"And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up
Next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA"
- “God Bless the U.S.A.” lyrics, Lee Greenwood, http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leegreenwood/proudtobeanamerican.html
This song might have been played on the PA at my grammar school whenever there was a major national holiday approaching or if it was Veteran’s Day – a day which, I still don’t know about anyone else, but we never it got off. Maybe the teachers just wanted to have a learning opportunity, or maybe it was a mandated learning opportunity. Who doesn’t like a day off? Anyway, it was nice to hear some rock-'n'-roll-ish music at school once in a while.
I could talk ad nauseum about how the United Statesean (it’s rare I see anyone acknowledge that an entire two continents are technically “American”) education system teaches a story clearly written by the victors. It might have come up in high school, but it was only really emphasized in college that our “Manifest Destiny” was really just an excuse for an attempted genocide of the Native Americans. The Black Panther Party got a bad rap that I only learned in IB History was actually mostly caused by United Statesean intelligence that were afraid of a change in the status quo (read: all people getting equal civil rights). FDR may have done the New Deal but he also did the Japanese internment camps and refused Jewish refugees. Johnson may have passed the civil rights act but he also worked to shut down the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the only truly democratic political party in the state of Mississippi, because it didn’t fit his game plan for civil rights – never mind that he was a white man deciding who got to have civil rights or not. Clinton let the Rwandan genocide happen. Also, it turns out a lot of people didn’t like Martin Luther King, Jr. during his lifetime, and he did the same civil disobedience as today’s protestors, so saying “why don’t you be more like MLK so more people will like you?” is kind of hypocritical at this point.
Basically, we learned that no one is innocent.
And I had to learn most of this in college.
I keep getting reminded of this skewed history as I deal with a little over a month of a man who seemingly bought the highest office in the land and doesn’t have a clue of how to run it or how to take criticism. We are currently in the month celebrating Black History, February, which comes right before the month celebrating Women’s History, March. (Fun fact: August is also a month dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of black people due to major events in the civil rights movement taking place in August, but most people don’t know that.) These topics technically overlap a lot – black women didn’t get rights at the same time as white women, contraceptives, health care, and rights over their bodies is still less accessible to women of color, and many white suffragettes felt they had to “choose” between fighting for women’s rights or abolition of slavery (felt like getting punched in the gut by Susan B. Anthony when I learned that). But I guess we're still working on realizing that.
In this political climate, we’re often told to own up to the fact we now have a hypocritical criminal in office. Didn’t you vote for him? (The majority of us didn’t.) Why didn’t you stop his advance if you’re so upset about it? (I tried. I’m trying.) Oh come on, we've lived through worse. (Some people have and some people haven't, but either way I think this questioner's privilege is showing ...and maybe some selfishness.) Stop apologizing and own it! (What else am I supposed to do when people are getting hurt?!)
Aren’t you proud to be an American?
That’s a funny question.
I just told you a bunch of stuff the U.S. probably shouldn’t be proud of, times it did a lot more harm than good.
It also takes little more than a Google search or a hop over to social media to learn the latest human/civil rights violation that Trump has committed, sometimes via a good lawyer and a loophole in a constitution that I have to admit was created by more than a few slave owners and definitely all white, Protestant, landowning men. It was okay learning about it in school because I think we forgave our forefathers, for the most part, even before Hamilton the musical was a thing. They were all new to running a nation. Of course it wasn’t perfect.
I can be proud of some things that the United States has done, like suffragettes and civil rights and anti-war rallies and Roe v. Wade and gay marriage and veterans defending innocent Native Americans on sovereign land and, at one point, relatively universal health care. I can be proud of times we’ve put money towards the good cause of bettering the lives of those less fortunate. I can be proud when the United States actually stands for what it says on the Statue of Liberty: a home for all “huddled masses yearning to break free.” It sometimes happens, so I can be proud then.
But when it doesn’t, and when one man is sending us back in time with destructive legislation, taking away things that made me proud, I cannot, in good conscience, call myself a proud American.
I can only fight back and hope I can be a proud human being, a proud member of the human race. Technically, that is what the United States is supposed to stand for, but I guess it’s only if the people make it that way.
God please bless the U.S.A. indeed.