Recently at a high school basketball game in Texas, students from one school were reprimanded for chanting “USA, USA” towards the opposing team. On the surface such cheering seems out of place at worst and harmless at best, but taking a closer look reveals that there’s more going on. The opposing school, of which the USA chants were directed towards, is largely made up of Hispanic students. The principal and superintendent of the chanting school felt the chant was out of place and had racial overtones. Even more, four teen boys were asked to take off American flag bandannas While these boys claim to be simply patriotic (the four appear to be Caucasian) such actions and cheering in context are completely out of place and bordering on racial taunting (I’m at high school basketball games all the time, all across the metro area I reside in and I've never heard anything similar). The school superintendent stated that he thought it was a “teachable moment” for the entire school. So, no harm, no foul, case closed. Not exactly.
Thanks to our friends at FoxNews and their endless need to peddle fear and paranoia, commentator Todd Starnes has put this story out as a case of American patriotism being trounced upon. Starnes has served this up as a nice, juicy piece of red meat and folks are taking the bait. Right wingers are predictably working themselves up in frenzy, clueless to what’s really at stake.
Borderline racist actions such as this that masquerade as “patriotic” fervor are hardly new. In 2010, students at California school showed up wearing clothing emblazoned with pro-American messages on Cinco de Mayo. The school just happened to have a large Hispanic population as well. Coincidence? I think not. This kind of thing has been going on for as long as the U.S. has been a nation, feigning patriotism to hide racism or hatred or fear of the other. The only thing that’s changed is the demographic facing ridicule. Instead of the Irish immigrants, or African-Americans, or Jews it’s now Latinos taking the heat. Unfortunately, this tendency of hiding behind something that looks good on the surface is used far too often. Christians disguise homophobia with words like “the Bible says,” or “sin.” Others hide behind “freedom” or “big government” to disguise their selfishness and lack of concern for those less fortunate than themselves.
I’m not trying to say that all patriotism is racism in disguise, or that all people of faith are hateful. There are people who believe homosexuality is a sin because of their interpretation of scripture yet are still able to be loving and respectful to gays and lesbians. There are people who value laws and social order yet still respect the dignity of all human beings, whether they came to this country illegally or not. And there are people who value the freedoms this country provides without disparaging people who need a little extra help from government—because society itself has failed them.What I am saying is that slapping the words “patriotism” or “faith” or “bible believing” on what would normally be considered hateful speech or actions doesn't make it okay.
The FoxNews story illustrates that some people are just so maniacally insane about their patriotism that they’re blind to what’s really going on. In many ways, they are dishonoring true patriotism in our nation. The most fervent patriots should be condemning times when people hide their hate and racism under the banner of patriotism.
The Bible commands us not take God’s name in vain because we are to understand God as so holy, so magnificent that even to misappropriate God’s name is to insult God. When people use patriotism to disguise their hate, they are insulting all the great American patriots that have gone before. In the same way, when people disguise their hate under the guise of Christianity, they are insulting Jesus Christ, the person on whom the faith is founded and who admonished his followers to share his love with all.
So stop trying to hide your hate and fear behind something else. If you’re going to hate, have the guts to just hate. If you’re going to be a homophobe, stop being afraid of letting your true thoughts be known. Or, better yet, stop hating, stop being a homophobe, and stop being afraid of anyone who doesn't talk/think/look/act like you.