Calm your patriotic ass down. Let me explain.
As a refugee who has made America her home for pretty much my whole life, I do love and appreciate this county. So much so that I became a citizen when I was 18. But as a person who was born in another country, and grew up in a household where we spoke the language of that country, and ate the food of that country, and followed a lot of the customs of that country, I love my birth country too.
Growing up with a foot in both worlds, I never fully felt or understood patriotism for either of my countries. And by that I mean the kind of patriotism that compels people to enlist in their military after a terrorist attack (nothing innately wrong with that; in fact a lot of naturalized citizens do end up serving in the military), or the kind of patriotism where people get upset over someone peacefully protesting during the national anthem. Did we forget that America was founded on protest and rebellion? (Also the genocide of Native Americans, but history is multi-faceted bitch and I don’t have the time to get into that now).
Patriotism has always been just a little bit odd to me. Growing up, I was never “offended” by having to stand for the national anthem or having to recite the pledge of allegiance every morning at school. But I always found it awkward. Am I really pledging allegiance to a flag? Why not to my fellow man? Why not for the grand ideals that America was founded on (even if it did fall way short of the mark, depending on the minority group you belong to).
People are reacting very emotionally about Colin Kaepernick‘s decision to not stand during the national anthem at football games. And a lot of this emotion has to do with one’s sense of patriotism. Many football players and even whole teams have since shown their support for Kaepernick and/or America during the national anthem before their games now.
Miami Dolphins players Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins kneel during the National Anthem prior to Sunday’s game. CREDIT: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Lauren Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman stand for their national anthem during the medal ceremony for the artistic gymnastics women’s team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
A similar controversy happened when American Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas didn’t place her hand on her heart during the medals ceremony. Douglas wasn’t trying to make a political or social statement; she thought she was being appropriately respectful. Regardless, some peoples sense of patriotism was entirely offended.
Again, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. It seems to me, the same people who are quick to comment on how “sensitive” and overly P.C. we’re getting as a society are the same people who are upset over football players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem because they have, what in their experiences and opinions are, legitimate grievances with the anthem itself, police brutality, and how minorities in general are treated in this country.
America is not a perfect country, nor is it the “best” or the “greatest” one. Those are relative terms that, depending on what you’re measuring, can be any country at any point in time. But America is and can continue to be a great country if we as its people can have an open dialogue, regardless of our differences, and make meaningful changes accordingly.
My outlook on patriotism is pretty simple: If you live someplace where you cannot thrive, whatever the reason, move to someplace you can. And for the people you are leaving, hopefully you are staying because you are thriving and not because you are inhibited to leave. And for the people in the places where you are moving to, be kind to your new neighbor. Give them time to learn your language and your customs. Most people do not make the decision to leave their homelands easily. The patriotism you feel for America is the patriotism they feel for their country. And you both have equal ground to stand on when it comes to taking pride in where you’re from. Or if you’re like me, pride in all the places you are from and all the places you still hope to go.