31 October 2006

Picturing Patriotism

I came across this image in a post byPaul Schmelzer at Off Center. It was created by Cameron Wittig to accompany an essay that Schmelzer wrote (and that I have as yet been unable to track down) on the "issues artists face when dealing with “political” subject matter." It was intended to capture "the difference between active citizenship and superficial patriotism."

"Flagging Patriotism" Photo © Cameron Wittig

While I like the image as a comment on the ways patriotism has been debased in the US since (at least) the period of the War in Vietnam, I have to object that Schmelzer & Wittig too quickly surrender the notion of patriotism to those who would construe it in narrow, uncritical ways. It is crucial to insist that patriots are not uncritical supporters of government policy, that they often object to such policy in the name of ideals, principals or commitments a government purports to serve but actually disregards or subverts, and that, consequently, dissent and criticism are patriotic activities.

PS: Added later that same day: Paul Schmelzer kindly directed me to the link for his provocative article.


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