Criticize US, but don’t despair

A June Gallup poll found that only 43 percent of Americans, and just 31 percent of Democrats, are extremely proud to be American. This Democrat isn’t surprised.

A pandemic rages, yet in some states only one-third of adults have been vaccinated. Most of the unvaccinated say they won’t be vaccinated, arguing for a right to a personal choice that can hurt the rest of us.

Eight months after the presidential election, supporters of Donald Trump still insist that he lost by fraud. Rather than put the myth to rest, Republicans use it to make it more difficult to vote.

More than 100 people a day die from gun violence in the United States, but the gun lobby resists gun control.

Disparities between Blacks and whites in healthcare, wealth, housing, policing, education, and myriad other matters lay bare the country’s systemic racism.

We remain the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare coverage.

The country grows less democratic. Two of the last six presidential elections were decided by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. White, rural, and Republican voters are disproportionately represented in the Senate and benefit from gerrymandering more than do minorities.

Partisanship in Congress is so bad it even hampers investigating an attack on Congress itself.

I could go on, but you know our problems already if you’ve been paying any attention.

That Gallup poll found that Republicans are significantly prouder to be American than Democrats, with more than two-thirds of them extremely proud. Perhaps pride accounts for the attempts by Republican-controlled state legislatures to restrict the teaching of critical race theory in the public schools. They claim that it makes people feel bad about the country. Well, yeah. But I don’t want a patriotism founded on lies.

Patriotism isn’t believing one’s country is perfect. Patriots want its flaws to be fixed. They criticize to bring the reality closer to the ideals. If critics had been shut down, minorities and women in this country would not have gained any rights.

When I was a college student, Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright was a vocal critic of the US presence in the war in Vietnam. “To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment,” Fulbright wrote. “It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing. . . . Criticism . . . is the highest form of patriotism.”

When I feel despairing about everything that is wrong today, I try to think of the patriots of previous generations, going all the way back to the Revolution, who saw what needed fixing and didn’t give in to despair.

I don’t know a way out of our messes, but when wiser people propose good solutions, they’ll have my support.

For our freedom to criticize, I am proud to be an American.


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  • This is beautiful, Marianne. The Fulbright quote reminds me of a saying I've read and heard from many sources: The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

  • Thank you, Margaret. We have to continue to hope for better.

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