Proud to be American?

I’m not proud of being an American.  I’m not ashamed, but I’m not proud.  Why would I be proud because of the country I was born in?  I am not superior to anyone because I was fortunate enough to be born into a place where, even though my family was rather poor, we were filthy rich by world standards.

That said, I think living in the United States (because America is a continent, not a country), is pretty awesome.  The prosperity we’ve enjoyed and freedoms we TRY to maintain are pretty great.  I love the 4th of July, I love the flag, I love our national anthem.  All the patriotic hoopla makes me feel very lucky.  Lucky, but not proud.

Again, I’m not ashamed either.  I think the whole concept of nationalism is rather stupid.  I’m proud and ashamed of my own actions, not those of the people making policy decisions, or the people who made policy decisions before I was even born.  I’m proud when someone I vote for seems to do good for people, because I made what I feel was a good decision to vote for them.  I am not proud of their individual achievements or good legislation, because it’s not as if I had a hand in that.  I’m ashamed some politicians I’ve voted for didn’t live up to my expectations, because then I feel I let myself be fooled.  I wish all our politicians were elected nationally, so that a certain block of politicians that answer only to a small number of constituents would be more inclined to make policy for the benefit of the majority, but that just isn’t the way it is.

I get that our system isn’t perfect.  I understand that real reforms need to take place.  But I really like that many of us are still trying to live up to the ideals we claim to represent.  Am I proud of that?  No.  I can only be proud when I do things that live up to the ideals I try and represent.  I can be happy about things, without being proud of them.

One of the things I dislike about the US is our consumer culture.  Yet one of my favorite television shows is The Price Is Right-a show all about and dedicated to consumerism.  It is a dichotomy many of us live with.  We detest something, but still contribute to it.  I like The Price Is Right because Drew Carey, George, and the models seem to genuinely want the contestants to win.  They want the people playing, in the audience, & watching television to be happy.  The fact that getting stuff is what makes them happy, is a fact I have to ignore to enjoy the show.

To pretend I’m not a part of it would just be lying.  I’m not proud of that.  I like to have the things I possess, and I readily admit that I wish I had more things.  There is an image of US citizens as greedy and lazy.  And many of us are.  I think there is a line I have where I could recognize when enough becomes too much, & I hope I’m right.  There are many people here who don’t seem to have that line, but I’m not ashamed, because that is not me.

The country I live in has a very long history, for being such a young nation.  It is a history full of contradictions.  We advocate democracy, yet for most of our history we have denied people the vote (& are still trying to, in some states).  We speak of freedom, but had legal slavery.  We say that all men are created equal, yet still can’t seem to put that idea into practice.  We claim to be the home of the brave, yet push through into horrible foreign policy actions by exploiting our fear.  We condemn attacks on civilians as terrorism, yet we had no problem firebombing Dresden and Tokyo, & dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki.  We also don’t speak up when our allies do not even attempt to mitigate “collateral damage.”  We even use the term “collateral damage” to deflect away the thoughts of innocent dead.  We believe in self-determination unless people determine they’d rather live in a way contrary to our “interests” (usually economic), & then we are all too happy to undermine or institute a coup.

But I’m not ashamed.  We’re not evil.  Most of us had nothing to do with this.  We simply live our lives the best we can.  Many of us even tried to prevent the darker actions of our history.

The United States is not a perfect union.  I do believe that most of us still strive to form a more perfect union.  When we, as individuals do that, we should be proud.

Just the same, if you don’t live in the United States, you also should not be ashamed or proud.  I bet your country has many accomplishments as well as many failures in its history.  That is something we all likely have in common.

Your behavior is what makes you good or bad, not the place you live or the beliefs you hold.  If you do good, be proud of that.  If you make a mistake and do bad, be ashamed of that.  It is on you, not your country, another’s country, your religion, another’s religion or lack of religion, etc…

Own your actions.  Try to make yourself proud of you.  Count yourself among the lucky if you love where you live.  But don’t be proud of it.


Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

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