Pulse Orlando. Brock Turner. Donald Trump. Scrolling through my newsfeed the past couple of weeks has been rough. Really rough. The headlines of the articles my friends post, the reactions of social media as a whole to said posts, and the overarching hidden meanings of everything that has come to light recently are just depressing. How can the United States, a country that was once at the forefront of progress (using that word VERY lightly), be so blinded by systematic oppression of different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and more? It’s highly disturbing that Donald Trump, of course one of the most talked-about people in recent months, has gone so far with his presidential candidacy using nothing but bigotry and self-importance. Part of it might come down to his slogan. “Make America Great Again.” First off, I saw a response to that along the lines of when exactly America was “great,” given our violent history, oppression, and acts of genocide. While there is a fair point to be made there, the United States has created incredible things over the decades, both beneficial and terrible, and none of that should be insignificant. The slogan highlights the successes of our country, and it panders to right-wing nationalists that are becoming even louder than ever.
The term “patriotism” comes to mind right away. Post-9/11 United States arguably houses some of the most paranoid, prejudiced, and self-righteous (or country-righteous) citizens since the peak of the Cold War, most of them being on the conservative side of politics, at least from what I can tell. The left wing would condemn these citizens as close-minded bigots that are completely blind to many of the issues facing our country. I will not pretend that I have not entertained such thoughts as well. As the right-wing patriots are being attacked by liberals, they counter by saying the left wing are anti-America, that liberals are the real downfall of society. Unfortunately, the burning of the American flag at Trump rallies by those who do not agree with him completely supports the anti-patriotic accusations of the right against the left. It’s hard to counter that. We live in a polarized time, and the polarization is only increasing as the presidential race goes on, not only between Democrats and Republicans, but within both parties as well; Democrats have Bernie versus Hillary, and Republicans have Trump versus common sense.
This post is becoming a lot more political than I really meant it to be – I pulled all of that out of my ass, by the way – but I think I have enough setup to get to the point. I have thought about my own connection to the States and how to best approach being proud of my country. Here’s the thing: I’m not. Don’t stop reading here though. Shootings, privilege, rapes, polarization, oppression, everything I see on the news just makes me sad to be living in a country where apparently all of this is acceptable. It never seems to me that anyone is ever trying enough or working with other people in the right way to get things done as opposed to talking about the issues for a little while and then putting it off until something happens again (talking about guns here, people). It’s infuriating. And the fact that there are so many people who don’t see the issues is part of the problem. So how can I be a patriot if the country is FUBAR?
Because there is always a silver lining. I have talked about optimism and my faith in humanity in previous posts. The reactions I see from all of my friends to the Brock Turner case and the Orlando shooting are evidence that there are still people wanting to do good for this country and want to help alleviate the problems. It seems that more and more people I see are challenging the system, one of these people being none other than Bernie Sanders, who has mobilized so many new voters and started a movement that one can only hope carries over into future years and sway politicians. The followers of the Bernie movement see the potential that change has for the United States. I am proud to say that I voted for Bernie in the primary, and it makes perfect sense that I did. Because I’m a patriot. I’m not a patriot in the common sense, being proud of all that my country is and was, but I have faith in the potential of what the United States could be. I can still be a patriot and believe that the Constitution needs to be modified. I can still be a patriot and argue that capitalism doesn’t always work. I can still be a patriot and not approve of every single war we’ve been in since World War II. Because being a patriot means believing in what we can be, as a people. Not necessarily what we are. After all, we are the land of opportunity. Diversity is one of the most valuable things a nation can have. Nothing could possibly have more potential than those two things. This patriotism is kind of a recent realization for me; for awhile I have been worried that I don’t care enough about the country that I have grown up in and only see everything that’s going wrong as another reason to distrust our society. What am I missing that the other so-called patriots have completely figured out? There is definitely no answer to that, but being able to have patriotism in common with others feels good, at least in my own way.
The notion that we live in a great country is not crazy. The United States’ history is unique in many ways, and there are things to be proud of. I understand where “classic” patriots are coming from. There just has to be common ground somewhere. Again, we live in a highly polarized time. I think people focus too much on what is happening right NOW and not enough on what WILL happen, especially if we can find solutions to problems and those who care remain diligent about finding said solutions. The New Patriots are here, even if they don’t realize it, and I think that potential we all want so desperately to reach can be attained.
How’s that for word vomit?