Patriotism in Today’s America

Patriotism in Today's America

Photographer: Joshua Nathanson

Edy MacKenzie, Opinions Section Editor

The United States of America was founded on many basic principles of liberty, justice, freedom, and happiness, but it’s common knowledge in today’s day and age that our nation’s founding fathers did not apply these rights to everyone. Considering their shared demographics of being white and male, the first American leaders never awarded minority populations the representation that could have won them justice during our country’s founding years. They had to, and still have to, fight for their place in government, in order to create fair lives for themselves. Because of the hypocrisy in “all men are created equal” and the harsh treatment of marginalized groups at the time, America was built on deep systems of inequality, the most notable being slavery, that have never really disappeared in full; individuals today still suffer from the social constructs instated centuries ago. Problems as deep as humanity’s need for hierarchy will never disappear in a night, or even a century, but require constant applications of fairness and acceptance. One of the most profound modern-day examples of these injustices finding their ways into present-day life is police brutality against Black-Americans, however, they arise in many other areas as well.

As the murders of black people such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have come to shock the American people this past summer, it becomes harder and harder to be proud of or to defend this country. Then there are those that simply deny these cruel injustices and their prevalence in our nation, claiming undying patriotism and adoration for the United States. In these times, there’s a battle between love and hate for America, and no one really wins. 

It’s not a crime to have pride in your country and your experiences as an American. However, true patriotism stems from the want to improve your nation, rather than leave it in a state of unrest. You would simply be wrong to deny the deep faults woven into some of our biggest working systems. It would be unwise to argue complete American superiority when we are ranked 15th in quality of life. We have a ways to go before the United States is at all perfect, and working towards making it a better place for all is the most patriotic act possible. 

The white men that wrote our Declaration of Independence and Constitution in the eighteenth century had many terrible faults. They owned and profited from the work of enslaved peoples, as well as perpetuated racist and sexist beliefs. Yet even they understood the importance of rising against injustices and working towards a better future. They started a whole Revolutionary War, that was anything but peaceful, so that they could be treated equally and with respect. In the words of Thomas Jefferson himself, “Every generation needs a revolution.” It’s our job as the current young population of America to make the future a more welcoming place — to move forward and promote change.

Written in the preamble to The Constitution is the goal of the document, which would determine American life for the centuries to come, “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” The founding fathers, all those years ago, were looking to improve the country they served, the government they took part in. They acknowledged that the new nation they were attempting to build, essentially from scratch, might have faults and need reform in time; proven by their use of “more perfect,” rather than just simply “perfect.” Should we not fight for freedom, equality, and an overall improved nation, when doing so would honor our beginnings and the principles of our government more than anything else?

In providing more examples of what truly represents justice and liberty in this country, it is more patriotic to wear a mask to protect the safety of fellow citizens than it is to “exercise your freedoms” and go mask-free. It is more patriotic to peacefully protest for change, considering it is the first amendment, than to fight against this right. It is more patriotic to become informed and generate your own opinions on the world, rather than to repeat those of your parents or the news sites you most frequently consume. It is more patriotic to exercise your right to vote, to provide truthful information, to want justice for those different than you, instead of listening to lies and hate. America was built off of rebellion and change, creating a more fair environment, and following the truth. The terms freedom and liberty stretch beyond the personal level, but to others and the work we can do to make this country a better place for everyone. To do the opposite of these things in America’s name is frankly embarrassing and inaccurate.

It is normal to be frustrated and disappointed with America right now, to not be proud of the name or the flag or what it all represents. It is not a crime or an injustice to your country to want it to change, to promote this improvement, to work towards a brighter future for all. Respecting others and wanting better for yourself as well as those around you is something of which to be infinitely proud. 

On the other hand, ignoring this change and wishing for the country to stay the same is the opposite of supporting America. The most patriotic people, including our own founding fathers, own up to the many terrible problems of our nation and seek ways to fix them. It’s time we stop pretending our country is perfect, honoring the ideas upon which it was built, and try to bring them into action. Liberty and justice for all can only be achieved with awareness, determination, and true American spirit.