My Everlasting Ode to Patriot Act

Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj has changed my outlook on politics, culture, and media in ways I never knew a Netflix series could. My personal connection to Patriot Act runs deep, right down to the fact that it was first released on my birthday.

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Host, Hasan Minhaj, of the Netflix political comedy series “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj,” after wrapping up one of his first two episodes of the series: “Affirmative Action” from Volume 1 released Oct. 28, 2018. Since Patriot Act first aired it’s won a Primetime Emmy Award, Peabody Award and more. photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

by Josie Fox, Co-Opinion Editor

 

In the midst of December, and a rather miserable sophomore year of high school, a bright beacon of light shone down upon me after I received a recommendation from my English teacher about a new show on Netflix called “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.” If you know me, and even if you don’t, you should know that “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” is not only my favorite TV show, but that it was also released on my birthday Oct. 28, in 2018. I can say without a doubt in my mind — even though I’m horrifically prone to second-guessing myself — that “Patriot Act” is the best birthday present I have ever unconsciously received. 

That’s why I’ll begin in classic “Patriot Act” fashion, with a short and sweet “comedy book report” — as Minhaj has dubbed the show — but minus the comedy. In this report I’ll explore all “Patriot Act” has taught me and what it means to me. 

“Patriot Act” was named after, or is in reference to, The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 that post-9/11 not only surveillanced all Americans, but disproportionately did so to Muslim Americans. Considering Minhaj is both Indian and Muslim American, he has carefully wrapped the show in this colorful perspective. The weight that the bold name holds is one that — I kid you not — I think about every single day. 

The whole reason Minhaj chose Netflix to be the platform for “Patriot Act” is because of Netflix’s global reach. I’m still awestruck by the risks Minhaj has taken in order to provide his audience with complete transparency of both global and national issues. In order to get to that truth, Minhaj had to take risks including possibly getting sued by the Indian government if he showed a picture of the disputed territory of Kashmir in his “Indian Elections” episode, as well as getting in hot water with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia after critiquing his rule and policies in his “Saudi Arabia” episode. 

Right down to the topics Minhaj covers — Indian elections, hip-hop’s global reach, the dark side of Canada, protests in Sudan, censorship in China — “Patriot Act” isn’t just meant for Americans. I wouldn’t even say it’s an America-centric show. The diversity of worldly perspectives and issues covered has morphed this show into such a beautiful kaleidoscope of what it means to live in our modern world- what it means to be a global citizen. 

“Patriot Act” calls each of us to ponder: what does it truly mean to be patriotic? At the end of each episode when Minhaj shifts his tone in harmony with a dramatic shift in lighting, he stresses that dissent is patriotic. Minhaj had the audacity to name “Patriot Act” after an act that was meant to discriminate against his Muslim identity. Searching and gleaning for the truth of a matter at hand is inherently patriotic, and that is exactly what “Patriot Act” accomplishes. 

As someone who has personally struggled endlessly with what it truly means to be American, I can say that “Patriot Act” has led me at the very least one step closer to coming to terms with that very troubling and complex identity. 

Unfortunately, on Tuesday Aug.18, 2020, Minhaj announced that the show would be coming to a close. It was around 8:30 a.m., and I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram until I saw the dreaded post I had been afraid would come sooner than expected. In that moment I reflected on how much I loved “Patriot Act,” and how much it was a part of myself when I double tapped my phone screen to like the post. Devotion is an understatement in regards to how I feel towards “Patriot Act”; I think it’s safe to say that I am completely obsessed.

If I could have any birthday wish, I would thank Minhaj from the depths of my heart for not only releasing his show on my birthday, but for being staid in his values and delivery. He has inspired me unlike any other. My first genuine dream job was to be a researcher or writer for “Patriot Act.” While it may have been my favorite birthday present I have ever received, it came too early; it’s too bad you have to be eighteen years old to attend a show.

Clearly, I cannot stress enough how much I recommend “Patriot Act.” I cross my heart and hope to die that you will find a topic Minhaj covers that will be of interest to you and that it will be worth your time. “Patriot Act” has my heart, and, even though it is not my own, I do view it as an extension of myself. I am absolutely devastated that “Patriot Act” has been cancelled, especially considering I just started senior year and the last thing I need right now is the absence of something I love dearly. Deep down in my soul I know for a fact that the legacy of “Patriot Act” will not only continue in Minhaj’s future creative work, but also in myself.