For-Profit Patriotism

Wrapping yourself in the flag to sell something? It’s a common meme on American t-shirts. It helps to have no shame at all of course.

And this is America: these past 40 years, shame has not been on the menu: in this case, a McDonald’s menu. With this tee, McDonald’s declares that it embodies America, and dares anyone to say otherwise.

Maybe they could get away with that in 2002, when the tribes gathered in Vegas for the annual convention: the store operators, the suppliers, corporate bigwigs. Connections were made, deals were cut, programs were rolled out. And for entertainment: Cher!

Twenty years later, the Golden Arches look tarnished. McD’s food is cheap, but not that popular. Making it better needs higher prices, but their core market — the working and retired poor and near-poor — can’t afford that. The franchisees are pissed at corporate for letting them drift.

Customers under pressure, policies that don’t work, unresponsive leadership: hey, maybe McDonald’s IS America after all.

Somehow, gun ownership got to be patriotic: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT GUARANTEES THE FIRST!” shouts this t-shirt for a holster company. The American Flag, the Statue of Liberty — it’s all there. Lady Liberty’s even wearing a shoulder holster. Galco Gunleather offers holsters for every body part: chest, hip, shoulder, belly, ankle. And more!

As for the second amendment guaranteeing the first: doubtful. The second is about militias. Reputable constitutional scholars all agree. But if you want to sell guns, the Second Amendment means whatever you want to say it means.

The National Rifle Association knows about that. They advocated for nearly-unrestrained gun ownership. They swoop in to thwart all proposed restrictions. Because the right to own guns is the American Way: see the eagle?

If the American Way is about wrapping yourself in the flag for money, the NRA’s all about it. While the NRA is in theory there to support gun owners, it garners heavy, heavy donations by running cover for gun manufacturers. The NRA serves as the gun industry’s trade organization, its paid advocate.

Meanwhile, more and more people buy guns because of perceived rising violence — from other gun owners. Because there are too many guns in America, and because they are more powerful and deadly and available than ever. This is all fine for the NRA — there’s money to be made. And more guns.

Remember, “Freedom is not Free:” Sturm Ruger needs to make its money. Pay up.

And let’s not forget stock car racing: look at all that patriotic imagery: the flag, a Stealth fighter, stars and of course a giant eagle.

For some people, these are the signs of American greatness — instead of well-educated children or medical care for all. No, a giant eagle means that America is great! And stock cars are great! Therefore, stock cars are America! NASCAR is America! Admission $245 for this event, order online please thankyew.

Never mind that NASCAR stock car racing originated with criminals: Depression-era bootleggers. They employed “runners” who drove illegal hooch from hidden stills to the customers in souped-up cars. The best runners began to race one another for fun. Eventually, there came NASCAR.

Is that American? Or is patriotism simply defined as “loving the freedom to do whatever I want no matter what?” While making a little money on the side.