By REBECCA MELSON
With this year’s intense presidential election and the general social atmosphere in our American society today, it is clear that the definition of patriotism is changing. This is especially apparent in the actions of American athletes Gabby Douglas and Colin Kaepernick.
In a recent Twitter blast, Douglas, an Olympic gymnast, was harassed for not holding her hand above her heart during the national anthem in the Rio Olympic opening ceremony. Similarly, Kaepernick, a NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest with the Black Lives Matter Campaign.
Both social outcries beg the question: what does it mean to be patriotic?
Well, Robert M. Mrazek provides some insight on these issues in his film The Congressman, to be released Sept. 6, 2016 on DVD. The film centers upon the life of Congressman Charles Winship, played by Treat Williams, who is thrown into a media storm after not standing during the pledge of allegiance. The freshly divorced Vietnam Veteran turned Congressman then faces an angry public who misinterpreted his intentions, leaving him to reflect on the role that he has played during his ten years in Congress.
Accompanied by Junior Congressman and Chief of Staff, Jared, played by Ryan Merriman, Charlie takes refuge in exploring a small fishing community in Maine to better understand the effects that international fishing has when impeding on smaller communities. Predictably, the two come to remember the importance of small American towns, while discovering deeper parts of themselves.
In this way, Mrazek is able to use The Congressman as a platform to suggest the importance of the environment, while simultaneously asking the audience what patriotism really means to them.
Mrazek served in Congress as a New York representative for ten years, during which time he made laws that protected the environment. His insider perspective brings to the film a clear message that not all congress members can be bought out by lobbyists and special interest groups.
This is pivotal to the current state of congressional affairs in the United States today and the notion that some minority groups are in fact not protected by their congressional figures.
As movie critic Frank Scheck states, The Congressman “means well and acknowledges the positive elements of politics.”
Though it ends with a neat and clean overview of Charlie’s struggle to express his political freedom, it is a film geared toward American nationalism. The belief that standing for the pledge of allegiance and holding your hand over your heart during the national anthem is a deeply rooted tradition that binds Americans together. However, Mrazek reminds his audience that as Americans we have the freedom to choose whether or not we sit or stand during the pledge.
Therefore, could it be that new roots are giving way and reminding us that in America it has always been of utmost importance to fight for what you believe in?