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.