The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service hosts Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at noon to discuss a current political topic. Leavitt Center student employees research the topic and moderate the conversation. These discussions expose students to a variety of important issues and encourages them to share their own perspectives while learning all sides of an issue. Free pizza is provided for all who attend.
Patriotism has been all over the news especially since the Presidential Election in 2016. It has stayed in the news due to events with U.S. veterans and Colin Kaepernick of the NFL. No matter the publicity, each person has their own definition and experience with patriotism; hence the reason it was the first Pizza & Politics discussion. The event was moderated by Taylor Cella and Cynthia Hawk, Executive Council members of the Leavitt Center.
The discussion began with the ambiguity of patriotism. When finding a definition, wording ranged from “devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country” to “love for your country.” The audience was asked their thoughts on the word, most giving different answers based on their personal experiences.
According to statista.com, 85% of Americans said they considered themselves very patriotic in 2011. In 2017, 29% of Americans stated that they think America stands above all other countries. As of 2016, 63.9% of Americans own an American flag.
When comparing with the rest of the world, the United States has the largest number of people who ranked their country as best in the world, with 41%. India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all ranked between 36% and 35%, respectively.
Students were then asked why America seems to be more patriotic than other countries. Most people stated it was because American values have always been about being the best and beating everyone else. From the Olympics to stealing land, American knows how to take what they deem is rightfully theirs. A lot of students also compared American government to other systems around the world. Other countries would not tolerate discussions like Pizza & Politics, giving many Americans the feeling that they are in the best country in the world.
At the 1984 Republican National Convention, Gregory Lee Johnson and other political activists staged a protest in the streets. Johnson doused an American flag in kerosene and burned it. He was then arrested and convicted under Texas state law, but appealed under the basis that burning the flag was symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. His conviction was overturned by the Texas appeals court, but the state of Texas appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. The final rule was 5-4 in favor of Johnson and set a precedent that symbolic speech is protected under the First Amendment.
The next question posed asked if America was too strict or not strict enough in its protections for patriotic symbols. Compared to other countries, America is very open with freedom of speech, such as flag burning. In places like France or Israel, fines are given to anyone who disrespects the flag. Some students said they did not understand the point of burning flags, but respected the right to do it because of the First Amendment.
The conversation then moved to the NFL kneeling protest. In 2018, the NFL instituted a new policy that stated: “players will no longer be allowed to take a knee when the national anthem is played prior to the football game. If the player does, they will be subjected to punishment and their team fined.” The alternative option for players is to stay in the locker room during the duration of the anthem.
A two-part question asked students if the NFL policy infringed on players’ freedom of expression and if protesting can be considered patriotic. Audience members thought the policy was infringing on the rights and that protesting is the most patriotic part of America. Only a few students said that the NFL is a private company and they are allowed to do what they want within their own business. No one opposed protesting as being patriotic, though some were not as enthusiastic as others.
The conversation ended by asking students if their views on patriotism were changed during the discussion. No one was swayed toward a different direction, but some said they were open to new ideas. A lot of students learned new perspectives and were happy with the civility of the conversation.
For more information on Pizza & Politics, or other Leavitt Center events, visit their Facebook page.