I was accused the other day, by two family members, of being anti-American. I am not. I have never been. I don't have a strong sense of nationalism, it's true. I don't fully understand nationalism or allegiance to a flag or place. I believe there are other countries in the world that are as good as the US - countries I would love to live in. I recognize that there are other places in the world where the standard of living is better than it is here - places whose systems we would be wise to emulate. I do not always respect the processes or the decisions of the government. I do not always respect the people who run the government. I am sometimes ashamed and embarrassed of what happens in the name of America and of what looks like patriotism to some (as I have been throughout the presidential campaign and as I certainly was on Tuesday night).
And sometimes I say those things out loud.
As far as I know, I'm still allowed to do that. As far as I know, free speech does not extend (yet) only to those who wrap themselves in the American flag and can fart the tune to The Star Spangled Banner. And I'm allowed to feel what I feel.
But none of my feelings or words makes me anti-American. I can feel the way I feel and still be deeply appreciative of the freedoms and opportunities I have been afforded by growing up and living here. I can have a desire to travel the world and live in other places and still think fondly of the US or be happy to come back to it. I can disavow the actions of leaders who involve us in wars we have no business fighting and still respect the people who serve.
It seems to me as though nationalism requires one to see the world in black and white. In right and wrong. In us and them.
I don't see the world that way.
I can swear allegiance to the planet and its people without singling out one flag.
Am I proud to be American? That feels to me like asking if I'm proud to be white... or if I'm proud to be a woman, or blue-eyed, or ambidextrous. I simply am those things. I didn't choose any of them, so I'm not sure I understand why I should be proud of them. Granted, I have remained in the US when I could have moved away, but we get tangled up in our lives and our people and making big changes like that is not always feasible, even if desired. But had I left, as I wanted to do several years ago (to the UK, the place of my birth), I wouldn't have been running from something I disliked; I would have been running to something I wanted. It wasn't feasible, though. So I have lived here, worked here, paid my taxes, participated in the political process, and been an active member of my community. I volunteer, I am kind to strangers, I donate to charity shops, food banks, and libraries, and I pick up litter everywhere I see it.
I take care of my community - my community in America.
I am grateful for my community - my community in America.
I love my community – my community in America.
I am proud of the way the people of my community (local and national) pull together when necessary, as I am proud of the way communities all around the world pull together when necessary... but that's about people, not places. It's always about people for me. I don't see Americans as better than any others. We are - all of us in this whole wide world - wonderful and awful. We are all human.
I am not anti-American. I simply see the world in a myriad of colors, not just black and white... and not just red, white, and blue. I won't apologize for that. I won't apologize for how I feel about this place I live, whether those feelings are negative or positive. But I understand that many people will not understand (or respect) my point of view. I don't expect them to apologize for that either.
We are all of us - in this whole wide world - wonderful and awful. We are all human. And flags, imaginary lines on maps, and the people who purport to lead us can't change that.