In Defense of Patriotism

There’s a certain sentence that I don’t say around my friends. It’s a secret combination that I never say out loud, because if I do, it’s sure to unleash a tide of raised eyebrows and ‘Reaaaaaaaaaaaaally?’s, and a whole host of half-baked justifications and excuses will tumble out of my mouth. Reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally, it’s better to just keep it to myself.

Are you curious?

Do you want to know what the sentence is?

Okay, I’ll tell you, but just you, and you can’t tell anyone else.

I’m gonna whisper is, so lean in.

I love America.

Whoa! Don’t back away so quickly. I’m not a tea partier, I don’t have a collection of racist bumper stickers, and I don’t sing “Proud to Be an American” on the fourth of July.

I know why you’re freaked out. It’s because people who spend a lot of time talking about how much they love America throw it out there as an argument for why some social change is bad. They say, “I love my America and what it does for me, but I don’t want to pay taxes and I don’t want those people to change it.” Those people can be liberals, feminists, immigrants, whatever – it doesn’t change the sentiment. The loudest American lovers are the most afraid, but they don’t want people to see them as fearful or hateful. They want to lie to themselves and us and say, I’m acting like this out of love.

So, when I utter the forbidden three words, people think I must be like that. He who proclaims his love the loudest loves least, or at least that’s what Shakespeare taught us.

Image: Man on unicycle with American flag. People at Morro Bay, CA Fourth of July 2011 Celebration at Tidelands City Park, 04 July 2011. 
Photo © 2011 “Mike” Michael L. Baird, mike {at] mikebaird d o t com,

Because hell yes, I love my home country with all of the cheesiness of “This Land is Your Land”, with all the humble-bragging of “America the Beautiful”. And because I love my country, I want to make it better. I am a patriot, so I pay my taxes. In fact, I think paying taxes is an incredible civic duty, because it provides for the establishment of justice, ensures domestic tranquility, provides for the common defense and promotes the general welfare. Because I love my country, I embrace the best things about it and condemn the worst. Think about it this way – if America was a person, I would tell her that I think it’s great that she lets people say whatever they want without suppressing their ideas, and so willing to give people a second chance. But, then I’d tell her that because I love her, I’d tell her that I think she’s a little paranoid and maybe needs to learn to get along better with her neighbors.  I might also tell her that the poverty cycle is still a huge problem and that she really needs to look at how education is made available and how to incentivize it. Like you do with all your friends.

I want to change the face of people who love America. We are not vitriol-spewing xenophobes who yearn for an America where minorities are invisible. We are passionate, smart people who use our love to advocate for change. Am I appalled by unmanned drone strikes? Yes. Am I astounded that I can express that opinion freely and unfettered? Also, yes. Because we have all of the benefits this country has given us, like access to education, we are in the unique position to say, I love America, but not to the exclusion of everywhere else.

I’m an American. That’s how I was born and that’s how I grew up, and I am not ashamed of it. But love, as you all know (and get ready for the corny), is not like money – the more you give, the more you have. So I’m ready to say, hey world! This is America, always striving, always in the process of becoming, just like you. Hey world, we’re ready to work together, and we’re ready to turn our national pride into global pride.

So, here’s the moment of truth.

America, I love you. How do you feel?


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