If I can relay anything in my last column for The Eagle, it’s “think for yourself.”
Before we opened our textbooks, before we shuffled flirty notes to each other, before we sat down for instruction, we had to collectively recite “The Pledge of Allegiance.” This was the story for most of my years growing up in the public school system in Arizona. I assume many others share a similar experience, as 43 states in America require reciting the pledge as state law.
Despite the fact that I haven’t uttered the Pledge in over a decade, I can deliver it without pause or thought. It’s reflexive. The very first thing the state does is ensure compliance through repetition. Obedience is an acquired trait.
In high school, I began to rebel, and my participation in the ritual waned. This earned the ire of my peers, so I eventually stood while other recited, unwilling to alienate myself for what I initially believed was a small concession.
Things got a tad more complicated on the basketball court, as I would sway side to side and ignore the National Anthem blaring from the speakers before tip-off. My folks in the stands were criticized by other parents over my insolence.
My thought was always, “What in God’s name (thanks public schools!) does ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ have to do with a high school basketball game?” What does it have to do with a professional basketball game for that matter?
There is no correlation. The game could progress perfectly fine without its encroachment. I know because I play pick-up games all the time, and we manage to get along just fine (even without referees!).
The problem, as I see it, is twofold. First is the notion of unconditional support. This type of love and support is romanticized in our literature and sought individually since birth. We’re all looking to be accepted for who we are, regardless of just how unpleasant that may be. Our mothers are probably closest to granting us this wish. And I don’t really know if that one specifically is a bad thing - I believe there’s a biological element at play in that case.
The state, however, wants us to extend that unyielding support to our country, to our military. The church asks us to do the same with our religion. Our schools continue this pattern by institutionalizing learning in a uniform way. We will be Eagles forever. We will be Americans forever. We will be Christians forever. We will be Sigma Chi brothers forever.
It’s garbage. It leads me to my second point.
The second problem is the role of institutions and hierarchy. The Catholic Church is corrupt. The military is corrupt. Corporations are corrupt. Fraternities are corrupt. Heck, even Occupy D.C. was corrupted once it got too large.
As soon as collective bodies expand, too much liberty, autonomy, privacy and consensus is sacrificed. The result is corruption, dissatisfaction, cronyism and coercion. The larger a collective body becomes, the greater likelihood these problems will emerge.
Our present system has “liberals” supporting a president who tramples on liberty, bombs recklessly, deports quantifiably and incarcerates unprecedentedly (to mention only a few).
The culprits are the institutions: they’re too large and too powerful. The same can be applied to countless other social entities (including Live-strong, Susan G. Komen, The United Nations, etc.)
We should resist the urge to swell organizations. We should be conscientious of the bloated size of our affiliations as conflict and marginalization increase with each membership influx.
Projecting unequivocal faith is extremely dangerous. We must be strong enough as individuals to fight this inclination – as it is often exploitative and irrational.
If this column seems anarchistic, that’s because it is. If you have a visceral reaction toward it, it may be because the state has demonized the term equating it with chaos and disorder. But how much did we ever learn about anarchy? Practically nada (yet we’re positive it’s an enemy).
Like I said, the message of my final column is clear: Think for yourself.
But you don’t need me to tell you that.