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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Open Source Patriotism?

Friday, April 28, 2006

At the risk of being that guy, the one who becomes enamored with an idea and then blatheres on about it while still knowing relatively little about it, NPH would like to pose a question about the flap over immigration.

Driving to the local grocery this afternoon to pick up breakfast items to entertain an out-of-town guest, NPH heard part of an NPR piece about a spanish version of the American national anthem that had been produced by a British musician. Opponents of the anthem (which features its own new melody and new lyrics) contend that it's just another example of immigrants who are unwilling to assimilate into American life, and they guffaw at such evidence of outsiders wanting to recast America in their own image.

Given my aforementioned preoccupation with open source as an idea, I immediately wondered, "What would an open source conception of citizenship and patriotism look like?" Wikipedia (the best living, breathing example of something open source) says that open source "describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's sources." In other words, the issue is access to the end product's sources. What are the sources of citizenship and patriotism, and are they completely closed, historical artifacts, or are they open and available for practioners to enhance and improve?

Much of what passes for patriotism in modern America is thinly-veiled Xenophobia, or fear of the stranger. Appeal is regularly made to traditional American "values" (hard work, frugality, freedom of expression, an entrepreneurial spirit) that are threatened by an influx of outsiders who don't share those values. But what people forget is that all of those values came from somewhere else, mainly from western Europeans and Africans hundreds of years ago. Even the ones that were already here when Europeans arrived came from somewhere else.

So what if we came to understand citizenship and patriotism as things that can be improved by a broader base of practioners? What if the influx of residents from Mexico was seen as an opportunity to re-examine the sources of American identity and be intentional about opening those sources up to anyone willing to call themselves an American? In other words, what if we saw outsiders as assets instead of threats?

What kind of end product might we end up with then?
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:51 PM


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