Awhile back I was thinking a little bit about the idea of loving my country as I keep learning more about history and learning how pervasive some of America’s problems are.
I had a sort of lightbulb moment that might not be out of place in a Sorkin TV show: there are two different ways you can see America. You can see the America that was home to slavery for centuries, the America that only let rich white male landowners vote, the America that refused to allow gay people to marry. Or, you can see the America that was able to overcome each of these things.
But that isn’t enough anymore for me.
From an economic perspective, America’s been awfully good to me. I have been able to live a life where my success has been correlated with the effort I put in over the years. There are a lot of other countries where these same skills and work wouldn’t have gotten me nearly as far as it has here, and I don’t think there’s anywhere else I could have been born and had a greater outcome than here in the US. I think a lot of people feel that, and that gives them a lot of national pride.
But for every one of me in America, there are several people who don’t get that same level of opportunity. America doesn’t do enough for those people.
America is full of deep issues. There is serious inequality everywhere you look, and not just economic inequality. There is inequality in people’s access to democracy itself with long time systems like the electoral college and the fact that the Senate gives some voters substantially more representation than others. Hell, we have entire subgroups of our population that are terrorized by law enforcement.
America isn’t great just because a good sized chunk of people have been able to be relatively well off. America’s impressive accomplishments alone can’t keep making up for the serious ways we are falling short.
So I don’t think my love for America is unequivocal anymore. Rather, my love for America now extends as far as America is able to continue being that country that evolves to live up to the ideals of meaningfully offering liberty and justice for all.
I refuse to let anyone insist that anything less than that is the best I should be able to hope for, and you shouldn’t either.