“Yeah, well, everyone laughs/mocks America anyway” said one of my students towards the end of our semester last Fall. I let the comment hang, contemplating whether it warranted a response. I decided to let it go; if she could sit through my entire class and still believe this sentiment, there was little I could say in this one moment to change her mind and prove otherwise. But, I took a mental note of it, as she was not the only one who had shared that sentiment to me during our class sessions.
So, what is that sentiment, you might ask? It’s the sentiment preached to us by our college professors and high-school teachers, by movies and TV shows, and by the media at large. It’s a sentiment that my generation of “hopeless” millennials, along with the generations below my generation, have all been told to believe…that we should be embarrassed to call ourselves American.
Am I the only one to notice this trend? Perhaps, in my world of painfully liberal academics who puff out their chests in righteous indignation as they lash this great country with insults and judgements, I’ve been exposed to this trend more than others. BUT something tells me that you all know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve seen the football players kneeling during the national anthem; the mobs burning the American flag; and perhaps even heard of cases where individuals have been socially ostracized for expressing patriotic sentiments. I’m sure you can’t deny the growing trend of Anti-Americanism that swells throughout the nation. It’s as if we’re all supposed to admit that America is the worst and most cruel country on the planet. As if all other countries are virtuous and to be emulated —- as if they have a right to look down upon or laugh, as my student said, at the shameful sins of the United States.
While I’m not blind to the faults of humanity or this country, and though I am willing to cast a critical eye at our government when it acts in opposition to the Constitution, I will always love this country. I love the principles for which she stands. I am an American through and through and proud of it. Which is why I’m going to depart from the norm here and use this blog post to let off some steam. Hopefully, it’ll give those of you—who still share my American patriotism—some good points to use the next time your liberal friends or family want to critique and slander the country for its “sins”.
I’ll list the critiques and then provide a response. I don’t intend to absolve or make excuses but merely expose the hypocrisy that America is the only country guilty of sins. Also, it appears to me that this Anti-American sentiment is intentional, with the goal of stripping Americans of their pride in what are now considered foolish or archaic ideals.
Critique One: America Had Slavery
Ah, how many times have we all heard this past shame mentioned to critique our present? Yes, Americans had slaves and the irony is not—nor should be lost—on anyone—the irony that America was created on the principles of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and the founders—principles such as liberty, equality and rights—and yet had slaves.
While getting my Ph.D., I can’t tell you how many times my instructors and fellow grad-students brought up the history of American slavery to discredit any arguments that were based in American history or American political thought. OR they used the arguments to belittle America and champion other nations around the world (I’ll say this. I was amazed and befuddled at how so many of my classmates were far more interested in other countries than their own—as if their own was not worth their time or attention.)
Here’s what I’ve never understood about the slavery critique, and perhaps never will understand. Why does it seem like America is the only nation to have ever had slaves? Let me remind you. America is not the only country to have had slaves. In fact, every nation throughout world history has had slaves—-and today, there are approximately 40 million slaves in the world. Now, just because other countries had or have slaves, does not absolve America of the sin BUT one of the reasons I love this country so much is that it is the only country to have gone to war over ending slavery.
The United States was founded on principles, principles that no other country had ever been founded upon. And those principles did not correspond with slavery—so much so that the new country could not exist for even one century before going to war with itself to right the wrong (I understand there was a lot more involved but slavery was key).
England eventually freed their slaves but they did so after hundreds and hundreds of years. The principles America was founded upon would not let slavery last for hundreds and hundreds of years. It could not and would not. The discomfort and disconnect was felt from the founding to the Civil War. Many of the American founders could see the mental disconnect between what they were preaching and slavery. If the realization started then, it was bound to continue to stir and brood in a citizenry who fought, bled and died for liberty.
So, the next time someone wants to argue and complain to you about how horrible America is for having had slaves—as if it’s the only country to ever do so—just smile and say, “Well, at least we’re the one country to go to war to end it. Can you name for me one other country that did that?”
Critique Two: Americans Killed the Native Americans
Notice how many of the critiques I have encountered are always aimed at discrediting the founding? Keep that in mind. The killing of the Native Americans is another sin that academics and scholars mention to discredit and slander the founding—as if no other country has ever killed for land.
Yes. Americans are guilty of conquering and killing Native Americans to take land. I ask you. What country is not guilty of doing this? There are many instances where Americans attempted treaties with the Native Americans to avoid having to conquer for the land. I ask again. What other countries are guilty of this?
(I’m trying to address something specific here. It’s a constant willingness for those—in academics in particular—but also on the progressive left, to lament America’s wrongdoings while accepting or forgiving the same wrongdoings in other countries. This leads me to believe that these progressives must have another goal in mind besides “righting” the wrongs. If they were truly concerned about the wrongs, the wrongs would be addressed no matter what. For instance, feminists and LGBTQ activists moan about how cruel and unfriendly America has been to the homosexual community while lauding and promoting Islam—-a religion that, for the most part, vehemently persecutes and kills homosexuals.)
Critique Three: America is More Racist Than Any Other Country
This argument has led to kneeling during the national anthem (police brutality) and hating all things American because of the accusation that America represents hatred and bigotry.
Let me burst the bubble. All countries deal with racism, hate and bigotry. This is nothing new nor abnormal in the world as a whole. Basically, there is nothing exceptional about American racism. In fact, according to some studies, America is not even on the list of the most racist nations in the world—-that trophy goes to India.
Let me remind you. America is incredibly diverse. In that regard, America is somewhat exceptional. It is one of the most diverse nations in the world, so should it surprise anyone that she must deal with some of the evil vices of human nature—such as racism?
I had a longer list of critiques than the few points I addressed here but as I started writing, I realized that I wanted to say more about each point than I’d originally planned. I’m troubled by the growing Anti-American sentiment, aimed primarily at discrediting the founding era and its ideals. The sentiment oozes from my students, the media, Hollywood, academics and others. It’s like America is the worst country and the only country with sins. Their message is being shoved in our faces, as if trying to say that those of us who dare to hold on to a sense of patriotism or pride in the country and its outdated ideals are antiquated and foolish.
If this sentiment is allowed to prevail, we will truly see all the ideals that built this nation scrubbed from the history books and soon forgotten. If the historical importance of the founding and the founding principles can be discredited, so can the Constitution. And perhaps that is the ultimate goal anyway.
One final note: I think these critiques themselves shine a light on what it is that makes America great. No other nation is held to the standard to which America is held. Why? Because America stands for something. America stands for liberty, for opportunity, for life. Can any other country claim that? America is supposed to be better than slavery, conquering and killing and racism. America is not better than those sins because America is made up of flawed humanity, just as every other country is made up of flawed humanity. Let’s not forget this as we work to preserve ideals that made this country stand for something in the first place.
The Liberty Belle