The problem with patriotism

It’s becoming more and more difficult to be “proud to be an American.” People can chant “U-S-A” all they want and sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” until they’re red, white and blue in the face, but the issues that exist in American society are rapidly becoming too apparent to mask with patriotic pride.

There have been 31 mass shootings in the United States since the Columbine tragedy of 1999, when two high school students took the lives of twelve classmates and a teacher with the use of automatic weapons. There are 20 couples who wake up every day knowing their child was murdered by a man who walked into a Connecticut elementary school carrying a bolt-action rifle. However, several politicians, citizens and activists refuse to be open to any sort of gun control reform. Instead, they justify the slaughter of innocent schoolchildren, college students and moviegoers with an amendment written over 200 years ago that prevents the government from infringing on the right of citizens to arm themselves with muskets in the formation of a militia.

Some people think that raising a gun and a Budweiser on the 4th of July makes them a patriot. At the same time, many of these people think that welfare and unemployment benefits are a little too much aid for poor people. They defend their claim that America is the best country on earth with words like “freedom” and “equality” but last year, they watched as a political party shut down the federal government, bringing the national economy to the brink of default, in an attempt to deny millions of their fellow Americans affordable health care. They think a kid getting a free inhaler under the Affordable Care Act is too much of a handout because they don’t want their taxes raised but have no problem with a billion-dollar bailout of the banks that robbed the country blind and were responsible for the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression.

What a chore it has become to defend what is supposedly the best economic system in the world when one percent of the country owns 40 percent of the wealth, and a woman still makes 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. It’s becoming a real challenge to still believe in the American Dream when the federal government makes a profit off the loans paid back by college students, and a nation founded by immigrants is unable to pass legislation to help potential new ones have an opportunity to legally join it. Worse, it’s pretty hard to trust that things will improve domestically in a country with a defense budget that takes up 20 percent of federal spending and is equivalent to the next nine countries combined, almost all of whom are allies.

“Liberty and justice for all,” we pledge as we allow murderers to walk free because they wear a badge or their victim wore a hoodie. A white mass-shooter is remembered for being a genuinely nice guy who was going through a tough time, while black shooting victims are remembered for that one time they got suspended from school. Newspapers applaud the athletic talent of an accused rapist, while the victim of the heinous crime is judged for the clothes she was wearing or the amount of alcohol in her system when the assault took place.

“Liberty for all” is what we tell our kids and then decide two people of the same sex don’t have the right to marry each other in a society where 50 percent of straight marriages end in divorce.

“Liberty. For all,” we say. Meanwhile, a group of men argue about how exactly they should control women’s health, declaring that the right of a woman to protect her own body with an abortion should be taken away and made illegal, their justification being that a higher power believes it to be a sin.

People continue to argue about the very existence of global warming, rather than developing strategies to reverse it or at least slow down the process – all this despite the reality that scientific evidence is readily available. The fact that 23 percent of Americans still don’t believe in climate change could probably be explained by the fact that the United States ranks 17th in the world in overall education performance, 23rd in science and 24th in literacy. The severe lack of investment in the education of America’s youth has a costly ripple effect as it stunts potential development and advancement in various critical areas of society such as environment protection, international relations, justice and law, medicine and mental health.   

“Back-to-Back World War Champs” tank tops and “Murica” Instagram captions will only be able to fill us with a sense of national pride for so long. The first step to overcoming the innumerable challenges our country is facing is to admit they exist and won’t go away on their own. We can learn from our mistakes, fix the systems we’ve created and prevent new problems from arising. The United States of America is broken, but it is certainly worth fixing.

David Hourin ’17 is from Austin, Texas. He lives in Morgan.

  • Mike

    Wow! You’ve checked all the boxes and it’s only September year one….’and I want to be a doctor and a lawyer and a doctor-lawyer and a fireman and a policeman–OH NO, not a policeman, sorry–and a engineer but only the kind that drives the train because we don’t have the other program here…we have classes in train driving, yes?’ Remember, all politics is local and the id is a terrible thing to baste . Leave the manifesto’s to those with the calluses.

  • Joseph

    Keep fighting the good fight, David.

    To Mike: given your incoherent thinking, odd typos, and time of your post, I can only surmise that you were drunk or stoned when you wrote the above comments.

    Either way, your dismissiveness is utterly misguided. We need more people like Mr. Hourin to speak out against the massive amount of ignorance, jingoism and bigotry that is starting to define the national character of our once progressive and admirable country — no matter how young or idealistic that person may be.

    In fact, young and idealistic is better. People grow tired of hearing from the cranky, old cynics regardless of how many calluses they may have acquired.

  • Mike

    Joseph, Joseph, Joseph

    Show me the typos. I’ll help you…”a engineer”?…intended. “baste”?…intended. Show me.

    “incoherent thinking”…liberal arts translation, ‘I don’t like what you said’.

    “and time of your post”…There are people in this country that do not work 9-5. I forgive you for this comment. I have no doubt that this is news to you. Also, the black lines are called ‘barcodes’. They are magic.

    “our once progressive and admirable country”…Which administration presided over this? This cranky, old guy must have missed it but I’m sure you could enlighten me.

    I admit, I have no idea how old you are. My sense, not old enough.