From fireworks to BBQs, America is known for celebrating its freedoms unashamedly, mainly thanks to veterans who serve. But with dicey current affairs, is it possible to be a proud American while also being critical? One Black veteran sought answers, and the internet responded.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Freedom Isn’t Free
“On one hand, I’m proud to be born and raised here and to partake in stereotypical American pastimes,” says one veteran. “On the other hand, I’m critical (or borderline ashamed) of being an American knowing our past.” It turns out this veteran isn’t alone in struggling with their views.
2: Not A Good Track Record
“Being critical of your country is absolutely necessary,” one veteran says. “How divided we are today, the military-industrial complex that killed thousands of innocent people, mass shootings, and blatant corruption from the wealthy” are some of the issues they posed. One commenter responded, “It’s your country, right or wrong. If right to be kept right, if wrong to be set right.”
3: Face Value
One commenter is concerned for those who turn a blind eye, “I’m way more wary of people who AREN’T critical of their country because [it] almost always means they’re living outside the reality of most citizens. Some countries have more issues, for sure, but even the most well-run countries have problems.”
4: Nobody’s Perfect
Everybody makes mistakes, and America is no different. One commenter says there’s nothing wrong with constructive criticism. “Countries are flawed, just like human beings. It’s okay to love your country while also acknowledging its flaws and wanting to work to make it a better place.”
5: True Freedom
One commenter believes that dissent is patriotic. “If you’re a Patriot, you love your country despite its flaws. If you’re a nationalist, you love your country because you believe it has no flaws.”
6: Grass Isn’t Greener
A Russian commenter warns that being non-critical of your country lands you in a similar situation as their home country. “Seriously, it’s not an accident that the most developed countries are the ones that are critical and complain about their own country.”
7: Tough Love
One reassuring commenter says that criticizing your country is one of the most patriotic things you can do, “Not because you don’t love it. Quite the opposite. Because you love it and want to see it continue to do better.”
8: Just Like Old Times
One commenter pointed out that the origins of America itself relied on going against the grain. “This country was founded on the idea of being critical of the government and not accepting the status quo.”
9: Agree To Disagree
It would be weird if we didn’t criticize our country, says this commenter. “My philosophy is you shouldn’t agree with someone 100% of the time. I don’t agree with my pastor 100% of the time. I sure don’t agree with the officials I elected 100% of the time.”
10: Both Can Be True
One German commenter agrees, “You can feel proud of the good things your country has achieved, about the life and opportunities you’ve been given, while still pointing out the bad and rotten parts (regardless if current or prior).”
11: Moving Forward
There is nothing wrong with being a proud American while holding some doubt, says one commenter. “I feel the same way for many reasons, but I still am proud to be American, and I love my home. There is plenty not to be proud of, but addressing it is the only way to have progress and make it better.”
12: Doing What’s Right
One commenter goes as far as to say criticism is the only correct way to be a good citizen. “Be proud of the things we do well. Be very vocal and critical of the things we don’t do well.”
13: Fixer Upper
One commenter compares their personal life to drive their point home, “I love our house. But, now that my children have all left home, we are in the process of renovating some rooms to better fit our current lifestyle. Same with our country. I love it, and it has some really great features. It also has some really bad problems, but that’s OK. We can fix it because it’s ours.”
14: In the Name of Love
One commenter says many of the US’ best moments only happened because people who loved the country decided to change it for the better. “America has never been perfect, but it has made many improvements over the years, specifically because of Americans who criticized it.”
15: Not All Bad
Despite issues in the U.S., it’s still a great place to be in the eyes of one commenter. “Obviously, I’m not stupid enough to think the US is a horrible place,” they say. “But we still have a lot to work on, and recognizing that fact and wanting to improve is the definition of patriotism.”
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