I am a patriot. That’s not something that a lot of people in my generation, especially in a place like City High, would say. It’s strange to me that so many young people actively reject patriotism, because their activism, community involvement, and awareness would seem to indicate otherwise. It’s a little troubling to me, because it indicates a deep division within America and within the way Americans view their own country. Many people in the United States are too quick to reject their own country, even if their hearts are in the right place.
Of course, this is not to say that someone has to be a patriot. But I also think that people, in their haste to reject patriotism, harm the causes they seek to support. Many liberals distance themselves from patriotism because such pride is irrevocably linked to nationalism and conservatism in their mind. However, what they don’t realize is that they are, in effect, seceding America, or at the very least the ideal of America what should be like, to the very people with whom they disagree. By abandoning all overt pride in their country and the ideal, we are in essence conceding that the conservative vision of America is the true one. We are conceding that conservatives and conservative ideals represent America, that they are the true Americans, and that their America is the true America, even though it’s not the America we want to see. It gives conservatives power over the American narrative and control of our national identity, despite the fact that a liberal America is just as true to American values, if not more so, than a conservative one.
Likewise with those who look upon America’s long and often shameful history and reject any sort of national pride. Because of slavery, because of the institutionalized racism, because of the sexism, because of the homophobia, they won’t be proud of America. Although such people’s hearts are in the right place, their actions seem wholly counterintuitive to me. Yes, the slave owners, the lynchers, the KKK, the Jim Crow-ers, the sexists, and the homophobes were all American. But do you know who else was? The slaves. Martin Luther King Jr. Harriet Tubman. Rosa Parks. Frederick Douglass. Every single black American who stood up against injustice. The LGBT+ community and every single woman who did the same. By rejecting America in the name of the wrongs done to them, these people perpetuate the idea that the people who stood up for their rights in this country are somehow separate from America itself. Such a mentality accepts that America belongs to the white cisgender male and that therefore these people are less American and less representative of its ideals. It’s an unintentionally ironic outcome, given that it is the precise opposite of the cause which these people are attempting to support.
America’s bloody past is the strongest argument against patriotism. Such a sentiment is beyond understandable, because even if those wronged were Americans too, it doesn’t erase the way that our government, our society, and the majority of Americans behaved and believed. However, there is not one nation on this Earth that doesn’t have a stained history. I don’t think you can be proud of a country without also taking on the burden of responsibility for what it’s done. By taking pride in the United States, you’re giving yourself an identity as a member of this country, allowing yourself to speak up for change, and taking pride in the good things that it has done, even though you weren’t directly involved.
By doing this, you also have to bear the burden of the evil, because you cannot be selective about your citizenship. That’s not how being a responsible member of society works.
However, the converse is also true. I don’t think you can accept the historical shame and responsibility of righting past wrongs in this country without also taking pride in the good. National identity doesn’t work on a timeshare. Certainly, it doesn’t make much sense to only take responsibility in the bad, because national identity is not founded on the negatives, or guilt, or blame. It is founded on pride.