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America’s Troubling History Pollutes Patriotic Sentiment

Illustration by Kiran Aranha

November proved itself to be a month like many others, where reading the news was as important as it was difficult. From the devastating fires in both Southern and Northern California, the terrorism suffered by migrants at the border, to the three Chicago police officers on trial giving us another window into the systematic racism that’s embedded in this country’s police force. One must reflect while watching the horrors that are taking place and observe how our government and administration respond to and instigate these atrocities. In the wake of these events, and in the face of many more, we see like-minded peers growing angry and upset about the events that are happening, or we see people becoming angry and upset at those who are angry and upset.

Whatever the effect they have, these events, and others like them, are not new. Our country is built on the very ideas and practices that these headlines stem from. America is built from the work of forced labor and on a body of stolen land. Feeling entitled to land and resources is what sent Europeans here in the first place, and having the authority to take land and resources from others is what allowed them to stay. When one sees the mindset and morals that allow for these events to happen and compares it with the mindset that accompanies patriotism, many parallels can be drawn.

One is the idea that we are above others, and that we should fight enthusiastically to maintain our higher rank. In light of this, one wonders: can we feel an equal amount of anger at the unjust actions of our government that exist, as well as a sense of loyalty to the country that said government represents?

In theory one would think that the answer to this question would be yes. It would be fair to assume that when one supports and cares for this country they are referring not to the few who hold seats in government, but the citizens whom they sit in office to represent. But in America, this has never been the case. The system has always been to preach democracy while a select few disempower many and give more privilege to the few who surround and resemble them. There is too much of a history of oppression within this country for an educated person who reads the news to feel anything but appalled and enraged, let alone patriotic.

Policies and practices that harm or leave out large numbers of people are nothing that we should be surprised by. We cannot continue to mend wounds that have afflicted generations with temporary solutions. We cannot create and execute things that will attempt to repair the damage that has been done until we address the damage that has been done.

To put America on a pedestal, and claim to be the best and to have done no wrong, prevents growth and societal evolution. The beliefs behind what patriotism is in this country has developed to mean that we cannot coexist with the progress that we have made. The more we act like these ideas of nationalism in our government are new, the harder it is going to be to eradicate them.