Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The War on Brains

I have a confession...

I've never been one of those people that is big into national flag waving, and I never have felt the compulsion to proclaim my superiority as a citizen of America over the citizens of other countries, or my homeland's innate superiority over someone else's. In fact, nationalism hasn't much figured into my perceptions of the world in general. It's just not something I've ever cared anything about.

Perhaps the blame for this tendency should be laid at the doorstep of the public schools I attended, which apparently failed in their patriotic duty to indoctrinate me fully into the culture of American exceptionalism. Or, maybe it's actually my parents' fault. After all, they were bleeding-heart liberals who consistently reinforced the radical notion of social equality and the ideas that "people are people," regardless of where they come from or how they look, and that each individual should be judged on his/her own merits. From them, I also learned to appreciate the (clearly un-American) value of helping those less fortunate than myself. The nearest I've ever come to national pride is cheering for the American athletes competing in the Olympic games. (Of course, personally, that's not nearly as emotionally vested a loyalty as say, rooting for my university football team on any given Saturday during the fall season, but at least it's something.)

I'm making this first confession of absence of homeland hubris only to highlight a second confession...

While I've never been exactly overtly patriotic, until this past decade or so, I've never been ashamed of being an American either. However, the more I see how grass roots, conservative, or tea party "common sense" is being marketed to and accepted by the general public at the expense of actual knowledge and reason, (and the more material that enlightened, rational-minded individuals from other countries have to poke fun at), the more I find being identified as American to be an embarrassment. 

Case in point: This segment by Rachel Maddow simply highlights what lies at the root of my discomfort and discontent. In the U.S., there is a ferociously raging war on brains; or more specifically, a war on knowledge and intellectualism. As an educator, a parent, and yes, even as an American citizen, I am shamed to my core to have anyone think that the cretins highlighted here speak for me.