I Love My Country — Even When It’s Not So Loveable
Being patriotic is sometimes difficult, but I’m hopeful it’s going to get better
My husband and I just returned from a fabulous vacation to South Dakota and Wyoming. The scenery is gorgeous, with hours of uninterrupted craggy mountains and magnificent wild animals.
We live in Michigan with its ocean-like great lakes and untamed Upper Peninsula. We both grew up in metropolitan New York among its skyscrapers reaching to the heavens and its melting pot population. We’ve been to almost all the states — Iowa’s unending corn fields and pig farms, Hawaii’s lush surfing paradise, California’s Pacific view and vineyards, the different jazz sounds of New Orleans, Memphis and Kansas City, Florida’s two coasts and, of course, Disneyworld!
America has beaches, mountain ranges, deserts, prairies and grasslands, big cities and small. It is a cornucopia of sights and sounds and smells. We’ve been to other nations as well but I wouldn’t trade my country for any of them.
So why do I feel like my love of country has been co-opted by so called “Patriots?” I too am a patriot, proud of America for all that it is and all that it could be. I am a moderate to liberal Democrat who realizes that, while we live in the greatest country in the world there is still much to do to improve.
I don’t feel like I can display an American flag for fear that I will be mistaken as a right-wing bigot. When I see a flag planted on someone’s lawn now I shudder. Often, that flag is partnered with a Trump 2020 Make America Great Again banner. Since 2016, or perhaps before, since Trump decided to run for president, the America I love has been upended by hatred of foreigners, non-Christians and Democrats (so-called socialists and communists), and in this time of COVID, a refusal to care about our fellow citizens and mask up.
A desire to coexist and compromise has been replaced by an unbending vitriol from the right. Republican leaders have hooked their wagons to a loathing and loathful misogynist, intent on espousing any principle that will best serve him.
When the United States was attacked on September 11, we were all Americans, all displaying our flags and our patriotism. How dare any country or group harm us or what we stand for? And what did we stand for? What were we attacked for? For an openness to ideas and beliefs, a willingness to embrace people of other countries, a love of science and the earth.
But here we are now. Fox News champions division, personal freedom over community responsibility, and echoes anything Trump says about the non-Fox media as fake news. Trump did not make America great again. His policies, seconded by his lackeys in Congress, have dirtied the air and the waters, made the poor poorer and the rich immeasurably richer, made hatred of others not like “us” acceptable and commonplace, sickened and killed hundreds of thousands from COVID, and is attempting to disenfranchise “ethnically other” voters.
It’s hard to be patriotic with so much hate and divisiveness. It’s difficult to love a country that has become so unloving. But I have faith that things can — and will — improve. I have faith that patriotism isn’t just lip service to a fascist but a belief that our country is strong enough to survive what currently divides us. I have faith that those who kneel for the flag love our country just as much as those who put their hands over their hearts, because they see how much better we can become and they have faith that it will.
America was not made great again. But we can all Build Back Better.