Entering my junior year of high school, I thought I had life figured out. My goals included losing my virginity, convincing my parents to purchase a car for their son to assist in the loss of said virginity, and maintaining decent grades so I could get accepted to a four-year university, so I could further shit on the virginity that plagued me. Unfortunately, my junior year was riddled with failure, as my virginity was still alive and well, and I continued hitching rides with friends whose parents clearly supported the death of their son’s virginity, while my parents were anti-OJ Simpson (Death..OJ…get it? What an awful joke. But fuck it, I’m leaving this joke in here. Any time I get a chance to joke about OJ, I’m taking it). Unfortunately, September 11 also occurred during my junior year. This tragic event left a vulnerable hole in my heart, as I and countless others, searched for hope, security and patriotism after America was attacked. So yes, I may have entered my senior year a car-less virgin, however, I thought—with all the naivety I could muster—I at least obtained some semblance of patriotism. I thought I obtained some semblance of love for country my white classmates obtained years before me.
When people recall the events of 9/11, they generally view it as a day of immense tragedy. Yes, heroic actions took place that no billion-dollar comic-book movie will ever be able to emulate, but 9/11 is judged as a day rife with death, paranoia and fear. However, the days following 9/11 will always be looked upon as days of unity—as long as you were not “A-RAB,” “Muzzlim” or displayed “foreign” features, of course. Those were the days that naively allowed me proud to be an American and wave those tiny American flags. Those were the days that naively allowed me temporarily forget my skin was black. When suffering from short-term amnesia that short-term patriotism caused, I grew comfortable.
I quickly forgot the civil-rights books my pro-virgin parents encouraged (more like forced) me to read growing up, or the subtle racism I personally endured growing up in 1990s- and early 2000s-era Mississippi, or the fact that the very high school I was attending arguably chose to conduct a white-flight initiative by relocating from the more urban capital city to the suburbs, where police officers could harass young black males, like myself, without virtually any oversight.
Eighteen years ago, my deaf-tone singing voice was loud with American pride, as I recited the words to “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America” on command, wondering to myself, “Wow, is this what white people feel like every day?!” The feeling of unity was like finally being accepted into a club I never thought I would be able to get into. Post-9/11 patriotism foolishly led me to believe that this short-term American unity was here to stay, and it would march us down a red, white and blue road to a post-discrimination utopia, filled with equity and tiny American flags. Eighteen years later, I look back at this short-term euphoria in the form of patriotism, and I realize that it was all a dream.
Presently, many argue in real life and in Fox News comment sections that a faction of American citizens around the country are sabotaging patriotism birthed from American propaganda by screaming “black lives matter,” kneeling during the national anthem, attacking nationalism by protesting xenophobia and challenging the white male-privilege status quo that has occupied the power structure of this country since America’s inception. However, this “radical” faction can counter-argue that the actions of those fighting for inclusivity, equality and, more importantly, equity are not sabotaging patriotism, but attempting to promote it by proudly exercising constitutional liberties that were allegedly “promised” to them at birth. Therefore, if the criterion of American patriotism includes loving America blindly without challenging her faults, then post-9/11 patriotism may have not been applicable to all American citizens.
Now that the post-9/11 patriotism has worn off, hindsight allows some of us to view the unity of Sept. 12, 2001 as an ad hoc hypothesis or illusion. Years of American propaganda, including reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” every morning and reading textbooks in history class that promoted America’s valor but hardly ever got around to explaining the country’s injustices, created this illusion. Many may argue that post-9/11 unity was the single greatest moment in American history; however, some may contend that it made a faction of us forget our true place in American society, while simultaneously viewing those who were “Middle Eastern-lookin'” with disdain and paranoia. Simply put, we forgot where we came from.
In 2019, American ad hoc patriotism is alive and well. People still give “A-RABs” and “Muzzlims” the side eye in airports, Mexicans are rapist-murders who are stealing our (their) jobs, Black America (especially in the arena of finance and law) is still suffering from the ills of systemic oppression, gender equality in the form of equal pay and equal treatment in the justice system are not equal or just, at all, LGBTQ folks, especially black LGBTQ folks are facing homo and transphobia at alarming rates and the American propaganda machine created disingenuous sayings like “All Lives Matter” to combat the annoyingly pesky “Black Lives Matter” movement. THIS is the America post-9/11 patriotism was attempting to promote. Not the America full of unity, equality and equity I foolishly thought it was promoting.
What caused such foolish thinking? The virginity, of course.