A Country Pretending

I come from a country called “pretending our virtues transcend cumulative repugnant transgressions.” Contextualized, I accordingly scoot beyond the margins of several pedagogical imperatives. Far too long, I amongst others have been forcefully wrought by intrusive and manipulative pedagogical intent. This is not a complaint but, rather, an observation not meant to exclude wringing. Once wrung end to end, head to foot twisted diametrically indeed to extract and dispose of all fluidity vital to self, self little more than a filthy wet rag, I was at once instructed to memorize a pledge of allegiance to a colorful fabric while shielding with right hand my heart. In this way, hundreds of thousands of children were programmed to “think” alike. If this telling figuratively conjures cartoon imagery within readerly envisaging, audience may be considered, as desired, textually engaged, whereby eidetic physicality enduring harsh treatment miraculously and immediately returns to sprightly ideal state. Real life might be otherwise, but the psyche of one who is subjected to long years of doctrinaire methodology does not necessarily, much like each worthy cartoon thespian, acquiesce. Admittedly, nevertheless, I was deftly shaped into a meat robot member of an idiot force. I was made into one of many patriots, but I was never trained in the art of critical inquiry. Even when thinking outside the box, the pedagogical box into which I was greenly thrust remained, for decades, intact.

Somehow, something went wrong. I spotted a bumper sticker meriting mention only days ago (few truly qualify). Given preferential placement in rear window of generic automobile, and having extracted one short phrase from the overall childhood pledge, this vehicular banner strove to exemplify “One Nation Under God.” What happens once someone reads such an extraction; what shall anyone “think?” Too often I fail to do so but, for once, I was prepared. Certainly, the phrase prompts those who were forced to recite day after day to recall the larger context: “I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of The United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all.” We recited as if all those commas were present, and so it was that, that this pledge became for me, as I am sure it did for most others, a narcotic incantation. In many respects, it was little more than a polysyllabic rhythm we vocally reproduced. Although the sounds coalesced into words which, in turn, have meanings, this mindless recitation took place within a school setting. While we were reassured on this as well as on other occasions, at the least, by the concept of “liberty and justice for all,” this was not a text I can recollect even once discussing; we simply memorized and recited, hand over heart and facing the flag which hung from the front of each room day after day. Year after year times eight elementary years equals what? As the most consistent feature of our incipient career training, this incantation assumed a great deal of pedagogical heft.

Speaking of which, the excerpted fragment stamped thus on sticker hereby achieves heft and yet levitates from phrase to slogan emphasized by made mobile arrangement and too titular caps, but whatever this slogan means to whomever pasted sticker on car remains extensively muddy. Perhaps the protagonist aggressively promotes religious hardliner intrusion at all governmental levels, or perhaps the protagonist simply belongs to a church group and enjoys the good company of like-minded others. Perhaps the car owner has no idea who placed the sticker on the car but leaves it there as a sort of amulet against potential trooper intrusions. Associations, nonetheless, cleave, by now quite familiar to drivers who have long witnessed the fish creationist/evolutionist automotive messaging rivalry, fish eating fish with, and fish eating fish without, ad infinitum, legs. All this takes place on vehicles occupied by humans lately too lazy to unwind leggy appendages of their own. But readers of such symbols often inadvertently choose sides in the perpetual rotations of one among many binary debates wherein a talent and inclination for listening has been neatly banished. While creativity and condemnatory invective do not inevitably associate exclusively one to another, the relationship between the two proficiently endures the depredation of centuries. Rich terminology speaks silently within the mind of each motoring hemeneutist, and of course, the dismissive process of fetching one side over another sharpens division between strangers considered as either stupid or, conversely, astute. How can it be otherwise when idiot hordes are isolated from one another within motorized capsules? No shared communicative space exists whereby understanding might come to fruition, so instead we are left to despise one another when commenting via digital [dis]connection.

The United States is a country in which the average citizen has been preemptively neutralized and thereby prevented from acting in any significant manner to pressure and bend each instant against the inexorable trajectory of history’s massif. Such neutralization occurs primarily by pedagogical design both in and out of public school. How shall we most effectively challenge the pedagogical theory driving daily phylactic ritual? We were mere children, and so we accepted our role. We did as we were told to do. I come from a country called “shut up and repeat after me.” If any peculiar discrepancy in this order were observed, we learned quickly to conceal such observations amongst ourselves. At a very young age then, we were confronted at every second with disciplinary authority but, more importantly, authoritarian disciplinary pressures coerced us toward exploring subtle arts of subversion, launching spitballs, for instance.

Stephen Kirbach finds the categorical delimitations of whatever he does claustrophobic. He suspects that this time business is a fraudulent scam perpetrated by digital zealots, but he has confidence that measures can be taken which will ultimately render calendrical conventions as appropriately illegitimate. He can be reached at: stephenkirbach@gmail.com. Read other articles by Stephen.