Proud to be an American?

I am extremely proud to be an American.

When I was elementary school age, I read a lot of biographies of famous Americans, and some of them included presidents and other patriots. This instilled in me a sense of what it was to be an American. I was proud to be a part of a nation that was founded on the ideals of freedom and equality. I understood that people laid down their lives for what they believed in – fighting for my freedom.

Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president, hands down. I have read the most about him, and so I'm very familiar with the Civil War and also slavery. I completely understand that our nation has NEVER been perfect – not in its infancy, and certainly not now. Many people suffer extreme injustices in this country, and when I read about some of the historical injustices that have happened, it makes my heart pound in anger and outrage.

This doesn't stop my patriotic heart, though. I have been blessed by being born in a country where my religious freedom is guaranteed. Where I can say what I want without fear of retribution. Where I'm embraced by wonderful communities who believe that anyone can improve. Where I believe that I can make a positive contribution to the world even in my somewhat limited circumstances. Where I thrive in a culture that promotes trying again and again and again.

Our founding fathers tried to set up a government that could handle anything, but they knew they weren't perfect, which is why our Constitution has been amended a couple dozen times or so. I think that this is the heart of being an American. It's knowing that there is always room for improvement. We don't get it right immediately, but we can try again tomorrow.

That is why my patriotism is unaffected by who occupies the White House. There are still huge injustices in my country. But, I have faith, hope and perseverance that these can be corrected, and if they can't be made right, that we can make sure they don't happen again to someone else.

I think it's a little nuts that synonyms for patriotism include nationalism and xenophobia. I feel like especially the word "nationalist" has gotten really negative undertones (and overtones) as of late. It's almost like nationalist, at least in America, is a code word for white supremacist. While I am proud to be an American, I don't necessarily consider myself a nationalist, but I believe it is important to love and respect where you come from so that you can love and respect where others come from. There is that tender scene from The Sound of Music where Capt. Von Trapp gets emotional singing "Edelweiss," because he realizes that his country, allied with Nazi Germans, is not something he can be proud of in the same way, though he still loves the Austrian culture, the people, and the physical land of his nativity. That always gets the tears flowing for me, because I relate to wanting to be proud of where I come from as well. And I think people should be connected to where they are from. In the movie, Black Panther, I feel that this type of patriotism is embodied in the phrase, "Wakanda forever." It seems natural and valuable for these characters to love their country.

If I were to say, "USA forever," I don't hold it up in a way that vanquishes or conquers any other countries or cultures. I say it in a way that I would want anyone else of a different nationality to say it about their own country.

Freedom. Equality. Justice. Perseverance. These are the things that America stands for. I will always love America, even when she is imperfect, because I know that she tries again the next day to get it right. As Americans, we have a voice, and we can all play a part to make tomorrow better than today. This is where I come from: America. I did not have a say on how this land was conquered and colonized, and I did not choose to be born here. But I do have a choice to help make this place better through my words and actions. I respect my nation, at the heart, because I want to have that same respect and understanding for all nations.

I will always sing the national anthem at ballgames, patriotic events, and church meetings. I will always cry whenever singing or hearing the third verse of "America, The Beautiful," no matter how many times I've heard it. I will always honor the memory of those who have fought and/or died for my freedoms. I will always be proud that even if we don't believe the same things as each other, that we can use our freedom of speech to better understand each other. I will always be a patriot!