are dismissed as “Other” because they no longer fit the image of “Proud Citizen.”

“Others” flee, are imprisoned, or are executed. Agents are sent out to neighboring powers, feeling out sympathies among their own Nationalists. Eventually, Nation ___ declares Neighboring Nation ___ to be a true friend to the people. They offer their support in ridding them of their “Others” so that they may enter the age of prosperity that Nation ___ has. A “Security Zone” is established, usually consisting of the opposite border of nearby powers rather than the shared border.

All the while, the problems of Nation ___ are far from solved. Usually, they are much worse. But Proud Citizens don’t complain. Nation ___ is strong. It has to be strong. Otherwise, it will fall to the nefarious plans of the “Others.”  Thus, the problems of Nation ___ are not spoken of. Anyone who brings them up is shouted down, fact dismissed in favor of rhetoric. Accusations are thrown, and dissenters are silent for fear of their lives, or are silenced.

Not a pretty picture, is it? It should feel very familiar. Sickeningly so in fact.

Some readers will read Nazi Germany. Some will read Soviet Russia. Some will read British Independence.

Some will read The United States of America.

Which of these is it truly speaking of?

The answer is yes.

I leave you all with an anecdote. The first year I attended of high school, in our homeroom class, we were expected to recite the pledge of allegiance before receiving our day planners. I and a few others refused. We were generally booed by the rest of the class, including a few declarations of “Love it or leave it,” and were asked by the teacher to stay after homeroom. Mind, these were 7-8th graders (Yeah, I know, my high school was weird. The first few years I attended it was 6-12, and still in the accreditation process). After class, we each received a one-on-one reprimand for holding up the class, and told not to make waves while the school was being accredited before receiving our planners and rushing to first period.

It doesn’t seem like a huge thing, but at the core, our education was held hostage to a statement of nationalism. And let me tell you, that was far from the last time I would hear the idiotic anthem of “Love it or leave it” at that school.

In our modern day, the festering tumor of Nationalism is growing in the U.S., and showing no signs of shrinking. Flag-burning, a protected form of protest, is seen by a good portion of the population as a lynch-worthy offense. The piece of cloth, or more often mass-produced plastic, holds more value than a human life. Skipping a few steps, perhaps, but both horrible and hypocritical. The same people calling for flag-burners’ blood don’t even bother following the inane list of rules for “respecting the flag.” They proudly fly their national flags in rain, unlit at night, etc.

Meanwhile, the whole world is watching Great Britain with horror, and quietly hoping that the whole thing crashes around their ears so as to act as a warning to the various Nationalists present in so many other countries. The world is at the same time desperately wishing that it could turn back time, help the British people realize and avoid the coming trauma. The people of Great Britain themselves are reeling, the younger generation that was outvoted by their elders having had countless opportunities ripped from them, the promises that they planned their futures around no longer existing.

Time waits for no one. We can’t go back, but perhaps it is not too late for us over in the U.S. to kill the Buddha in the road. Talk about the issues, don’t pass the blame, and we might just get through this.

I will say the pledge of allegiance when the U.S. deserves it. I will work towards making it a nation that I could be proud of without the risk of falling to nationalism. I will vote for humanitarian policies and candidates. I will acknowledge the problems, shouting the facts as loud as any Nationalist shouts rhetoric.

But until the day comes when a better tomorrow is built for everyone, I will pledge no allegiance to flag or nation. My allegiance belongs to the human race as a whole.


Hypocrisy, Irony, Patriarchal Values, and Captain America (Spoilers for Civil War)

In recent days, there have been two big scandals concerning Captain America. One of them is that the latest issue of his comic has him being a Hydra agent all along. I will cover this briefly, but the main focus of today’s update is the other “scandal,” (which is not really a scandal, but the internet getting people worked up over stuff. As it does.) that being the hashtag GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend.

So, for the thing that this post is not going to focus on: Other people have already covered this far better than I could. To sum it up: Hydra is inseparably linked with Nazis. Steve Rodgers was created by a pair of Jewish writers as a blatant political play at a time when much of America was in agreement with Nazi politics, before Pearl Harbor got the US involved. Marvel did not invent Nazis. Their use of them as a link to this character is really, really not OK as a gimmick to sell issues. Despite what they say, it is indeed a gimmick, and will likely get ret-conned or explained away soon, as comics tend to do. In the meantime, the best way to protest the story is to not buy the comics. Buying the comics just to rant about them tells Marvel that not only can they get away with this stunt, they can make money doing it.

Now that that is out of the way, we can get down to the topic of Internet Outrage *confetti*. For those of you who have not encountered it, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is a Twitter phenomenon, in which a community of shippers started a movement for posts, fantart, and general chatter about Steve Rodgers being in love with Bucky Barns, with a specific focus on their Cinematic Universe interpretation. Naturally, this wouldn’t have been an issue, except the horrible people on the internet caught wind of it, and it became an online war as the trolls and homophobes came out in droves to shout them down.

Of course, the quickest way to make something popular is to say it shouldn’t exist, so the community behind the hashtag redoubled their efforts and swelled their numbers. Which the trolls responded to by doing the same. So the cycle of outrage continues.

The usual arguments are being thrown around, and I’m going to just disassemble a few of them.

Stop co-opting hetero superheroes vs. Gay people need super heroes too

This one is fairly cut-and-dry. What it boils down to is the fact that the non-heterosexual community rightly feels unrepresented in media. A lot of the people on the horrible troll side try to tout how reasonable they are by simply suggesting that new superheros get made for them, and that they stop trying to get existing supers.

Here’s the thing: If a character is created in a void for no other reason than to appeal to a demographic, then that’s tokenism. Such characters can eventually grow ti be fully fleshed-out characters in their own right, but that takes time. The people who are asking for representation aren’t asking for it in 20 years, after numerous failures and restarts, in which the character they can identify with has their own series that fails, restarts, fails again, then gets a cameo in a larger-universe piece of media only to be killed with a bunch of other characters as a side note (Comics, and Cinematic Universes, are weird). They want to have an established character that they can identify with now. A sentiment that I can totally understand.

Homosexuality is not a new thing. It has been pushed into the background in the past, but the people for whom it was a part of the identity existed. They were real people, and the people whose sexuality does not align with societal mainstream today are real people too. They have always been a part of society, and they want that sort of history and weight reflected in the media they choose to consume. That, in essence, is why it is popular to re-imagine established characters in a manner that makes them more identifiable to the re-imagineer (That’s sort of a word, right?). They have history with the world they live in, their backstories are complete things with subtlety and nuance. Sort of like a real person, rather than a token character.

Canon vs. Fanfic

This is one of the more irritating arguments. Basically, one side argues that the character is canonically heterosexual, therefore no works, fan-made or otherwise, are in any way valid.


Validity of one person’s fantasy over another is not an issue. Seriously. It is a personal thing that does not affect your life at all. Arguing that one person can’t interpret a work of fiction one way because the creator of the work interprets it another way is not how literature works. It never has been. There is a phenomenon that many writers ascribe to called (in various forms) The Death of the Author. The moment a work of media gets thrown to the public, the author loses control over it. People will interpret it as they want. The author may make comments about it after the fact, but it is ultimately up to the consumer whether or not they accept those alterations.

A pair of examples of this: Harry Potter and Paradise Lost. J.K. Rowling, after the series was out in the wild, said that she had imagined Dumbledore as gay. Some people rejected it, most accepted it. Paradise Lost is generally considered a, if not the, text that depicts the Devil of Christian mythology as a sympathetic character. John Milton protested that this was not his intention when it was being interpreted as such, but the public had spoken, and most modern readers ignore Milton’s interpretation of his own work.

Those are just two examples right off the top of my head. The point is, fiction is not static. The current canon is only canonical until it is changed. Someone else’s interpretation of a non-static fiction does not affect your life in the slightest.

The Steve/Bucky relationship is more believable than the Steve/Sharon(Kate, Agent 13, whatever)

This one is a matter of taste. Plain and simple. Personally, I love the Steve/Sharon dynamic that was established in Winter Soldier, and the continuation in Civil War. I agree that it was more than a little weird that she ended up being Peggy’s niece, but hey.

The Patriarchy says Homosexuality is not OK, and that’s why you are against the pairing

Well, OK then. To be certain, this statement is valid in many cases, as evidenced by horrible people on the internet. However, applying a general statement like that to everyone who disagrees with you is fallacious.

Not much to say on this one. Not many people are using this as an argument thankfully, but the fanatics exist on both sides.

You don’t go through hell for a person who is just a good friend


This one, unlike the previous statement, is one that I have seen a lot. However, when I do see this one, the particular variation often includes a mention of the Patriarchy.

Those of you who read the title of the post may have wondered where the hypocrisy and irony were in this post. Check it. Right here.

See, this is the issue I have with the Steve/Bucky pairing. Personally, I could not care less if Steve was gay. Fluid canon, affects me not at all, so on so forth. The particular pairing, however, I have issues with, due to the reflection of societal values that the argument is making.

The idea that two people, regardless of gender/sexuality, cannot have a meaningful relationship without sexual attraction is a Patriarchal concept.

By saying that Steve and Bucky must want to bang because there is no other reason for the dynamic between the two devalues the relationship that the current iteration of the characters has. Make no mistake, they do have a relationship. They have trust, intimacy, emotional openness, love, and a slew of other things that society says can only exist between people who are sleeping together.

And the irony of people arguing against a Patriarchal interpretation of a pair of characters by imposing different Patriarchal values on them metaphorically kills me.

I have friends that I love and would constantly stick my neck out for of a wide variety of genders, sexualities, politics, what have you. I share emotional intimacy with them on a regular basis. The grand majority of them, I will likely never be romantically/sexually involved with.

Hetero/Homosocial relationships are an element of society that goes back as far as we have recorded history, but for some reason, modern American society has decided that such things cannot exist between people. It sickens me, because a large part of it simply becomes part of Advertising culture. “Sex is paramount, sex is all, without sex, a relationship of any kind is meaningless. If you are not having sex, you are meaningless. Buy our products, have sex,” say the billboards. As do the Twitter boards apparently.

Is Consumer Capitalism to blame for the societal trend? I don’t know. These are just the patterns I see.

Well, that’s the rant for today. Keep overreacting, Internet humans, it gives me some good material. And keep making fanart. I may not agree with your shipping, but some of you are crazy good artists.


Killing the Buddha in the Road, A musing on judging your heroes

A koan that I often hear repeated is “If you see the Buddha in the road, kill him.” This one often freaks out people unfamiliar with the concept of a koan, which I personally have always taken to be statements and questions that don’t have a definitive answer, but the answer(s) that you find yourself in thinking on them help you to reach minor epiphanies about yourself, and in doing so, expand your consciousness. (Phew, that sentence.)

Of course, their lack of familiarity with the concept of a koan may make them even better suited to utilizing one, much in the same way that a trap generally works better if one is not aware that they are walking into a trap. On the other hand, not knowing that they are supposed to think on it, they may just dismiss it out of hand as gibberish. It’s kind of a funny concept like that.

In any case, this particular koan has always led me to a conclusion that many have drawn from it: Challenge your preconceptions, especially concerning those you hold in high respect. Never let anyone get away with anything, especially if you would dismiss their faults over the other things that you like about them. Judge your heroes. Judge them HARD.

Which isn’t to say that you can’t have heroes, and appreciate them for their works. It just means acknowledging them for the human beings they are.

A personal example: This mindset is especially important to me, as an avid reader. Some of the most acclaimed authors in history had serious flaws as far as societal/personal views went. This is of course, an effect of looking back in time and judging the past based on modern standards, but even so.

Howard Phillip Lovecraft, old H.P. himself. I love Lovecraft’s stories. I love the effect he had on horror as a genre. I love the cosmic dread that he evokes, and the artwork that it has inspired. His way of crafting a scene is one that creates a world that I can easily drop into, the icy water in the air of the Massachusetts pier, the cool fog of the streets at night, the musty tomes in a private library lit by candlelight. He was a brilliant writer, and the culture that has sprung up around his writings is one that I can appreciate on so many levels.

He was also a huge racist.

I’m talking unfathomably huge by modern standards. Even worse, his views leaked over several of his more famous writings. The Deep Ones of The Shadow Over Innsmouth? Directly inspired by the worst Yellow Peril propaganda concerning people of Chinese descent. Several times during his canon he describes anyone of darker skin as “Sub-human,” and goes out of his way to point them out as the main body of the cults to spring up around his cosmic entities. Even the Necronomicon, a tome that has become an artifact of the genre and spilled over into several others, was authored by the “Mad Arab,” who gets descriptions as unflattering as his moniker.

And here’s the trick. He’s one of the better ones. Supposedly (Some researchers agree, others disagree) his views softened over time, and he repented that portion of his writings on his deathbed.


It’s not just limited to authors either. Mother Theresa, whom many are brought up to think of as a saint, if not a Saint, is famous for her works helping the poor. It came out later, however, that while she treated the symptoms of poverty, she actively fought against solving the problems that caused it, as she viewed poverty as a more enlightened state of being. The Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden and Norway, which socialists such as myself often tout as shining idols of human rights and equality, have been carrying out a campaign of systematic discrimination against their native peoples, the Sami, for years.

It is important that these faults be acknowledged rather than covered up. It is up to the individual whether or not they are a deal breaker as far as respecting the person/organization/country goes, but don’t let them go uncommented on.

This is especially an issue in the U.S. that I have seen, with celebrity figures using fame as a shield to blatantly ignore the legal ramifications of everything from public intoxication to Drunk Driving/Murder/Rape. Anyone else committing a crime would but tossed away and forgotten by society, (My rant about the state of the US Prison System is for another topic, another time) but for those with enough fame to be instantly acquitted in the court of public opinion, all blame gets instantly shifted onto the victim. In most cases, the unfortunate athletes and celebrities are the ones that spend a single night in jail. Others go to court, publically weep, and the adoring masses forgive them.

Everyone has faults. Many are quick to shift blame to hide the fact that they are flawed themselves. There is a constant war between Perception and Truth, and rarely the two shall meet. Though I generally consider myself an optimist, I am of the belief that all told, Perception is the stronger of the two.

By all means, love their works. I still appreciate H.P. Lovecraft’s writings and everything that they have created in modern times. But acknowledge things that are wrong. If one does not, then you do not like a person, you like an ideal. Holding the person to the ideal, and idly dismissing anything about the person that does not fit the ideal you’ve built up around them is downright dangerous.

Love the beauty that people bring to the world. Acknowledge the ugliness rather than hiding it away.

And if you see the Buddha in the road, kill him.