"The land of the free and the home of the brave"—beautiful, intense propoganda for a country founded not on the brave but rather those who lived their lives in fear: Native Americans, slaves, women, and people of color, to name just a few.
Okay, okay, for as passionately as I believe that, maybe I'm starting too strong. Like, strong enough to the point where you can probably tell I'm a liberal arts college student with a Tumblr account. Let it be noted that I was born and raised in America, and I'm very proud of that. I love drinking beer and eating a cheeseburger like any other slightly-to-excessively-overweight, iPhone-obsessed citizen. I love trashy reality TV and using the word "fuck", 'cause, hashtag 'Merica. More importantly than those things, I love that I live in a place where gay marriage is (finally) legalized. I love that I can do and say whatever I want (beyond, you know, threatening and/or endangering other people). I love that as a female, I can get a divorce and an abortion and vote in the same day, if I want to.
And before I get into what I am about to say, let me say this: I recognize the freedom that I have as an American, and I am perpetually grateful for it. I am proud of the fearless people that risked or gave their lives fighting for me and for the millions of other people that call this country "home". I am thankful for the struggles that they endured that I will never know and fully be aware of. I grieve for the soldiers whose lives were forever altered and changed at war, and I grieve for their families. I recognize that without the people that have been defending this country since the day it began, I would not stand where I am today. I owe my life to these people and I always will.
However, I recognize this while also recognizing that America is a country responsible for the genocide of millions of Native Americans.
I am proud to come where I come from (a country that has always protected me and fed, clothed, and sheltered me) while also being aware of the fact that the place I come from is a place built on the backs of slaves.
I realize that, historically, the oppression Americans have faced has been all too real if they weren't white, straight, male Americans.
And while I cut into a festive cake with strawberries and blueberries shaped into the American flag this fourth of July, watching my little cousins run around in matching red, white, and blue Old Navy t-shirts, I will do so knowing that as great as this country is, well, we fucked up and we seem to keep fucking up. Don't believe me? Our choices for the next President are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Donald. Trump. And. Hillary. Clinton.
If this isn't enough to convince you, (and it should be) look at all of the mass shootings we've experienced as a nation. Look at the "Black Lives Matter" movement that has stemmed from the countless acts of violence acted out towards black Americans still to this day (and there are so many people that claim/believe racism no longer exists, ha). Look at the (joke that was) the "All Lives Matter" movement that countered it, which died down a few weeks later at the talk of helping Syrian refugees (I guess 'all lives' don't matter after all, right?) Look at how easily Christians freak out at the talk of eliminating "one nation, under God" in the pledge of allegiance—because "we have the right to freedom of religion, and it's, like, in the Constitution and everything"—but automatically deem anyone whose religion is Muslim a terrorist. These are just a few ways that, as a country, we have recently gone wrong.
We live in America: "the greatest country in the world," and we're all so proud of that. But the blind nationalism we practice, that gets amplified on holidays like the fourth, is turning a blind eye to the corruption that millions of people have fallen victim to as a result of our beloved United States.
If we are truly the land of the free, and if we are really the home of the brave, it's time we start taking initiative to properly own those titles—it's time we started owning what it means to be "free" and, above all, it's time we start acting brave.