Paging Reality: Loving America even when we disagree


A lot of things changed in the months immediately following the attacks on September 11.

There was a resurgence of patriotism nationwide that even penetrated the cynical world of journalism. Many journalists wore American flag pins to express their support for our nation. I’ll never forget a panel of journalists explaining why they chose to wear, or not wear, pins. Some of those who didn’t wear them explained they didn’t want to be construed as supporting all the actions of the administration.

I thought it was a ridiculous response then, but that was during a Republican administration with a president I supported.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I can be sure. That response goes beyond ridiculous: it is offensive and un-American.

It seems like old news, but I sense an undercurrent of similar attitudes in Republican circles today. Republicans aren’t taking down their American flags, but I have heard far too many people suggest that America is no longer a great nation.

I disagree with President Obama on most issues, and I find many of his appointees to be genuinely frightening people. But President Obama can never take away my love for this great country, nor can he destroy much of why I am proud of us. I love America no matter which party is in power.

I love this country for the First Amendment. It is the seminal promise of our great land. Freedom of belief and its expression might be the greatest gift government can ensure for mankind.

I love our people. We’re different. We are a hodge-podge of people from all over the globe unified by a love for freedom and meritocracy rather than a single blood ancestor.

I love our national traditions. While traveling in Europe a couple weeks ago, I was struck by the difference between European castles and our White House. There simply isn’t a comparison. Our White House is a puny thing compared to Buckingham Palace, the Palace at Versailles and most other residences for European leaders. But Europe can keep the pomp and circumstance of monarchy, castles, aristocracies and privilege. I’ll take a nation where wealth is earned, not born into; where running the nation is a service, not an entitlement; where we spent resources to be the first to put a man on the moon, rather than build palaces for monarchs.

I love our history. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But the world is a better place because the United States exists. Even most of our critics admit that.

That history goes beyond our founding, which revolutionized the way most governments are organized. It goes beyond the actions of our military, which for nearly 100 years has been a strong defender of liberty for the whole world. It goes beyond the Marshall Plan and other acts of foreign aid, which have been unprecedented actions of national charity toward the world.

Most of all, I love America despite its imperfections. There is no question that in most, if not all, of the great aspects of our nation I have listed, we have fallen short at one time or another.

From slavery to Jim Crow to Japanese internment camps to Vietnam, our nation has made some serious mistakes. The namesake of this great university could certainly tell you of a time when the freedom of religion, as articulated in the First Amendment, wasn’t protected as it should have been. But these imperfections, as uncomfortable as they are, remind me that doing good is not easy. I’ll take our long-term track record against that of any other nation on Earth.

Love or hate the president. Agree or disagree on the issues of the day. Those are your rights as an American. But don’t confuse our great nation with the men and women who are temporarily charged with its protection. It deserves better.

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