Bridging Partisan Divides with Patriotism? No Thanks.

Have you, dear reader, seen the latest cinematic masterpiece making the rounds of YouTube channels, ‘Americans, Fuck Yeah‘? (I lie ever so slightly; the actual title is just ‘Americans’.) Directed by James Stafford and starring musical maestro Kid Rock and actor and director Sean Penn, it aims to bring Americans together, to bridge partisan divides, to heal rancor in these increasingly divisive times. Roughly: no matter if you think Dick Cheney is a bloviating war criminal, Rush Limbaugh is an idiotic windbag, or Paul Ryan is full of bean-induced flatulence, you are still an American, and you can do better than that. (I haven’t bothered to list insults from the other end of the political spectrum.) Namely, you can put down your political cudgels to embrace The Political Other.

Unfortunately Stafford’s Sermon loses considerable steam thanks to the manner of its execution. There are, to begin with, some rather mundane problems having to do with hokey acting and the unbearable preachiness of it all, nowhere better captured than in the two moments of supposed enlightenment that lead to political reconciliation: the lecture by the–I think–Caribbean waitress, who, in a terrible accent, reminds the two Americans of just how good they have it, and the televised reminder of a war that is claiming the lives of brave American troops.

But there is a more fundamental problem with this pulpit-pounding call to hit the political middle. Far more problematic than this video’s irredeemable sappiness, its invocation of the quiescence-preaching black female immigrant, is its basic premise: political conflict is a bad thing, one to be avoided, one that can be smoothed over. Unfortunately, politics is conflict; to be a political animal is to engage in disputation. There is an irreducible conflict at its core; banal smoothing over is nothing more than acceptance of the status quo. Which status quo? In Stafford’s Sermon, the one in which American troops go off to fight endless wars overseas. Thus: put aside your worries, swap NASCAR and ‘PETA Rocks!’ t-shirts, raise a toast to freedom, and keep sending troops overseas, those that have volunteered from the ranks of this country’s dispossessed, to die.

Political subjects, political participants of any ilk, should be wary about messages urging them to drop the fighting and come together. Those who claim they are apolitical and disdain political stances are full of it; for their stance is a political one too. Invariably, such a coming together can only take place on some other patch of political ground. There is no neutral ground in politics; whatever one must use to rest on in this turbulent ocean of conflict is a political raft. ‘Come together for the sake of the nation’ is a political appeal too, one that appeals to a very particularly framed national  allegiance and patriotism. Stafford’s message is decidedly political; it comes down on one side, and one alone, of a live debate. Stafford isn’t splitting the difference; he is an ideologue himself. His political rafts are built out of unquestioning patriotism and subscriptions to militarism. No thanks.

One thought on “Bridging Partisan Divides with Patriotism? No Thanks.

  1. It seems to me that we are a nation more polarized than in many times in the past. I’d like to see more politicians, and people, be able to compromise and negotiate. There have been times in the past where the country really did feel more as one than it does now.

    In aggregate, we’re a center-right nation. The fiscal cliff? Let’s have some compromise on both sides or it’s worse for all of us.

    What’s so bad about mutual respect and willingness to compromise?

    We had a far right president that polarized the country. (Far right except for when it came to spending. It happened to be on wars, but he was not fiscally conservative by any means.)

    Now we have the quintessential far leftwing president that is handed obamacare over to Reid and Pelosi because he had a supermajority. As John McCain said of him, “It’s kind of hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left.”

    You are a pretty left guy, based on what I’ve seen. Nothing like that ever has any realisitic chance of being passed, with the current state of our demographics. I respect your right to an opinion, and would defend your right to it, but I don’t think it’s moderate, and that’s ok.

    Some of us moderates, however, would prefer to see a working government. It would also be nice to see people be able to get along, irrespective of political views, and I see less and less of that.

    There’s nothing wrong with remembering that we’re all Americans, and there’s nothing wrong with being proud of that.

    It may be a bad production, but it doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to me.

    Making fun of one side, exclusively, and consistently, is just childish and at some point, simply renders one irrelevant.

    I’d love to see a less polarized country. I’d sign on to Simpson/Bowles. We need more politicians to be willing to actually accept the truth.

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