I love the United States of America.
That’s become a less popular thing to say these days – you hear far more people criticizing or even hating America, laying out its flaws and failures – but I still love this country.
I love the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – flawed documents to be sure, but documents that have had a powerful impact on the structure of every new government that has come afterward. From sheer impact alone, these documents will be studied for centuries to come, alongside works like the Magna Carta or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I love the rights and freedoms those documents – the Constitution and Bill of Rights – lay out. Freedom of religion, of speech, of press, of assembly, of petition – all of which add up to freedom of thought. I love the right to bear arms (even if I don’t particularly love, or hate, guns), which I’ll call a right to self-defense. I love that several amendments set out to give the citizens of this country a fair trial, whether their accuser is another citizen or the government itself.
I love the separation of powers, and that the United States was created to explicitly not feature dictatorship, monarchy, nobility, or aristocracy. Leaders are elected, not born. There are limits on their power – frustrating when those limits are on leaders you support, and a godsend for the leaders you despise. Wealth has obvious advantages, but doesn’t come with hereditary land or titles. There are no kings, dukes, or duchesses of the United States – and that’s a feature, not a bug.
I love the Statue of Liberty – but more importantly, I love the line from “The New Colossus” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
I love that millions of people around the world, desperate to escape the tyranny, oppression, and slavery found in their homelands, have looked to the United States as a sanctuary from those evils. The shining city on a hill, to use the cliche. I love that for all of its flaws and failures, so many people yearn to come to America – and that so many movements for human rights and freedoms around the world have been inspired by the American story.
Many people criticize that the rights and freedoms America prides itself on were not extended to millions of people at the birth of this country – I love that the American story includes the fight to extend those freedoms to everyone. I love that the women and freemen of America have rights and liberties their ancestors could not have hoped to enjoy, even in a limited or flawed form.
That fight is not over. It is far from over. I doubt that fight will be over soon – but its a fight worth continuing.
I’m not saying anything new. But on this Independence Day, I’m looking for reasons to love this country. The current moment is laser-focused on the many flaws and failures of America – in government, in policing, in matters of race. The drive to improve on this country’s flaws is valid and important – but while many are declaring that the United States of America is an irredeemable nation founded on sin and blood, I refuse to do so. The United States has flaws. It has made mistakes. Its history is full of failures of morality – some stretching back to its founding. But I am a patriot. I love my country, not because it is perfect, but because much of it is great, and worth defending and improving.
I am not a nationalist – hugging flags, nostalgic to the core, convinced that my country is perfect or inherently superior, and that anything that doesn’t fit into that perfect image deserves scorn or violence (whether along lines of race, religion or culture). I am also not the opposite. I’m not sure what the word would be, but perhaps “anti-nationalist” – not someone who is against nations, but someone who believes their nation is inherently inferior or evil, its sins are irredeemable, no progress is noteworthy or praiseworthy, and that anything short of starting over from the beginning is insufficient to correct the moral calculus.
On this Independence Day, I am reflecting on America – both on what has made it great, and the work needed to make it even better. Its values – and its ongoing attempt to live up to them. The millions of people who have contributed to this country’s story – and the millions more who never had the opportunity to do so. Its accomplishments – and its failures.
I am a patriot – I don’t want to destroy my country, I want to fix its errors and make it better. And I hope you’re a patriot too, whatever country you call home.