Patriots in the Classroom: Performing Positionalities Post 9/11
In many post 9/11 classrooms in the United States, the rhetoric of freedom has been usurped by a rhetoric of patriotism, which questions any speech or activity that dissents from the dominant discourse of American military might/right. Such an opening took the form of focused discussions in three classes on the relationship of patriotism and dissent, and their (perceived) intersection with religion, political party, and public personas. The cultural context was a statewide controversy when Michael Moore was invited to speak at a nearby educational institution. Students were asked to discuss what made Michael Moore (un)patriotic—and how they defined patriotism or its opposite. As a follow-up to the discussions, students in other classes were asked to write about what made students and faculty appear patriotic or not. In this paper I map what it means to perform various positionalities/discourses of patriotism versus nationalism in the classroom for both students and faculty, particularly when intextuated with the body politics of academic and student freedoms as heroic quests. More personally, I describe my own struggle to create Giroux's “emancipative rationality,” which seeks social justice, when a “reflective inquiry” approach is the safer path. When all performances and positionalities are equal and uncontested, “democracy” remains safe as the status quo in a post 9/11 world and classroom.