Can I Consider Myself a #ProudPatriot?

I don’t consider myself a patriot. The only reason I’m an American is due to complete luck. I had no say in the matter.

I also didn’t have a say in moving to Australia when I was twelve. I loved the country. There, I lived for seven years and like most teenage years, they very much defined me as a person. Living abroad allowed me to observe my native land through a foreign lens—a lens that many Americans have never considered before. Seen that way, the United States is not as beautiful and exceptional as it proclaims to be.

I did have a say in moving to Scotland when I was nineteen. There, I studied International Relations at St Andrews University. I loved the country, though it’s weather left something to be desired. Like most college years, they very much defined me as a person. Delving into American foreign policy from an international perspective hardly helps one foster feelings of patriotism. Seen through textbooks and lectures, the United States’ foreign intentions are nowhere near as pure and noble as they proclaim to be.

Yet I suppose I’m a hypocrite for what I’ve written so far. Because I’m confronted with the reality that, since I can remember, I have singularly pursued a career goal: to work in American politics. I have always felt a deep commitment to improve a society that I left when I was very young.

My parents and sisters, who all have dual Australian citizenships, find that somewhat peculiar. They like America and pay attention to its political scene, but when push comes to shove they have all chosen to live in in the land down under. I don’t blame them. Australia, in many ways, is the society I’m trying to impart upon America. They have health care for all. They have responsible gun ownership. And they have an economy that pays darn good wages to all (I was paid $20-an-hour to wash dishes in high school).

It’d be dishonest of me to say I wanted to be involved with American politics purely because of civic obligation, though. That exists, I’m not denying that. But when you live in different countries you recognize how influential America’s actions are to the rest of the world. American politics has a magnitude and importance that, from my perch, seems to be unmatched. Our political theater has an intoxicating sexiness, and like most sexual perversions, there’s a little bit of overindulgence and unease associated with it.

I must admit that Donald Trump and his malicious cadre of Republicans are pushing the limits of my commitment to America. I am struggling with how much I actually owe to this country. I am wrestling with questions of privilege and whether or not it is a cowardly move to give up on the nation. Is it unpatriotic to do so? Does it even matter if it is?

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “Every so often, in the midst of chaos, you come across an amazing, inexplicable instance of civic responsibility.”

This chaotic moment in American history has unveiled many such instances. There are so many people who display so much more courage and conviction than I could ever muster. I am saddened to say, though, that I’m not sure if I admire that level of civic responsibility or if I pity it. Does their commitment show passion that I do not possess? Or does it display their blind loyalty to one nation? After all, our nation was founded by the very people that did not have the patience to stick with their destitute homelands.

I suppose that’s where I find myself right now. Trying to understand what civic duty entails and whether or not it is a fool’s errand to try and patriotically repair our nation. After all, my impact on the nation is atomic.

These are not optimistic musings of a #ProudPatriot, like those put forward by my dear colleagues Paul Constant and Hanna Brooks Olsen. Yet, although we all begin from different starting points, we ultimately arrive at the same destination; that “it is our duty as Americans to make America better than it was yesterday.”

So perhaps that is the core of what it means to be a #ProudPatriot—the impulse to improve one’s nation. Whether you end up getting there via positive patriotism or negative patriotism is then inconsequential. In that case, maybe I am #ProudPatriot.