I was the perfect image of a patriotic American. Or so I thought.
I knew all the words to the National Anthem and sang along during baseball games. I owned not one, but two American flag-emblazoned shorts, which I unashamedly wore throughout Michigan's summer months (all two of them). I had made the journey to my nation's capital a whopping total of three times. I posed in front of statues of my nation's heroes and worshiped my war-hero grandfathers.
I slipped on a poised facade of patriotism, but the part of me I had tried frivolously to suppress all those years was the very real part of me that resented my country.
I resented the way our two-party system divided us -- making me despise my peers while they simultaneously despised me.
I resented my country's fixation with war. A resentment that pointedly intensified when the first boy I'd said 'I love you too' became the first boy I'd say goodbye to when he left for Army boot camp just weeks after our one-year anniversary.
I resented the fact that my country viewed its citizens as means of acquiring money -- believing us to be fodder for the hungry beast and nothing more.
Unlike those before me who blindly loved their country, I saw it as it was -- in all its flawed glory.
I was struggling to find my patriotism, a fact I was quite ashamed of.
However, the great thing about America is you don't have to love it. Unlike many countries, there is not any sedition laws in place. You will not be punished for lack of patriotism.
However, if you only knew what occurred outside our borders, you'd know just how easy it is to love this country of ours.
In only took me a six-hour flight and 5,000 miles to fall in love with my country all over again.
I, like many of my peers, have taken clean water for granted. We turn on the faucet, and we drink the water that pours out, without hesitation, without worry.
We take long showers, confident that the water we're submersed in is clean and limitless.
We brush our teeth with the water. Wash our faces in the water. Cook with the water.
We get in our air-conditioned cars and bestowed in front of us is countless restaurant after restaurant. The food we eat may occasionally upset our stomach's, but it never causes dysentery. And certainly not death.
Our water is clean. Our food is clean. Our lives are easy.
However, the ease in which we live our lives is not felt by our comrades overseas -- something I quickly picked up on during my trip to the Dominican Republic.
My trip was marred with unease and fear over the food and drinks I consumed, but it was with aghast horror that I realized, the fear I was seemingly crippled by for a week, paled in comparison to the fear residents of the Dominican Republic felt every day.
Every day they'd take the chance of drinking water that may make them sick.
Every day they would get on their motorcycles or hop on their horses to go perform manual labor jobs in the sweltering heat.
As an American, this was something I was not subjected to, and probably never would be.
I was blessed, and I hadn't realized it until I saw how others lived their day to day lives outside of American borders.
My patriotism was restored, and my love affair with my country began again -- it only took 5,000 miles to realize what was right in front of me all this time.