What does it even mean to be American? Why are Americans so patriotic?
I think that people confuse American patriotism for what it may mean in some other countries. Americans don’t rush out in droves on Independence Day to eat cotton candy and play with sparklers at a cookout because they agree with everything the government does, or because they want to necessarily go to war with other countries, or anything else patriotism seems to mean to people in other countries. Here I feel patriotism just means cheering for your family, your community, your sports, your childhood, and whatever other good experiences you coincidentally happened to experience in America whenever you cheer for the country as a whole. Sure, we’re competitive folks, but I think it’s mainly because celebrating your country really means celebrating the people who love you here. Some people are celebrating our political system and the traits that they think of when they raise flags as well though, and while I definitely don’t think I live in a perfect country- I don’t think any country can ever be completely perfect- I think it’s a totally okay one, and some of the traits of my country do make me a little bit proud even when I’m not a huge fan of some politicians we have gunking up DC.
You know, my grand parents moved to The States right before World War II, because they could tell trouble was brewing and they wanted no part of it. That’s not so different from everyone else who lives here. Thousands of years ago, the native tribes traveled from Asian across the land bridge to escape terrible climate change. A few hundred years ago pilgrims and Jews fled here to avoid religious oppression. Fifty years ago migrant farmers and workers from Mexico and South America came here for jobs and a small measure of safety. Ten years ago my African friend’s parents began migrating here to avoid civil unrest in West Africa. Last year my friend moved here to go to college. We all came here for opportunity, and change. Some of them even got it. If nothing else, I can at least be proud that the majority of my fellow countrymen are able to handle that immigrants can’t and won’t completely assimilate, and I think because we have experience with many waves of immigration from different cultures we handle them a little less stressfully than a few certain European countries who I think are doing a good job adapting as well they can without years of experience in this whole “how do we deal with people who don’t already know the unspoken social rules and think as well as act like we do” thing to guide them. Good job you guys, but I’m still a little happy that my country has had maybe not open arms to migrants, but at least some measure of accessibility, for hundreds of years now.
Most people around here, which is to say DC, are from a million nationalities, or at least one that isn
t white. Because, you know, DC is just as much of a mixing bowl as New York is, we just dont separate into different neighborhoods. I
ve heard there are different areas for the Italians vs the Irish or Polish? But we dont really have much of that here. My next door neighbor on the left is from Laos, my neighbor on the right is from Uzbekistan, and one of my neighbors across the street is from Eritrea (Warning: mistake Eritrea with Ethiopia at your own peril. You risk grumpy friends! You have been warned.).
It is kind of funny, actually: I can tell from a few feet off if a person is Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, or Thai. (I’m actually legit faceblind so it’s hard for me to tell the identities of these people and pinpoint which of my friends they are, but I can tell their race at least so small comfort. Facial blindness is #nothelpful) And those are just the basic ones, I know quite a few people from other countries, I just can
t always recognize which one right away. And its not just the Asian population, there were over 400 native languages represented at my public schools growing up! That includes every continent except Antarctica, because as far as permanent populations go Antarctica has no multigenerational culture, unless you count scientists.
America the Yummy-ful
But there is one thing uniquely American that I can be proud of. There are a lot of foods in the states that may have been partially inspired by the cuisines and similar-ish foods of other countries that end up getting a complete makeover here. Pizza? Italian pizza was just a way to make stale bread a little less icky. But pizza has become an artform in the states. It’s pretty funny, because then American pizzas were brought to Italy and inspired American style pizzas there! And what about casseroles? I actually like tuna casserole and turkey tettrazini, and I think most people love a good oven baked mac and cheese. (The preserved box type is officially disowned!) And apple pie is pretty American, though of course apples are a foreign plant here, brought over from Europe during the continent’s colonization. Brought and planted by Johhny Appleseed, a famous guy in American (not pre American) legends.
But something even better than all of that is the chocolate chip cookie. I don’t know if Tollhouse has been lying to me, but on the back of their chocolate chips they always show the story of the invention of this yummy treat. The story is that this lady ran a tollhouse, which served food among other functions, and she put some chopped chocolate inside of her special sugar cookie recipe. Genius! I love the dumb things. It’s inspired a whole realm of small treat filled cookies. You could even call it a legendary cookie. Frankly, I think that kind of famous-ness is pretty darn swanky.
The taco, burrito, and chimichanga are also American invented foods. Americans invented soda, and perfected apple butter, and created a world of turkey based foods. They made the airplane, and rootbeer floats. An American teen made the television for a Science Fair project, and invented the internet (or at least added practical applications to it,) and American engineers made the solar roadway.
Finding my Patriotism
Maybe something that unites us is that we like to tell it to you straight. We don’t bother with subtlety- if you earn our respect, we’ll give it to y0u; and if you act like a jerk, we’ll let you know (some more politely than others!) We are the champions of the underdogs, or at least we try to be. We like to help people, and we try to meet people where they are. We tend to dislike whole groups of people, which is unfortunate, but give us just one family and 99% of Americans will be so overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming sometimes immigrants wonder if they are drunk! (Not going to lie, if it’s on the 4th they probably are.) We appreciate new cultures and try to include foreign words into our own language with pronunciation as close to the original as we can handle.
Sure, we have some weak spots. Some less-than-admirable blots on our history. Literally every Native American will back that up. Who doesn’t have a weakness? But we are more than our mistakes, past and present. We’ve got people who give what time and money they have freely. You need to support a charity? Just get the word out and people are bound to jump in. We may be contrary as cats, and many of us dislike being legally obligated to give, but when it’s an optional thing we often give beyond our means, because helping people matters more. We’ve got a lot of people who really value their chance to work hard and get an honest living in return. We believe that people can dream big, and if they put in the work they’ll see results. We believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from or what your parents have done, we will respect or dislike you based on your own character and actions. Many people might be disappointed when they realize not everyone can afford white picket fences and sports cars, but most everyone gets the opportunity to work hard and gain a future at some point in their lives. We believe in honesty and loyalty and work ethic. We believe in an awful lot of things, and maybe that’s a more important unifying force than the looooong history and even longer homogenized bloodlines that unites some other countries.
So, in the end I say to you all,