No, not the country — we all know that we’ve been stumbling from one crisis to another. Instead, what happened to the “our” in “our country”? In other words (don’t worry: your patriotism is not about to be appealed to) are we as American as we once were?
For example, read this U.S. Census public service announcement as seen in the New York City subways.
When you answer 10 simple questions you can help our community for the next 10 years.
What’s wrong with this picture? Personally, I wondered why a federal PSA spoke to “our community” instead of “our country.” True, an essential function of the census is to apportion electors to the Electoral College and seats in the House of Representatives. But I suspect something else is going on here.
Try replacing “our community” with “our country.” Sounds a little corny, doesn’t it? After all, when was the last time you heard anybody appeal to you to do anything for “your country”? No way that John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech would fly today.
But, it’s at least as altruistic to appeal to community as to country. More likely, those who composed the PSA understand that today most Americans are less motivated to contribute to and come to the aid of the United States than their communities.
Part of the blame for “our country’s” corniness must be laid at the feet of conservatives who appropriated the American flag, as well as patriotism in general, for themselves. More to the point, they’ve encouraged Americans to pledge their allegiance to a fantasy of America. Not to the country as it really is, replete with blue states, a government that’s anything but small, a black (foreign-born, they’re sure) president, and, most frightening of all to them, the surging Latino population.
With their antennae eternally oscillating, communications and public relations firms, one of which presumably composed the PSA above, are always the first to know. Americans identify with their country less and less. These days you have to give them credit for even identifying with their community, as defined as town or city.
The groups with whom we identify grow smaller and more insular: church, family, and even just sports teams.
Categories: American Culture