We’re still number one in meaningless symbols
Some people are surprised to learn that my students are graded on their peer review. Not just whether they do it, mind you, but whether they truly critique.
They do not get any points if, while reviewing their classmates’ work, they simply reply, “good work,” yes,” “good job.” They MUST provide critical and substantive feedback in order to get credit for the peer review session. They literally sign their names to the peer review for me to check. I tell them that sometimes it can be hard to critique those who may have even become their friends over the semester, but that it’s far crueler to leave them without real feedback on assignments that are worth 10-15% of their total grades.
People who see my posts on Facebook know that I critique the hell out of my country. Our educational system, police brutality, denial of science in politics — the list is endless. But it is my belief, that those who critique with a desire and aim to IMPROVE, are not just being anti-something. My students, in their assignment to be critical, cannot simply tell a fellow student, “this essay is shit.” They must identify, specifically, what is working (and why) and what is not working (and why not).
When Colin Kaepernick practices his first amendment right and takes a knee to protest documented police brutality and systemic racism, he is NOT, in my view, suggesting he hates this country. He finds more value in the FIRST AMENDMENT itself than the symbols (such as the anthem) that the first amendment laud. He is critiquing to improve; this is why he is so active in communities and in his online presence. To those who say, “Kapernick benefits mighty well from the U.S.,” he’d be the first to say, “no shit, Sherlock.” Kaepernick doesn’t want to be un-American; he wants America to be the best version of its expressed ideals.
Over the past couple of decades we have slipped in so many critical areas. We are the only country (excepting Papua New Guinea) without paid maternity leave. Our performances in K-12 schools have nosedived behind other nations. Income inequality is greater here than it is even in some monarchy-based systems (UK). We are the global leaders in incarceration. Money floods our political system, and 9 times out of 10, the person with the most money wins.
In my wife’s line of work, defending the accused, she experiences this as well. Several people have actually asked her, “how can you defend THOSE people?” Forgetting for a moment that many of the people she defends are ill (addicts), she can defend THOSE people (regardless of crime) because the inconvenient parts of the constitution some prefer to ignore actually protect the ACCUSED. Yep, large swaths of amendments 4-8 are not there for your gung-ho prosecutor — they’re there for the DEFENDANT.
My dad previously defended clients as well. A deputy once asked him if he has trouble sleeping at night defending THOSE people, to which he replied: “Yeah, I do. I worry that given my busy caseload I did not do ENOUGH for my client. That keeps me awake all the time.” And he meant it.
It’s really easy to get lost in the symbols of patriotism. We have team mentalities, and like all people, we love our flag-waving and song-singing.
But we’ve begun to worship the cloth of the flag and not a black man’s constitutional right. We’ve begun to worship the Star Spangled Banner, and not those “inconvenient” amendments that protect those we may disdain.
And worshipping songs and cloth will get you nothing.
In fact you’ll continue to slip and fall, as countries that are suddenly ready to assume the values you once espoused pass you by, in very real, very measurable ways. It matters not that China’s own past is fraught with civil rights abuses and climate problems. In the same way it doesn’t matter if a student wrote a failing first essay earlier in the semester.
What matters is who is ready to grab the reins of what is most important TODAY. And those who do not get left behind.
And nothing is less patriotic than rooting to lose while waving a flag.