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American individualism created the real “sheep”

American individualism created the real “sheep”

American individualism created the real “sheep”
December 07
11:00 2020

“Sheep” has become common vernacular among the members of the alt-right and more conservative parts of this country. Its premise proposes that the general American public blindly follows the government to their own demise. However, the wording is quite ironic considering what America’s foundation is built upon. Those who utilize this language are supposedly in support of rejecting conformity and forging their own path.

 This rejection of sorts is one of the main pinnacles to the American identity. American individualism is one of the tallest pillars that continues to hold up the myth of our model, exceptional country. Their alignment with individualism is one that finds its roots in early colonial America, whether it be early Americans escaping religious persecution from Britain or the fight for tax representation. America has always been based on the idea that power belongs to the people, so long as you’re a white man. 

This long lineage of rebellion paired with the thirst for opportunity leads into our current capitalistic society. Our present-day reality stems from the backbone of this country, which in turn cultivated the mythology of the “American Dream” during the Gold Rush. The idea anyone could run away and strike gold in California or oil in Texas and become the next Rockefeller. 

Despite America’s ever-present focus on individualism, it rarely deviates for the acceptance of those who lie on the outskirts of mainstream society. This is what is surprisingly hypocritical about the American identity. As much as the alt-right cries “sheep” as an insult, they fail to realize they are directly in line with everything America has set itself up to be. This term has been most used in context and conversations revolving around the current pandemic. 

The protests that call forth the removal of masks in public places, the anti-vaxxers not truly concerned with the legitimacy of science, and the churches fighting the pandemic’s restrictions of their rights to worship all seem to think they are outsiders. However, these demographics are usually the most conservative and patriotic of our country. It’s not hard to find that most of these subsections of the American demographic are Trump supporters. I think the phrase “make America great again” is perfect in context with how these people represent the fundamental blocks of American society. 

The refusal to wear a mask is rooted in the rejection of collectivism. The belief that each man has the right to what makes him happy as long as he is not explicitly violent to his neighbor. The anti-vaxxers concerned with vaccines giving their children autism comes from the hinges of stigmatization of the neurodivergent and the mentally ill. After all, America’s ableism against physical bodies is so grand that it caused Franklin Roosevelt to hide he was in a wheelchair so he could appear “strong.” It would make sense for the American public to be fearful of differences found in the brain as well. The church’s pushing for capacity limits to be disbanded hangs on the coattails of America’s rich religious history, where sickness is the product of sin and therefore ceases to exist in the presence of God. 

Furthermore, all of these topics overlap. The fear of neurodivergent/mentally ill can find its roots in religious places where these types of people are presumed possessed or sinful, or conservatives rejecting vaccines because the individual takes precedent over the collective. America’s foundation has always been based on these principles.

 However, these principles come with limits. You can pursue your dreams as long as it falls in line with capitalistic gain. You can worship your religion as long as it’s Christianity. You can chase your happiness as long as it falls in line with white-heteronormative values. The demographics quick to use the term “sheep” usually fall in line within these parameters. They usually stay unaware in their pen tiring us all out with their incomprehensible babbling about how they are so different.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Davion Smith

Davion Smith

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