Land of the free, home of the brave, and the place of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s how you see yourself, right? You’re young and you’re powerful. You’re 2,800 miles of pride and promise. And you know it.
You can thank colonialism for your abundance of pride and ego. You were colonized by European settlers and became a recognizable place of opportunity. People came to you in search of freedom – to practice their own religion, to provide for their families, to be free. And this “freedom for all” mindset is what feeds your pride. It’s what your citizens believe sets you apart from other countries. It’s what sparks the fireworks off on the Fourth of July every year and what made the American flag such an iconic and familiar pattern.
But let’s be realists; let’s look at the big picture. These promising and utopian ideals are flawed. You’re not just the land of the free and the home of the brave. You don’t really provide equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You didn’t in 1776, you didn’t in 1976, and you don’t today.
Your birth as a nation was polluted with immorality and corruption. You thrived partially because of a mass genocide on indigenous peoples, using white supremacy to validate the sacrifice of lives and cultures. There were over 10 million Native Americans living on your land before white settlers arrived, and that number dropped as low as 300 thousand by the 20th century. These are innocent lives being ripped from families and homes, cultures being destroyed and invalidated. The birth of your great nation wasn’t all about conquering success and freedom; it was bloody and it was immoral.
Then came slavery, a system that capitalized off of the pain of 12 million innocent people. This atrocity began at the start of the 17th century, when the first group of African slaves were shipped over to Virginia in hopes to aid the process of tobacco production. You were selfish and greedy, America; you were willing to work innocent people to death in order to achieve the most convenient and profitable lifestyle. And, again, you used white supremacy to validate these actions. Slavery is a system that may have lasted for 250 years, but it will never be erased from history; there are strong repercussions of racist attitudes and belief systems that will remain in the hearts of some of your citizens.
And let’s not forget about the complete stripping of Japanese Americans’ civil rights that occurred on your land as little as 70 years ago. The round-up of 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II was not very “American” of you. It was weak, it was unjust, and it was cruel. Innocent Americans were being forced from their homes because of their ethnic origin, an action that goes against everything you say to pride yourself on.
And, yes America, the past is the past. Every country has their highs and lows; every country has a dark part of history. But what about now? Have you really grown and learned from your past? Can you confidently say that you pride yourself in being a place where all your citizens can equally benefit from your prosperity?
Yes, part of you has grown and positively evolved. The number of self-identifying Native Americans has risen back up to 5 million. Slavery has been abolished and the Civil Rights Act has been passed; African Americans can now theoretically live full and free lives of their own – you’ve even seen your first black president. Japanese internment camps have been shut down, and your government passed legislation to award payments to survivors and repair damaged property. You’ve even worked to fix other injustices throughout the country, like marriage equality and women’s rights.
Basically, enough of your citizens complained about injustices for long enough to force you to fix them. But how much of it really got fixed? Are you truly the best America you can be, hundreds of years worth of mistakes later?
The truth is, you can’t proclaim yourself as being the place of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not when these ideals aren’t equally distributed to all your diverse citizens. America, your ideals are contradictory. They only benefit those who are privileged, whether that be because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or class. Sure, this privilege gap has been mended since the 17th century, but in no alternate universe is it gone.
Over 300 black Americans are being killed by your police force every year. Innocent Americans are being targeted and sometimes killed because of the color of their skin. Slavery may have been abolished, but black Americans are not truly free, especially in a place where they are 7 times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder and incarcerated than white Americans.
Under your current government, groups of people are being targeted for their religion. There was a ban on the entrance of Muslims instated by your new president. This order goes completely against the liberty you pride yourself on, but was supported by millions of your citizens. Where is your pride in equality and liberty during these times? It seems like you've quickly forgotten about the white settlers who came to you looking for religious freedom.
Transgender people are being confined to certain public bathrooms, men are deciding legislation for women’s bodies, and immigrants are being ripped from their home and families. Don’t forget that you’re a land of immigrants, that you promote equality, that you supposedly prioritize freedom.America, you’re not a bad place. You’re unique; you harbor a home for people from all parts of the world. You are the voice of millions of diverse experiences and perspectives. You are the birthplace of thousands of groundbreaking inventions, historical figures, and beautiful landmarks. Your ideals sit at the heart of every self-identifying citizen; you just can’t pick and choose who benefits from these ideals. So, no, we shouldn’t be aiming to make you great again, but achieve a new greatness, one that completely embodies the ethics you claim as your own in a way that is tangible for everyone.