AN HONORABLE DISCHARGE TO THE NATIONAL ANTHEM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On an eighty-degree night in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the American flag was draped in center field at PNC Park, home to the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates. Heads craned as military aircraft flew overhead. American Idol phenom Carrie Underwood beautifully sung what is to many people a beautiful song.

Caps were placed over the hearts of the 77th batch of Major League All-Stars, military personnel, and civilians alike whose thoughts, though uncommon in detail, were shared.

PNC Park was transformed into a church, a mosque, a synagogue, if only for five minutes. Americans knelt on the pew and sat facing East by placing their hats over their hearts as the winner of American Idol's fourth season belted out the only psalm this particular religion employs: "The Star-Spangled Banner."

For those five minutes, all traded in their crosses, Stars of David, and crescent moons for 50 stars and 13 alternating stripes of red and white. There are no deities and no Bibles, Torahs, or Korans; only pure, unadulterated pride in one's country. This place of worship, however, differed from all others in that not all worshippers may have wanted to worship. After all, those of the Jewish faith don't attend Christian masses to worship, right?

Yes, nationalism is the hot new religion these days in a post-traumatic America. In fact, Benito Mussolini, he of Italy circa 1922-43 and he who birthed fascism, would be proud. Fascism is a radical totalitarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-rationalism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

Let's break that definition of fascism down and apply it to the United States of America today.

Corporatism: What is the leading factor behind the fact that this generation of children will be the first not to outlive its parents? Food -- unhealthy food; food that leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart problems, among others. Yet, what was blatantly advertised to the American public via television, radio, and Internet ads alone (we're not even looking at what was served at PNC Park!) during the All-Star Game? Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, potato chips, and beer -- none of which would be recommended by a licensed dietician. Because these corporations wield so much money and subsequently so much power in this country, the government is essentially in the back pocket of these corporations, despite the fact that they are slowly and brazenly poisoning Americans by the minute. Yet drugs such as marijuana and steroids are illegal due to the fact that they are "unhealthy." The reality is that drugs such as marijuana and steroids don't generate any money for the government and create competition for American pharmaceutical companies -- a big no-no in corporatism.

Authoritarianism: The United States is a democracy. We can just toss this one out the window, right? No, America is not a democracy. It is slowly but surely morphing into a totalitarian regime stunningly akin to the one which author George Orwell depicted in his novel, "Nineteen Eighty-Four." Let's start in 2000, when the election came down to the wire. Al Gore won the popular vote -- he was the pick of the American people -- the ones who are supposed to have a voice in this country -- and yet, George W. Bush was named President after the state of Florida (run by the President's brother Jeb) had a number of problems sorted out, including ballot-punching (remember the "hanging chad"?). A totalitarian regime implies that the leader is above the law; much in the way that Adolf Hitler thought that the perfect Aryan had blonde hair and blue eyes, despite the fact that he had brown hair. In similar hypocrisy, George W. Bush went against the Constitution with the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows ordinary Americans' phones to be tapped, library and similar records to be seized, and international bank transactions monitored if they are merely suspected of being involved in terrorist activity. Big Brother, all right.

Extreme Nationalism: Before every major sporting event in the United States of America, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is sung as Americans place their caps over their hearts and look at the flag. Students in public schools across the country stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. Americans plaster their car windows with American flag decals and American pride bumper stickers. Congress tries to pass legislature prohibiting the desecration of the American flag, even though the Constitution provides Americans the right to do so under the concept of freedom of speech. American nationalism is extreme, and it will only continue to grow.

Militarism: "Support the troops." Every American has been told to do so, and Americans have probably passed the order down the proverbial telephone line since American soldiers were deployed into the Middle East following September 11, 2001. Athletes who left their roles on sports teams to take a role on a military team are dubbed heroes. Whenever an American soldier loses his life in battle, the result is reported on the news with dignity and gratitude, for it is the American military that is defending our freedom, our right to talk to each other uninhibited and uncensored, and ordinary American citizens are forever in debt to those who ensure this freedom. That's all a big lie. This country is not being threatened of being taken over by a hostile government; therefore, our freedom is not in jeopardy, and the American soldiers are not defending it. The military has moved up on the social ladder because the government wants all its pawns ready and motivated on this 64-square chessboard that is planet Earth.

Anti-Rationalism: This can be a confusing term. It is defined as, "a philosophical doctrine that asserts that the truth can best be discovered by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith, dogma or religious teaching." As an anti-rationalist, President Bush believes God told him to invade Iraq, explaining, "I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God, I'm gonna do it." Not much more needs to be said here.

Anti-Anarchism: An anarchist is someone who believes that all forms of rulership are wrong. Anarchists are commonly associated with burning the American flag, an act which would have been banned had the bill Utah Senator Orrin Hatch proposed been passed by Congress. The anti-anarchist wheels are spinning. Although anarchists pose little to no threat to the actual power of those who have it, they do have the power to change minds, something only the government wants to have control over.

Anti-Communism and Anti-Liberalism: These two are self-explanatory and fall much under the anti-anarchism category, although the tenets of the two differ in many respects.

Just as people thousands of years ago created different religions to control primitive people ("Thou Shalt Not Kill"!), governments spark nationalism in turbulent times (a Presidential approval rating dipping down to around 30% qualifies as a turbulent time) to control primitive people.

And just as Christians cannot put up nativity scenes in public and the Bible cannot be taught in public schools, the national anthem should not be sung in public. Worship is done at home in private, or at designated places of worship on private property. People went to the All-Star Game to watch an All-Star Game, not to watch Carrie Underwood make them feel good about their country. And while we're at it, "God Bless America" gets the old heave-ho, too. Worship God and the country at home, where it belongs.