I have never really understood why people feel any sort of allegiance to a country.
Their hometown, maybe, or even their state, but to me being an American citizen is barely part of my identity. In all fairness, I, like many of my fellow students at Goshen, have grown up overseas. To a degree, this makes me feel like an outsider in every country I’ve lived in, which has caused me to question a lot of things about the places I’ve lived. After all, is it any stranger to eat lobster then it is to eat termites? Isn’t spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours on personal appearance just as bizarre as not wearing clothes at all? Those are the easier questions, and in my time living in the states, many harder questions have come up.
For example, why do so many denominations put “America the Beautiful” in their hymn books? Why is it so terrible in some places to not fly an American flag outside your house, and why is it really so bad to let the flag touch the ground? Most importantly, why is it that America seems to take to these nationalist symbols more seriously than any other country I can think of? Certainly other countries are more aggressive about conspicuously displaying flags and portraits of their presidents. Certainly other countries have a much stricter definition of what’s considered anti-patriotic, and in turn they have much more severe punishments.
Yet America, more so then any country that isn’t fighting for its own independence, seems to have the most rhetoric about patriotism, allegiance, etc. and the least of ‘the loyal opposition.’ In so much of this country, I’m instantly attacked if I criticize the U.S. I can criticize politicians and certain actions, but it seems that we in the good old U.S. of A. have put our country and the ideals that it supposedly stands for on a pedestal. So, perhaps my own general refusal to salute the flag, learn the Pledge of Allegiance or stand for the national anthem is a reaction to this. I’m personally a little bit scared of anything that encourages nationalism. I say nationalism, not patriotism, because to me patriotism implies that you are proud of your country and want to invest your time in making said country a better place.
Nationalism, on the other hand, assumes that your country is already the best place that exists. So one would think that here at Goshen, where we try so hard to recognize diversity and parade one of our strongest values to be global citizenship, we would have done away with nationalism. Not entirely. True, we have quite an impressive collection of flags, an excellent overseas studies program and a relatively high amount of international students. However, I feel as though there’s still quite a division between international, or intercultural students and ‘American’ students, and it’ll be a division that occurs as long as we feel like an American college instead of an international college. So, where do international students fit in around the national anthem debate? For those of us who feel no allegiance to a national anthem, is there a point in us caring? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we should write an international anthem and play that at sports games….
But for the time being, I’d love to hear less about national anthems, or diversity or nationalism and instead feel a little bit more loyalty to our community and its values then to our countries.
Emma Clare Maxwell is a first-year peace, justice and conflict studies, and a sociology double major originally from ____.