In the above video, college students are asked if they are proud to be American. Most of their responses reflect the results of a Gallup poll released this week indicating that Americans are less patriotic than ever. As today is the Fourth of July, I have thought about my response to this question:
Yes, I am proud to be American.
I am proud to be the descendant of Europeans who arrived on the North American continent with a vision of what could be. At that time, America did not exist. It was an untamed wilderness, sparsely inhabited by unconnected tribes of primitive nomads who, in all the time they had been there, never built anything enduring nor invented anything benefiting greater humanity. The first Americans were not immigrants, they were explorers, adventurers and pioneers. Out of that wilderness, they built a home that grew into a rich and powerful nation.
It is because of their efforts and achievements that we Americans have the luxury to enjoy the fruits of their labor while taking everything for granted. None of us would even be who we are today without them. And, if the huddled masses of wretched refuse who are immigrating, seeking asylum and illegally crossing our borders are any indicator, America is indeed a highly desirable destination. After all, nobody is proud to live in a shithole.
Of course, like any country, America has a history that is not without its fair share of bloodshed. Many of those tribal people died when Europeans showed up. Some unintentionally, from disease, others through deliberate slaughter. I’d like someone to point out the country where conquest and widespread slaughter have never occurred. And since when did anyone have to apologize for or feel guilty about strength and victory? I am proud to be on the side of the victors. I have never heard of a proud loser.
As we all know (and will never be allowed to forget or be forgiven for), slavery is also a regrettable part of America’s history. Unlike an astonishing number of other things, such as the automobile and airplane, America did not invent slavery. However, we did abolish it. I wonder if some of those un-proud young people in the video are aware that slavery is still alive and well in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East?
America did not merely abolish slavery. The descendants of African slaves who became free men were given the right to vote, and in 1964, equal opportunities via the Civil Rights Act, which made discrimination on the basis of race and color against the law. For eight years we even had a black President (well, half black, anyway). Yet for some reason, the only part of all that history anyone seems interested in recalling is the slavery.
But we didn’t stop there. America even established affirmative action, which allows unqualified “people of color” to take jobs from white people who are qualified. Strangely, in America, it is only legal to discriminate against white people. You know, the only ones who supposedly benefit from unearned privilege.
The truth is, black Americans today enjoy a quality of life better than what they would have in any black majority country on Earth. I am proud that America is the only county in the world that has gone to these lengths in an attempt to make up for the wrongs of the past. I am disappointed that none of them seems to have had the intended result.
I am proud to be an American because of what our country means to so many people around the world. I’m not talking about freedom and democracy, I am talking about a way of life. A worldview. And above all, the possibility for something better. Right or wrong, people want to live like us. They want to look like us. They want to be like us. America captures the imagination and inspires people. As far as I know, nobody feels that way about Liberia or Venezuela. I am proud that America has such a massive and often positive influence on so many people around the world, even those who never get a chance to go there.
When I meet people from other countries, I often hear Americans described as warm, friendly, positive, funny and open. To me, that sounds like the kind of person I would enjoy being around. I assume most people feel the same. Who wants to hang around with someone who is aloof, cold, humorless and pessimistic? Again, millions of immigrants can’t be wrong—they are risking their children’s lives to get into our country, live on our block and send their kids to our schools. We must be doing something right.
That so many people are not proud to be American is deeply troubling. After all, if you are not proud of who you are, you are not proud of your people and you are not proud of your country. If you take no pride in who you are, you will do nothing to stand up for yourself, your people or your country. That can lead only to ruin.
I am proud to say that I will stand up for America, for its people and for what it represents. I owe it to the men who built our country and to the generations of Americans to come. It is our patriotic duty to instill in our children all the qualities that make America truly great. These are not found in the Constitution or the government. They are within every one of us and make us who we are as Americans. This is the true source of our pride.