Examining a cynical, fake-patriotic Facebook meme

Instead of making yourself a tool for those whose agendas run counter to the best interests of the nation that flag represents, how about stepping back and asking  who’s playing you, and why?

This meme came across my Facebook feed earlier today.


Obviously somebody has an issue with Colin Kaepernick (and other black athletes) protesting injustice in America by refusing to stand during the national anthem.

Their take: how dare you not stand when this soldier died for you!

There’s a whole lot wrong with this. For instance:

  • What war was he fighting in?
  • Why is the US involved in this conflict?
  • More to the point, was he “defending freedom” or fighting to secure the financial greed of some billionaires?
  • In what way does the enemy he was fighting threaten the US?
  • Did this nation start it, or were we the aggressor?
  • How many innocent Americans were killed in this war? How many civilians in the country we’re fighting?
  • Was he sacrificed in pursuit of the personal vendetta of a former commander in chief?

If you click through on the post you get to more detail. It’s mainly the widow’s painful story of how she found out her husband was dead. I think we all would sympathize with this. At the very end we learn that the soldier was SFC Ofren “AC” Arrechaga. He was killed in March 2011 in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan. 2011. Why was the US in Afghanistan in 2011? What were the critical military objectives? What threat does Afghanistan pose to our freedoms? To our republic? (At least he wasn’t in Iraq, which was a completely illegal war.)

Let’s say I buy the rationale for our invasion of Afghanistan in toto. For the sake of argument. This man died a decade later, in a war where there seem to be no clearly defined objectives, no conditions for victory, and most importantly, no exit strategy. He died in a place that brought the USSR to its knees a generation ago, and he did so on behalf of a nation that’s the world’s #1 arms dealer. Many of our enemies in Afghanistan are the very people we helped create when they were fighting the Russians.

He died fighting the American Empire’s eternal war against yet another vague, formless enemy du jour.

Did SFC Arrechaga believe he was fighting for our freedom? Did he believe that standing for the anthem ought to be mandatory? Or should we wonder – Arrechaga, that sounds Latino, doesn’t it? Is it possible that Ofren may have understood the protests, maybe even sympathized a little due to personal experience?

Don’t know. I don’t, and you don’t. But it is worth noting that the people behind this meme appropriated the tragedy of his death and commodified his corpse in service to a cynical, faux-patriotic bit of online agitation. In my experience, these are the very people who, when something terrible happens to a minority or a liberal or somebody else they don’t like immediately leap into the fray outraged that you would politicize this tragedy.

What we know for sure is that five years after SFC Arrechaga’s death, folks on Facebook have exhumed him and are reeling him across the Internet in an attempt to defame those who are engaging in conscientious protest against an objectively demonstrable social injustice.

And if SFC Arrechaga wasn’t fighting to end social injustice, then what are these “freedoms” I keep hearing about us fighting for, anyway?

Instead of leaping headlong into the manipulation, instead of making yourself a tool for those whose agendas run counter to your self-interest and to the best interests of the nation that flag represents, how about stepping back, taking a deep breath and asking yourself a question: who’s playing you, and why?

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