Patriotism is an extremely hard concept to grasp, and an even harder concept to explain, because of the endless amount of interpretations that are tied with both negative and positive connotations. By definition, patriotism means, “love or devotion to one’s country,” but in modern-day culture, this terminology seems to lack importance in its entirety.
As a part of the millennial generation, I feel as if we are losing the level of importance of what it means to be a part of something that is much larger than us — that being the community of citizens that makes up the United States.
The history of the U.S. is decorated with rich moments of morality and moments of despair and discrimination. What stands firm to this day, though, is that we as a nation are continuously working toward creating an atmosphere that is demanding better of and for all. As Americans, we have a lot to be proud of and certainly a lot to be thankful for.
Thousands of brave young men and women have put their lives on the line, fighting to protect this country and the lives of those who call the U.S. home. But what does that really mean, and why is that phrase used so frequently?
In the U.S., our laws and regulations are guided by the Constitution of the United States, a document in which outlines the rights of each and every citizen. This document, although to some may just seem like a piece of paper, gives us freedoms and rights that other places around the world aren’t fortunate enough to have.
For instance, the First Amendment of the Constitution — which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” according to Constitute Project — gives Americans the ability to practice whatever religion they desire, protest anything and express their opinions freely, even if it directly opposes the current government in place.
This specific freedom is not available in other places of the world. For instance, in North Korea, citizens are expected to remain extremely loyal to the state and, specifically, its leader Kim Jong-un. The freedom to practice personal religion or express dissenting opinions is prohibited, according to a study done by “Freedom in the World” in 2019.
In Saudi Arabia, there was the “Women to Drive Movement” that Saudi Arabian women carried out because, up until 2018, this was the only country in the world that prohibited women to drive, according to “The Women to Drive Movement.”
None of this is to say that unfortunate circumstances do not exist in the U.S. We, like any nation, are far from perfect, but it’s important to recognize that the freedoms we have should not, and cannot, be taken advantage of because there are people around the world who may wish they had the freedoms and opportunities that are available in the U.S.
Those exact rights are what our brave young men and women in the military fight for. They fight to defend those rights — not the physical rights themselves, but the freedoms that come with them. Fighting for these freedoms is not supposed to be seen as narcissistic, in that we as Americans believe we are superior to the rest of the modern world, but we believe that these rights are meant for all. If we set the precedent, there is hope that others will follow in our footsteps.
For a large percentage of the American population, we are of immigrant descent in one way or another. Personally, I am of European descent, and my great-grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy by himself when he was 16 years old in search of a place with much more opportunity than he had in his homeland. That desire to be better, do better and to make something better for yourself is how I view the American dream. That is exactly why I am proud to be an American.
I encourage everyone, especially younger generations, to love their country, whether it is the U.S. or elsewhere. In the modern day, it may seem like there are more negatives than positives, and that the polarization within the U.S. and around the globe seems to be unsolvable, but in times like this, it is even more important to unite as one people.
We look around and see constant complaining and bickering, whether about politics, world affairs or even basic individual opinions. I am not a politician, but I do know that the only way to make any type of progress is to work together from a place of love and respect.
As an American, it should not be frowned upon to be proud of your roots — I definitely am. Knowing your roots, being proud of where you come from and exemplifying what it means to be an American should be something we take great pride in.
Think of patriotism as a family. Without love, loyalty and respect, a family would fall apart. In fact, those very characteristics are what builds a strong foundation in which you build a family. The same goes for a country or a nation. I am proud to be an American, and intend to use the freedoms of living in this great nation to prove that.