Yesterday I came across an article with the provocative title “10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know about America” and, of course, I read it. As expected, the comments section for this article was a hot mess of people screaming “if you don’t like it, get out!” (while ignoring the fact that the author, an American, says that he already did “get out”, but that he loves it as any American-born citizen generally does, adding that the points raised in the article are just some general commentary that he’s picked up on from his travels and life experiences). And the whole thing just…makes me sad. The “love it or leave it” idea that is so often espoused by ignorant citizens of the US is uninformed at best, xenophobic and vitriolic at worst. The fact that some Americans possess the point of view that America is not as exceptional as so much of its society often thinks it is (and in keeping with the propaganda that we’re fed from a young age) does not and should not make us pariahs or wannabe terrorists who are unable to appreciate our country and its plethora of wonderful qualities. Not to mention the fact that people who have never left the States are still entitled to the opinion that America isn’t perfect. America is awesome. We know that. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
So yes, America is amazing. I love the US, I’m glad I was born there, and I will never give up my citizenship to that glorious land, as long as I’m alive, even if I end up living in the United Kingdom forever and raising a family/building a career/buying a home here. My American identity is important to me, even more so after having spent lots of time outside of my much-loved homeland. But the fact that I, and any number of others residing in and out of the country, can see that America is not perfect should not be as big of a deal as it is often made out to be. Blind patriotism is just as offensive as a nihilistic attitude.
Some of the bullet points from the article in question included the idea that “few people are impressed by us”, “the quality of life for the average American is not that great”, and “the rest of the world is not a shit hole”. These are great points, and I urge you to read the article and hear what the author is saying (or, you know, ponder it in your mind). Honestly, in so many ways America is fabulous-but in others we are NOT doing so well. Infant mortality rates, the general healthcare of our citizens, the proliferation and legalization of fake, overly processed foods by a subsidized industry that has no interest in the health and well-being of the average American citizen, sky-rocketing obesity rates, massive widespread unemployment, our education system-lots of things need some fixing. And it’s okay to admit that and have a reasonable discourse on ways to improve the country. Any reasonable person can see that. And I would argue that caring about ways to make our beloved country better is, in fact, proving one’s love for one’s country.
My main point here is that I take offense to the idea that anyone, American or not, should never attempt to criticize the things that happen/are happening in America in a public forum for fear of being told to “get the fuck out”. I dare say that being a responsible citizen implies that I care about what happens in my country. It is patriotic to want and expect more from your country and the people in it. And it’s not unpatriotic to point out when things aren’t going so well. Other people feel that way too. And it is un-American to quash dissent because you don’t like what someone else has to say. Our country was founded as a result of political dissent. Let’s not forget that. “Love it or leave it” isn’t really an option, and it paints a false dichotomy.