We have stood in front of the flag of the United States of America with our hands over our hearts from the moment we first stepped foot into a classroom. We are taught the great opportunities America provides every time we open up a history book. We’re told that our country is great, but so many of us are unsure of what it actually means to be American, especially in the current political climate.
For many in the younger generations, it has become increasingly more difficult to be proud of our American identity when it appears as though there is so much hatred and division in this country. Every day there is some new issue that the politicians, who we have elected on our behalf, can’t come to a consensus on. It’s starting to feel like we’re just fighting with each other because no one wants to hear what the other side has to say.
Even though most of us were raised on the idea that America is the best country in the world, sometimes we find it difficult to want to outwardly show patriotism. It has been engraved in us that America is always the winning and dominant nation.
However, we never truly hear about the failures of America since there are millions of people who are working tirelessly to make it appear like this country is the golden land, such as media outlets and a few large corporations. This has only created further tension because we start to freak out when things aren’t getting better overnight. We grow angry and take our frustrations out on each other because we’re disappointed in the fact that this country is not as perfect as we were initially taught it was.
But for some in the generations that have come before us, they tend to see it as more of a black and white issue. Your definition about what it means to be American is greatly shaped by your experiences. American identity is like an onion. On the surface, it seems so simple. But as you start to look deeper, you can see all the different layers that lie beneath. It’s much more complex than what first meets the eye.
Those who were alive during the height of the Cold War are going to see this country differently than those who grew up in post 9/11 society. At that point in time, America was the most powerful nation in the world; people took pride in that. But once we knew that we weren’t necessarily safe on our own soil, we’ve found it difficult to be prideful when something could go sideways at a moment’s notice.
Patriotism and pride have a direct link to powerfulness. The more powerful we are as a nation, the more pride people are going to feel. This idea displays itself marvelously during events such as the Olympics. People are willing to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” from rooftops and dress like they just jumped into a pool full of red, white and blue paint because they know we’ll come out on top on most events; we feel invincible and our pride expands along with that.
It’s hard to be prideful when it feels like we’re constantly falling short of the things we need to do to make the world a better place. But, while we can be disappointed more is not happening, we also need to be proud of how far we’ve come. We can no longer be concerned with being the best because then we’ll lose sight of where we need to go.
Being American means so much more than putting a flag outside your house and standing for the national anthem. It means petitioning the government to do better, speaking out against injustices and protesting for change. True American’s vote and take the time to listen to those around them. They take pride in American inventors and business owners and see every single day as a new opportunity to shape this country into one that truly reflects the will of the people.
Editorial Cartoon by CeciUrbanski