The recent debate over Colin Kaepernick’s decision to stay seated for the national anthem reminds me that so many of my fellow citizens confuse patriotism with obedience.
If obedience were at the core of our country’s principles, we would never have broken away from the United Kingdom.
America is by no means a perfect nation, but one of our greatest accomplishments is our embrace of a culture where questioning the status quo is recognized not as an attack on patriotism, but as a patriotic act in and of itself.
Traditions play an important role in any community. But our country improves over time — not as a consequence of blind repetition of traditions — but instead as a result of brave individuals who are willing to criticize our assumptions, our institutions and even the structure and operation of our government itself.
These are people who are courageous enough to face scorn, scrutiny or even violent attack because they believe that by pointing out where our system is broken, we might be able to improve upon it.
Even when no solution is proposed, pointing out that there is a problem is a political action that is of the utmost importance in a Democratic system like our own.
Bill Hicks passed away over two decades ago, and though he was “just a jokester,” his stand-up comedy helped a generation of citizens question whether our institutions should be re-examined and improved upon.
In my work as a political philosopher, I consider him to be one of my primary influences.
He was just hitting his stride when cancer took him from us at 32. Despite the fact that he died just as he was beginning to gain mainstream attention, he is widely revered as one of the most influential comedians to have ever lived.
If you haven’t had a chance to see “American: The Bill Hicks Story,” I highly recommend it.
Here, Hicks touches on the issue of patriotism in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of freedom of speech.