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July 5, 2022

America: Love Her or Leave Her?

A look at where patriotism stands in our nation today.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats and leftists unleashed a deluge of criticism against the Court, with some claiming the system is so broken that it effectively needs to be blown up. While much of the rhetoric surrounding the ruling can be chalked up to emotionally incontinent hyperbole, it did serve to expose just how severe is the political divide that currently exists within our nation.

But what ultimately causes this divide? The crux of the issue may be best addressed with the following question: What does it mean to be an American?

As our nation just celebrated its 246th year of existence, we seem to be in the midst of another major identity crisis. While it might not be as significant as the identity crisis that led to the War Between the States, almost no one argues that the division isn’t real.

Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of the rock band Green Day, epitomized this American identity rift with his profane tirade while on stage in London, England: “F*** America! I’m f***ing renouncing my citizenship. I’m f***ing coming here.” Fittingly, Armstrong’s band is known for an album titled “American Idiot.”

His sentiment is shared by a growing number of leftists, as evidenced by a group of pro-abortion radicals that called for a boycott of the Fourth of July. One of the boycott’s organizers explained, “We’re looking to show Florida and the country that the impact of controlling women’s bodies will have far-reaching consequences.”

Unfortunately, it’s not just some fringe radical group that called for a boycott of our nation’s Independence Day celebrations. Several Democrats did so as well. In Pima County, Arizona, Democrats hosted a “F*** the Fourth” event. In fact, the Pima County Democrat Party supported the boycott via a social media post: “Make no mistake, however. We support the event which will be on July 4 at 7 pm at Reid Park. The event was organized to help women in our community grieve for the loss of their bodily autonomy, which we consider an elemental right.”

Further underscoring the divide was Gallup’s annual survey of Americans’ patriotic attitude, a survey that has been conducted since 2001. According to the poll, patriotism among Americans has slipped significantly since last summer, as 58% of Republicans, 34% of independents, and just 26% of Democrats say they are “extremely proud” to be an American. Just last year, the numbers were 87%, 65%, and 62%, respectively. Patriotism — or, to put it another way, a committed love of one’s country — has now become effectively politicized.

As Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, lamented, “As a card-carrying liberal, I am both saddened and appalled by the way the left has ceded patriotism to the right.” He added: “My fellow liberals need to reclaim this mantle of critical patriotism. Let’s teach our young people to love the idea of America so they will be inspired to make it a reality.”

Robert Gmeiner, economics professor at Methodist University in North Carolina, observed, “I believe that Independence Day is indeed becoming a conservative holiday, but this is a result of a misguided view that America was not founded on freedom.”

So, what does it mean to be an American? When patriotism is viewed as political and cliché, how then is one’s view of the nation itself not also diminished and even vilified? Honesty about America’s past — both its virtues and its failures — is not the problem; the issue is the demand for historic perfectionism that never has and never will exist. Love of country does not mean a refusal to criticize or a denial of past injustices. It means a commitment to see this nation continue to rest upon the principles it was founded upon. That’s what makes America a uniquely great country.

We don’t give up on America because of who’s president or because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling or because Congress raises our taxes. To be an American is not bound to an identity based on race, sex, class, or ability; rather, it is the privilege of being a citizen of the country most committed to the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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