Who Does Your Patriotism Protect?

Photo of Nicaraguan soldiers via Rolling Stone / Words by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez

My friends tell me: My father served in the military during Vietnam. My uncle is in Afghanistan. My family has been in the military ever since WWII. And I robotically respond: That is awesome.

I am always caught off guard when confronting patriotism and American militaristic pride. I am also always at a loss for words, because there seems to be an expectation of my own duty to admire those [primarily men] people who have risked their lives to defend my freedom-- yet I do not feel free.

What I want to say is: My uncle, at 17 years of age, was killed by a general in my country, because he was forced to serve in my country’s civil war. Because he was a pacifist, the general shot him in the head in front of everyone in his battalion – as a means of making an example out of him. The message was heard: You are not free to decide whether or not you will fight to defend our political agenda.

What I want to say is: Another uncle of mine went to war and came back with severe PTSD. He wakes up wailing, 20 years later. He has manic episodes still. My aunt secretly sedates him, to keep him “normal,” and to keep his demons at bay. This uncle served forcefully also.

What I want to say is: Another uncle of mine served in the special forces of my country, and even was on guard to our president at the time of our civil war. His self-medicated PTSD resulted in his alcoholism, and a car ran over his passed-out body. A hit and run.

And yesterday, we received a phone call from my aunt in Nicaragua telling us that  my other aunt’s ex-husband had died. He, too, served in our country’s military. At one point during our war, he was flown to Cuba and had a psychotic episode where he disappeared for months. He came back a shadow of the man he used to be, and was physically abusive to my aunt. That is why they divorced. He also suffered from alcoholism.

What I want to say when people claim American patriotism as directly aligned with serving in the armed forces is: I wonder how many dads, aunts, uncles, daughters, and grandparents are going to suffer, generationally, due to US intervention. I wonder how many mamis will bury their children. I wonder how many daughters will watch their fathers suffer through untreated PTSD. I wonder how many wives will be left widows.

I robotically say: That is awesome, but my heart hurts. I hurt because I still see the pain in my dad's eyes when he recalls the siblings he has buried. I hurt because I still see my mother’s sadness, just yesterday, remembering my uncle's PTSD.

I robotically say: That is awesome, but I am burning inside because I do not think your patriotism is well earned. It has come at a high price for my own bloodline. USA intervention has caused us pain and suffering.

When my friends say things like: My father served in the military during Vietnam.  My uncle is in Afghanistan. My family has been in the military ever since WWII.

What I want to say is: I carry a nation's PTSD, because the pride of your patriotism has traumatized us.

But instead, I robotically respond: That is awesome, because I am suppose to respect what those men and women have done for me, but in all seriousness: what have they done for me?

In the words of Langston Hughes, “America never was America to me.” Its patriotism does not protect me, it was never meant to-- it threatens me, instead. It always has.

Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is a chonga Mujerista from Managua, Nicaragua currently living in Miami, FL. She recently graduated with her Masters from Vanderbilt University, and is looking to take some much needed time off to refresh. She is also the founder of Latina Rebels, a blogger for HuffPo Latino Voices, and a columnist/editor at Chica Magazine. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. Thus her work is around reclaiming and upholding embodied resistance, particularly within chonga and chola subcultures. Que viva la mujer!

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