I went to UCI. I love my school. But last week's story about the Associated Students council passing a prohibition on displaying the American flag in a lobby because it is a symbol of "colonialism and imperialism" is just so, so dumb. It's embarrassing. What's even stupider and a lot more embarrassing was the uproar and reaction it caused. This is penny-ante, trivial shit that no university and no news media and citizenry should waste time arguing over.
I'm a non-American immigrant. I am not a nationalist. To me, because my parents made the choice to come here, country is a choice. It's only an identity by default—when you grow up in a country, you're bound to be different than if you grew up in a different country with a different culture and society. That's all how much identity should be influenced by country.
But valuing the state over reality, over your own reason and the historical evidence, is being ideological. And ideology means being dumb, wanting the world to fit your preconceived beliefs. Changing facts of the world to do it. Nationalism is an ideology, for the far right and the far left. Yes, the United States has engaged in and continues to engage in colonialism and imperialism. But it doesn't only do those things, this giant land of 300 million people, diverse, variagated, the richest superpower on the planet that has a few positives as well, if I recall correctly. Just two new ones this week—Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the Apple Watch. Huzzah! We are not only terrible!
And yes, putting your head in the sand about those things and thinking that we are the greatest nation on Earth, is equally if more missing a wide swath of the factual evidence and reality. We have no national health care like a lot of other countries do (See Homer Simpson talking about in in bed). We have incredible rates of gun violence, the highest incarceration rate in the world, massive wealth and income equality, the list depressingly goes on and on.
So why the fuck are we fighting about a stupid symbol of our country and not upset about its actual problems? Flags are pieces of cloth. They don't mean much. Getting your identity wrapped in a flag, metaphorically, is very dumb. It shows you don't exist as an individual person outside of the country you're in. Like if I were to move to a different neighborhood, city, or state, I would break apart atomically. Yes, you can burn a flag and it is political protest, but why is it an effective one? I wouldn't care if an American flag were burnt. I wouldn't care if my home nation's flag were set on fire. I get that to the military personnel, it represents disrespect and insult, but so do the pointless wars, savage, meaningless, mistaken, they fought in. The Vietnam War was more a symbol of American failure than burning a flag will ever be. Participating in shit and getting upset when someone rightly calls it that still makes you dumb for doing it in the first place. I'll let the Vietnam vets slide because they were drafted.
And I also get that college students—God bless 'em—are idealistic do-gooders. Great. Keep on keeping on, committed young people! But pick your battles, for once you grow up a little more, you'll without your consent be swept up in the large American current of mediocrity and the bourgeoisie. If you're not the next Amal Clooney, and so few of us are, you're going to live an average middle class life where your priorities will turn from "Workers of the World Unite" to finding a babysitter when you want to have a date night with the wife.
We are always, it seems, ready to fight over the cosmetic, superficial aspects and symptoms of larger American problems, instead of dealing with the problems themselves. Like getting into a fury over those racist frat boys when institutional and systemic racism still exists and still harms a lot more people. While the flag thing isn't that severe, it's still of a piece: we like outrage over dumb shit, and while sometimes that dumb shit is a tangential and small piece of a larger problem, we still fight over it rather than zoom out our view and tackle the underlying issues. In this case, the underlying issue is how to make the country truly better so that people won't have to fight over a flag.
Stop it. Move on. Find a better, healthier, and more socially just ways of spending your time.