Plastic patriotism only appeals to the lowest common denominator of American. It’s the kind of rah-rah posturing that the-less educated, less-intelligent, less-motivated, and wholly immature of our population seek when they’re unable to find any satisfaction in their personal lives.

Its structure, its nature, is designed to give the satisfaction of success to people who lack success on an individual basis. With plastic patriotism, they can feel accomplished based on historical and group successes — “We won gold at the Olympics”; “We won WWII”; and “We beat the British.”

It’s the kind of patriotism that masks for unhealthy levels of nationalism. Those who engage in it are smitten by the rules of liberty, a set of rules they made up that quantifies just how American someone is based on their social behavior and political thoughts. When those rules are broken or tested, we often see the plastic-patriot hordes engage in facile verbal offensives to correct the perceived indiscretions.

When it comes to shaming others into their idea of patriotism, the most valuable tool the plastics have is “the troops.” No controversial or talked-about issue is immune from the plastics injecting “the troops” in order to score cheap points.

We saw this during the NFL’s flag kneeling controversy of 2017. It started as a few players constitutionally and quietly protesting police brutality during the national anthem. But the plastics hijacked the narrative, pitting the “ungrateful thug football players” against all the troops who ever died in an American uniform. No metaphor or cliche was sparred by the plastics in their campaign to derail peaceful protest while fetishizing the anthem and the troops.

That’s one of the easy examples. It’s become such a common occurrence to cite the troops in every political argument that it’s essentially a joke to everyone but the plastics, who lack the self-awareness to see irony or hypocrisy.

But here’s the dirty open secret about plastic patriots: Their love and admiration for service members more often than not stops the second a troop or veteran tests their worldview. It’s never been about them actually loving the kind of individual that puts on a uniform: It’s about how that individual’s super-hero brand can validate their groupthink.

We’ve seen time and time again how Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipients, former POWs, Purple Heart recipients, Gold Star families, and thousands of combat veterans have had their service or experience relegated because they broke step with the plastics’ narratives.

That’s why we often see the plastics using deceased service members as talking points. The dead can’t burst their bubbles by disagreeing. The dead are perfect tools for dismissing athletes who try to peacefully stand up against racial injustice.

It’s selfishness and insincerity in its most egregious form. If you’re a veteran, no matter what end of the political spectrum you fall on, you are not immune from these people speaking for you, telling you how you’re supposed to act, and tossing you to the side once you’re of no use to them anymore.  

It’s not a matter of whether certain views of theirs align with yours or not. This is a matter of them having no respect for your service to begin with. You’ll always just be a talking point to them.