Story by Hanna Bae
I didn’t really consider myself patriotic. I thought people who decked out in America merch at every convenience were silly, idiotic even.
What is there to be so proud of?
The United States — the land of the free, the land of liberty, the land of unity — is, in simple terms, in absolute shambles. The country stands in a state of aggressive partisan tension, fueled by irrationality, hate, and disunity. Too many people unjustly die, too many people are stripped of their rights, too many people face too many problems. There is nothing to be proud of.
But this past June, I uncovered a new meaning to patriotism. I attended the inaugural session of the American Legion California Boys and Girls State. The program, simply put, was a “mock” government. Using the structure of the California state government, students, or delegates, were divided into cities and counties and were also assigned political parties (although they didn’t reflect modern distributions). Within these groupings, delegates built up a city, county, and state government and legislative bodies. Delegates voted for elected positions while considering partisanship and individual qualities and goals.
As much of a mouthful the program is, one week on the California State University Sacramento campus made me the last thing I expected: a patriot.
This sounds quite alarming. This isn’t to say that I’m proud of all of the issues in the United States — there are an infinite number of places to grow and improve. Especially with recent SCOTUS decisions, I question the morality of the court and the justice system that is apparently based on freedom, liberty, and justice. Yet, I’m hopeful in potential.
Surrounded by 950 delegates passionate about making a difference, all in their own regard, ignited a sense of hope and aspiration for future changemakers. The humility and humanity that was displayed at a one-week program was unlike anything I had ever seen in a setting of teenagers.
I am not patriotic in the sense that I love everything about America. I am not patriotic in the sense that I deck out in the American flag head-to-toe for the Fourth of July (although I came quite close this year). I am not patriotic in the sense that I am apologetic for what many consider to be a dysfunctional country. I am patriotic in the sense that I want to uphold the values that the U.S. was founded off of — the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am patriotic in the sense that I want to bring about change that positively impacts U.S. citizens and makes the country what it was intended to be. I am patriotic in the sense that I want to be outwardly patriotic.
I want to be proud. I want to be proud of what the U.S. has to offer, and that comes with deliberation and change. I am a patriot — and I want to continue to be a patriot — because I know there is so much more to offer. Next Independence Day, maybe I will deck out in red, white, and blue.