"I'm Proud To be An American" Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does

By McKae Sarkowski

America, land of the free, home of the brave. It’s good to have pride in your country, right? But when is it too much? When is it toxic?

Being a patriot is loving your home, and the beautiful people that make your home what it is. It’s recognizing that it’s not absolutely perfect, but you believe in a better future because you love and believe in your home.

Living in the South, I am constantly reminded about what toxic patriotism is. This pride of America becomes less about America and more about dislike for other nations. It becomes less love for your country and more hate for whoever is not American. It’s toxic.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “America! Love it or leave it!” How can everyone absolutely love a country that oppresses people of color, women, lgbtq, etc? Wanting to create positive change in America is seen as “not liking America” or “trying to change our amazing country.”

Can a nation succeed without change? This toxic pride has created this idea that if you don’t 100% love everything about America, then you shouldn’t live there. Loving your country is a good thing. But, this love for one’s nation should not be hate towards others, and it shouldn’t be this idea that change is a bad thing. Too often, hate is disguised as pride. I have seen people display acts of racism, sexism, etc. and use American pride as a shield to cover what lies beneath.

Change and diversity is what makes America great. When I advocate for positive change in America, I have been told that I “shouldn’t hate America.” Wanting better lives for the citizens of this nation should not be seen as an act of hate towards America. Change is always needed to succeed. A nation must evolve over time for their to embody “liberty and justice for all.”

Without diversity, America would be lost. People from all different backgrounds have so many amazing things to bring to this nation. If they come from different places, religions, etc. they are not less “American.” What is truly American should not be limited to race, gender, sexuality, or religion.

Patriotism is love, pride, and the ability to self reflect. I’m proud to be an American, and I’m proud to be a feminist.

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