Because of America’s unique government, this democratic republic has fostered more growth, ingenuity, and security than the modern world has ever seen. But a recent USA Today poll said that while 90 percent of Republicans surveyed said they were proud to be Americans, only about 71 percent were proud of America. Not surprisingly, the numbers are even lower among Democrats polled (61 percent were proud to be Americans and 22 percent were proud of America right now). While Trump’s roller-coaster presidency has inspired a new debate about nationalism, populism, and the relationship between the two, it should still be okay to have pride in America and be proud to be an American. That’s not eerily sinister, that’s patriotic.
It’s en vogue now to be critical of America and even to be slightly, if not completely, ashamed of being an American. Hollywood stars regularly tweet about their disdain for the country where they have the freedom to criticize her while enjoying enough wealth and popularity to rejuvenate the entire country of Venezuela. That they miss this irony altogether just makes their comments that much more amusing.
It’s one thing to be critical of America as a whole because a person dislikes the current party in charge and their politics; it’s another to disdain America because of a president (who changes every four years). When Barack Obama was president, I didn’t particularly enjoy his healthcare policy, his SCOTUS appointees, or his lax view of national security. That said, I was no less proud to be an American. Why? Where else, exactly, would I want to live? What other country does what America can?
The fact of the matter is, while America as a democratic republic may or may not struggle in this current political climate, depending on perspective, she is still a land built on democracy, with the blood, sweat, and tears of immigrants, secured by the liberty men and women have paid for with their own blood and which continually creates a land of opportunity for those courageous enough to test their ideas and passions in the dirt of the free marketplace.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” isn’t just a phrase Thomas Jefferson thought would sound cool in the document that declared America officially independent from England. Those words were the building blocks of a system of government no one had tried before. This system has turned out to be the most successful startup in the history of startups. In a literal sense, some of the most successful, influential companies in the world started and continue to operate in the United States, not because capitalism is terrible but because it has allowed the freedom people need to innovate, create, test, fail — and finally try again and succeed.
In a more figurative sense, in America, we as a collective people are generally free not just to create and build but to learn, teach, express, protect, secure, and defend ourselves and others. A democratic republic lets the people choose and choose we still do: the importance of this incredible concept cannot be overstated. Where else can you tweet from your iPhone that you hate this country as you sip a latte in a Starbucks — and know you can do it all again tomorrow without real fear of retribution? Freedoms like this exist because “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was an idea a group of oppressed British men and women dreamt up because, as President Trump said in his State of the Union, “every human soul longs to live in freedom.” And indeed it does
Hate on America all you want. Be ashamed of America all you want — but eventually, it might be wise to realize: that kind of hate and shame is pointless. A better use of energy, emotion, and time might be to sit down and actually pursue a life full of happiness, thankful for the liberty that provided it.