“That doesn’t vibe with you,” my roommate said as he entered our dorm to see me hanging up an American flag.
I understand what he meant. People assume that because I believe in climate change and Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke I must not love the United States — at least not in its current form as “Trump’s America.”
Those in power may oppose nearly every moral conviction I hold, but I still love my country.
I’m a proud patriot. I value my American identity for what I believe it stands for — not for what President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson or any right wing jingoist believes it stands for.
American patriotism doesn’t require a sense of superiority to those who are different than you. It requires humility and openmindedness.
The U.S. was built upon mixed cultures and ideas; to truly love and respect our national heritage is to cherish our diversity and our ever-evolving identity. That’s what I love about America, and that’s why I know that I’m a patriot.
Conversely, Trump recently defined his patriotism, confessing at a rally that he’s “absolutely a nationalist,” demonstrating a much more nefarious and combative definition of national pride.
Nationalism isn’t a love of country, it’s a supremacy complex of country; and a very specific and fictitious country at that.
In the modern lexicon and as used by Trump, nationalism is often viewed as the inverse of globalism. Nationalism focuses mostly on how issues affect Americans, while globalism takes a more cosmopolitan approach, seeking primarily to debunk the notion that the prosperity of one nation must come at the expense of another’s. It has led to an increased interconnectivity across the planet, and many have seen that as an attack on their homogenous vision of an “American identity.”
There’s a bigoted connotation to this new nationalism.
When it’s combined with the Trumpist slogan, “Make America Great Again,” it implies that some essential American identity is being lost — but it is a troublingly specific version of American identity.
It’s an identity based in the traditional, white, homogenous interpretation of America, prioritizing white Americans at the cost of any “others.” It’s an identity that clings to images of American identity, while ignoring the substantive American values of equality and classical liberalism.
This is demonstrated by the controversy in the NFL in which nationalists declared it more important to stand for the national anthem than to listen to the majority of Americans protesting the criminalization of black people in America.
This is the line of reasoning that gained Trump the endorsement of white nationalist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Proud Boys and Unite the Right, as well as allowing the political climate to breed domestic terrorists such as Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers.
I find this a perverse interpretation of the American identity, and believe in a more inclusive form of national pride. I believe America’s potential lies in its ability to progress rather than regress to when it was “great” for only the white elite.
I believe in the progressive nature of our founding documents, which canonized into governance an affirmation that there are unalienable, natural rights, and that no individual should be thought of as less than another in their claim to those rights.
It’s common knowledge that the Founding Fathers were slave owners, and the most egalitarian line in the Declaration of Independence stated that it was only men who were “created equal” — yet I turn again to these documents’ potential.
The Founding Fathers gave tools for the creation of constitutional amendments and their successors used those tools to adapt the Constitution to the needs of their era. Slavery was abolished, an equal protections clause was adopted and women were given the right to vote.
These moral revolutions weren’t fought for by cynical, indifferent political agents, but by passionate patriots who wanted their vision of American potential fulfilled. Just as that desire was necessary for our entire national history, it is necessary today.
It is a tragedy that patriotism, a concept based in love, has been claimed by hateful people. The recovery of our current sociopolitical state requires not just a legal reclamation of the moral values associated with justice, equity and progress, but a symbolic reclamation of those American values as well.
When the tides turn, and America’s collective moral conscience once again lands on higher ground, I plan to love that destination, just as I had when it was merely a vision. I’m a frustrated soyboy, beta-cuck, snowflake, but I still believe in what New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker frequently says: “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you probably don’t love her enough.”
I have a flag in my dorm so that when America comes out on the right side of history, I will know my pride was deserved. Resistance is patriotism, voting is resistance, love is voting. Vote on Nov. 6.
Nathaniel Hyman is a sophomore majoring in public policy. His column, “Social Anxieties,” runs every other Tuesday.