Proud to be American, Even in Spain

Proud to be American, Even in Spain

Independence is our proudest asset

For Americans, the 4th of July is a big holiday to celebrate the pride and accomplishments of our great nation. There's often many barbecues, parties, and firework shows to go to, and even more family to see. (This could be because Americans look for any opportunity to celebrate, but that's besides the point). However, spending the 4th out of the country is a weird experience. I'm spending the holiday in Spain with a group of other American students, but it still feels weird to not be sharing it with my family and friends. While it is weird and I'm missing the opportunity to see friends and family, I don't feel like I'm being un-American by not having plans for the 4th. I don't feel like I'm losing my sense of patriotism just because I'm not celebrating. I actually feel like it expands my love for the country, and my appreciation for all I'm given in the life I live in the United States.

Spain is absolutely beautiful, and this is not about comparing Spain to America, but there are things I didn't even know I've taken for granted that I have in the US. Our country may not be perfect, and things may not always go the way we want them to, but that doesn’t make America bad. It makes me proud to know that we have the right to fight and speak out for what we need, want, and believe in so that we can improve the status and goals of our country as a whole. I feel proud to know that we can explore in areas near us, and go places far away to bring a mix of different influences, cultures, and experiences to combine into one great combination. I’m thankful for the people who fight, or have fought for our country to keep us safe, and find ways to keep us as safe as possible. Of course the world is scary, and we never know what can happen, but our America is a world that I try to look at with the mindset of progression and positivity. It can get pretty tough to live in an oppressive or derogatory country, but we are lucky to have the rights to make the changes we need in our country.

America has so many opportunities to offer, and so much to see. It’s a place where more people have the chance to make a life for themselves, and do what they want to do with their vision of the world. Being American is something that people joke about, but at the end of the day it really is something to be proud of. Our country has come a long way, and still has a long way to go, but we are making changes everyday to provide safety, opportunity, and pride to all of the people in the United States. Independence is our proudest asset, because we as individuals take pride in our individuality and ability to be different and still exist together. This is the thing I’m proudest of too, because we find pieces of ourselves in all the people we surround ourselves with, and allow them to influence us with their individuality too. Freedom isn’t always free, and for us it came at the cost of a lot of lives lost over the last 200+ years, but this is even more of a reason to understand that we are given something precious in this country, and we shouldn’t waste our opportunity for greatness. I’m proud to be an American, and I’m even more proud to represent the country as a student studying in Spain.

Cover Image Credit: Dave Navarro Jr

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I'll Take My Patriotism Without Your Nationalism

Because every Fourth of July a hefty dose of nationalism gets served next to the potato salad.

It's reached that point in summer when flags are flying everywhere, fireworks go off every night, BBQs are a daily occurrence, parades going on all in celebration 'Merica. But a far darker idea perpetrates this celebration, one that has always existed and has been lurking. It is a force that has come out in full force within the past year. That is the idea of nationalism. An idea which has been allowed to fester for too long.

Let's first define both patriotism and nationalism, figuring out what they would look like in practice. For this we are getting some help from out good old friends at Oxford. Patriotism is "The quality of being patriotic; love or devotion to one's country". Nationalism is defined as "Advocacy or support for the national interest of other nations. Also; advocacy of or support for national independence or self determination". They both sound pretty harmless and they both sound pretty similar. In fact they use to be used interchangeably. It's only by looking at historical use of the word and how the developed in the modern world that there is a difference.

First patriotism is a general feeling, nationalism is an ideology. Overtime patriotism has mostly been used to mean love. It has boarded on some questionable uses but has always come back to a general idea of love for one's country. Nationalism took a darker turn when it started to be used for as another word for egotism. Soon it also entwined religion into the mix as people started feeling this deep seated pride for both their country and their religion. During the Indian Independence movement race was brought into the definition. Later class was also added into the definition. I don't think many would that nationalism is a good thing.

But that still does not really give a feel for what the two manifest as. Patriotism would be love so taking up a life in public service to better the community, voting, taking time on days such as the Fourth to celebrate the freedoms we have, endorsing ideas which will move the country forward in a better direction. Nationalism on the other hand would be taking up a life in public service because you want to make America American again. Enjoying your freedoms but then thinking that allows you to impose your ideas on other (ie trying to not have evolution or sex education in class rooms because Jesus). Criticizing those who practice there rights to dissent with the phrase "if you don't like it just leave". Trying to undermine someone else's displeasure with the country because your eyes the country is perfect is not love.

There are so many other small ideas which exist in our daily conversations. This concept of a "real America", if it's in the borders of the country it is all real America. A sort of obsession with the armed forces and military power. The citizens who volunteer to do that job are amazing people. But idealizing our military might and war machine is just another form of nationalism. Any variation of the phrase about how the United States is the best country or was the best country or could be again. Nationalism is already connected with egotism, I feel like the connection is clear.

If it was just the crazy white supremacist groups espousing this everyday it would not be as much of an issue. But ideas of nationalism have worked there way into our ideas of patriotism. Patriotic songs focus solely around the armed forces and military power. Putting flags everywhere, which is also kind of weird. At the same time we also idolize our flag a lot. Talking about an idealized America or trying to get back to one. Of course any phrase which talks about how the United States is the best.

But why does this actually matter? These small, harmless showing of nationalism is hardly the same branch that causes the hate and xenophobia which nationalism is linked with. But these small, harmless showings of nationalism is what breeds the rot. Most people understand this countries faults. Most people understand the military is not what defines who we are. That you cannot trample someone else's life because you believe in a certain ideal. But the more we intertwine nationalism and patriotism the more we believe these small nationalist ideas. The more people who think it's okay to bomb a Jewish community center or a Mosque in the name of America. The more people who yell "Go back to your own country" to minorities. The more people try linking outdated ideas of race, gender, and religion into politics because to them that is "real" America. The more we allow nationalism into our conversations the more hateful and afraid this country gets.

So how do we stop it? First, we need to start thinking long and hard about our relationship to the country. Is it a healthy one where we understand it's strengths and weaknesses, see how we can make it better, can work to make it better? Or is it an unhealthy one where we see it as amazing? Or worse, an idea that it use to be great and now it is broken, that the people who broke it (being government, atheist, women, gays, non Americans etc) must be taken down? Patriotism and a healthy relationship is good, it is what moves the country forward as we work to make it a better place. Nationalism, even in small doses is bad. So go have a hot dog at the pool on the Fourth, just don't eat the nationalist rhetoric as a side.

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I Wish Fireworks Were Still Illegal In My State

Be safe and considerate with your firework shows.

I hate fireworks. Not all of them though. I enjoy getting up as close as I can to watch the shows on the 4th of July. I think the cities and towns put on an amazing display for the people to enjoy. However, what I hate is that in my state, it's legal to buy, own, and set off your own fireworks.

Someone in my neighborhood was setting some off the other night, and I was about ready to lose it for multiple reasons. First, it woke me up. I had been out all day going to several places and doing a lot of driving. I was tired, and I wanted to sleep as I would be getting up early the next morning. So now I'm awake, freaking out a bit as I have no idea what that incredibly loud bang was, and trying to figure out what was going on. It would be silent for a few minutes, then another one would go off. My window was facing towards wherever they were coming from so I figured out what it was soon enough. It would've been fine if they would just set them all off at once and get it over with. Instead, they were few and far between, and even at one point, I thought they were over and getting ready to fall back asleep, just for it to start back up again.

I posted on Facebook about my irritation and my sister commented how she was awake, and so were her animals. So she came over to my room. Her dog and cat both freaking out and scared. I don't blame them; it was loud and close and they've never really experienced that before. We've always heard them from farther away.

Between seeing the animals stressed, and thinking about how I kept jumping a bit at the unexpected noise of fireworks being set off, it got me thinking. How many other people have a very hard time dealing with this? There are countless animals around, veterans with PTSD, children who fear loud noises, adults with mental illness or their own history of trauma, and anyone who has trouble dealing with fireworks randomly going off. At least with the annual shows, you know where it's going to be, when it starts and ends, and can plan for it. However, when random people are just setting them off around you, you can't exactly plan for that. Now you're stuck trying to console someone and not knowing when it's going to stop.

I wish people weren't allowed to use fireworks. They're dangerous on their own to begin with, and you have no idea how badly you're effecting the people around you. I understand that in the moment you're not really thinking about that, I didn't really think about it either until my animals were scared. My brother and his fiance have 7 dogs and a baby in their house. Their dogs were terrified and they were on edge hoping their son wouldn't wake up. Firework shows are fine, you can plan. You can't plan or really do much else when they're just randomly going off around you.

The 4th of July is hard enough as it is. Places get crowed, people get scared, and it's actually one of the top holidays for pets to go missing. Adding in even more stress of a surprise show going off next door, it sort of takes the fun out of it all.

I wish fireworks were still illegal to own in this state, but I doubt that's going to happen. Instead I urge those who purchase them and plan to do their own show, be a little more considerate of those around you. Maybe check in with a few neighbors before you do it. Let them know when and find out if there is anyone near by that will struggle with the noise so that they could maybe leave for a bit, or at least prepare themselves.

Lastly, be safe. This stuff is dangerous. I recently heard on the news about kids getting burns from sparklers and a house catching on fire because of fireworks. Learn about the proper way to use them and don't mess around. I've seen plenty of prank videos that could've ended very bad.

Be safe and considerate with those fireworks!

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