The Double-Whammy of Forced Patriotism and Religion

30 Jan 2006

A few posts ago, I reminded myself of a very brief story that I found entertaining.I was out late one evening a few months ago at a local government dinner (a painfully boring event that I had to attend for work). Most people probably don't normally attend such things --well, *I * don't normally attend them, anyway. If you're one of those die-hard city-council-attending types, then there probably won't be much humor in this for you. But, to me, those dinners are absolutely surreal --scary, even.

First of all, since it's a government thing, everyone goes out of their way to one-up each other on the patriotic scale. It used to be, in the old days, a gentleman wore a watch and a wedding ring. Today, things are different: My glaring and unique lack of a small, metal, laminated American flag pinned to my jacket lapel seemed to shout, "Hey, I'm some sort of subversive communist -- maybe even an anarchist" ( -- which I'm not, by the way, although I did once download a copy of the infamous "Anarchist's Cookbook" -- which shouldn't be a surprise, based on this blog's title, right?). More on this later, though.

Before the $40/plate dinner, everyone stood hands-over-hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't recall doing that since the 8th grade. This was followed, of course, by a lengthy blessing (aka "grace") offered by Father So-in-So, from a local Catholic church. Now, I'm not anti-American or anything like that.But, I have to admit feeling kind of dumb standing up with a bunch of other adults reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm sure, if this blog had any readers at all, some right-winger would say something like, "Jeez, what's wrong with a little patriotism?"The answer is nothing. Tatoo the National Anthem on your ass, if that's your bag.But, don't force it (or religion) down my throat, okay? I have a hard enough time getting all of the other crap down there, like the food at these awful dinners.

So, between the double-whammy of forced patriotism and religion, I guess I felt a little annoyed. And yet, there I was at a dinner table of hard core Christian-right republicans.So, what did I do?Did I just drop everything and go along with the evening, or did I just have to make some stupid comment to stir things up? Well, the answer should be evident.(If I'd just sat there, I wouldn't have much of a story to tell, would I?). So, when we sat down after the Pledge/Grace, I looked at one old guy sitting across from me and said with a completely straight face, "Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we vote at the last meeting to remove the words 'under God' from that Pledge?"

It was a great moment for me to watch this old guy work through that question.He thought I was absolutely serious and returned the most bizarre look. Then he said, as though explaining something to a 10-year old, "That wasn't the [government council where I was], son. You're thinking about the 9th Circuit Court."

"Oh yeah," I said."I must have confused everything in my mind. Sorry."

He laughed it off, but gave me a number of sideways glances throughout the evening.

Looking back ... In a way, even though I was clearly the outsider, I felt like the only free thinker in the entire group. Those people were like a bunch of sheep. I couldn't figure out why they even needed a meeting if they already agree on so much. My point, I guess, is that the line has officially blurred between religion and politics. This shouldn't be news to anyone, of course. It's just another story.

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