Opinion | You can love your country and critique it too

Dedee Droege
Politics Editor
@dedeedroege

I love being an American. Scandalous, I know. As a Prius driver who refuses to take down her worn-out Hillary 2016 poster, loving my country feels like Donald Trump’s cameo in “Home Alone 2” – out of place and mildly surprising. Among my fellow political junkies, it’s rare to hear positive comments about the American identity. Patriotism is simply out of fashion among young liberals, but despite the errors and flaws that floods our country’s track record, we need to rediscover a sense of community pride – fast.

If you’re remotely liberal, I probably don’t need to spell out why national pride is on the decline. We can look at any point in American history from underrepresented perspectives and find logical reasons to be concerned for the American identity. When European settlers arrived in North America, they clumsily expelled millions of advanced people already integrated into the land – mainly through murder, broken treaties and disease. Americans violently acquired the West through the delusion of Manifest Destiny.

We were one of the last Western nations to expel slavery before replacing it with segregation and we are nowhere near ridding ourselves of systemic racial abuse. We have an under-discussed history of imperialism and we have politically destabilized many smaller countries. The American government ignored the AIDS crisis for years, neglecting LGBTQIA+ deaths. Compared to other industrialized nations, we have a wide gender pay gap and we are one of the few modern countries that never had at least one female president. And yeah, there’s that one guy who’s currently in the White House.

After that liberal rant, how could I possibly find it in my heart to love America?

I believe it’s patriotic to want to do better. If we don’t passionately believe that we can change the systems that have failed so many, we will never create the inertia to achieve our goals. Patriotism’s absence is weakening our ability to rally the progressive troops.

I concede that as a white person from a middle class, supportive family, I am immune to many of the injustices bloating the American experience. Those of us born into an elevated position are obligated to recognize our status. But within that concession, there is room to seek out hope.

The American spirit is unique. We began with a rebellion against monarchy, rejecting the idea that certain people are inherently more worthy of power than others. Since then, every single person who has chosen to immigrate here shares an intrinsic sense of bravery and willingness to take risks, creating a collective identity that is powerful and innovative. Our government’s structure is a beautifully complex ecosystem of checks and balances, forever fighting on our behalf to protect us from untamed power. We nourish our right to freedom of speech. We invent and we create. We value the individual person and we defend the right to be ourselves. Those Americans who have suffered at the hands of their own country have endured the impossible and their strength persists. We have all of the tools we need to create a different, stronger version of ourselves.

It’s easy to argue with everything I just defended, but without finding reasons to support the United States, we will allow our sense of doom to deplete our efforts to save ourselves. We are living in a new era of globalization, commercialization and isolation and it’s painfully easy to lose our sense of community. But if we look inward and allow the best parts of the American identity to be the force that saves us, we can avoid the deterioration that comes with absolute pessimism.

I am proud to be an American because I know that the best version of ourselves is yet to come. We have to seek it out by celebrating our ability to construct a different future. So yeah, I’ll say it: let’s make patriotism cool again.