I know this seems a radical thing to say by someone raised in a country that prides itself on its patriotism, that injects the performance of it into so many aspects of life. I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in grade school like everyone else. I’ve sung the “Star Spangled Banner” before sports events. But they’re just motions to go through. They don’t stir that “America, Fuck Yeah!” feeling that I’m supposed to have, that unbridled, unconditional loyalty akin to what an avid sports fan feels for their team (now that I do have for my beloved shitshow Chicago Cubs). I do not well up with pride or any other emotion when I see the flag.
The patriotism didn’t take. Sorry. It’s just not my bag.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the 4th of July. I love a good theme. The color scheme and coordination, the insistence on consuming only barbecued meats and mayo-based salads, and there’s explosives. What more could a Midwestern girl want?
But I am not patriotic.
I do not feel an unconditional love to a bordered area just because of the happenstance that I was born there. Do I acknowledge that I was fortunate to be born into my circumstances in this country as opposed to perhaps another country? Yes. Do I also acknowledge that I could still have been less fortunate being born in this country, but into different circumstances? Yes.
None of the freedoms that I’m supposed to celebrate were given to me freely by this county I’m supposed to pledge allegiance to. All of them had to be fought for, bled for, and are now being casually ripped away. The only “freedom” I have going for me in this country is that I’m white. Everything else -being a woman, being queer, being poor, being non-Christian- disqualifies me. Why should I be patriotic to that?
Shouldn’t loyalty to country be no different than loyalty to anything else (except my loyalty to the Cubs)? Shouldn’t my country be as loyal to me as I am to it?
No. Because patriotism is an unrequited act. You’re expected to show your devotion, up to and including giving your life for you country, and in return you hope it spares you its worst. You point to the freedoms that are just illusions and claim that asking for anything more is an insult because this is the best country in the world.
I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel like there is a Best Country in the World contest and if there was, I don’t think America would be seeded as high as everyone else does. I personally don’t see a country that prioritizes the destruction of the people in other countries over the well being of the people within it’s own pretend outline as even making the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the championship game.
People conflate patriotism with gratitude. I can be grateful for my existence (or not) and how where I live influences my existence. I can be grateful that I live in the middle of a cornfield in a perceived blue state in a carved up United States. But that gratitude is not patriotism.
I am not a patriotic person.
I just live here.