A Patriotic Sentiment

I like America.

America doesn’t seem like a thing I’m allowed to like.

If you’re on the right hand side of the political spectrum, you are allowed to love America, but only in a pained, nostalgic kind of way. You are supposed to conjure up an image of “back when everything was fine and we lead the world and there was none of this PC bullshit” and idolize that. Not like it. Not feel warm about it. Love it. Love it the way you could only love something that embodied perfection. Love it the way you could never love anything that was able to exist in real life.

You also aren’t supposed to have positive feelings towards it the way it is now, except for the scraps that vaguely resemble what it was supposed to be in the past. If you like America the way it is now, you can’t make it great again.

If you’re on the left, you are allowed to be bitterly disappointed in America. America, land of the free, place of opportunity, bastion of liberty; all, as it turns out, lies. Bitter, twisted concealments of a nation that committed not one but two crimes against humanity to create itself; genocide against the indigenous peoples, and slavery of imported Africans. A nation that, yes, occasionally went to war against horrific foes like Nazis and… well, Nazis, but that also harbored its own fascists in the form of the KKK, the skinheads, and the modern phenomena of Trumpism. A nation that rode that glory through far less justifiable wars, that used a self-appointed policeman’s role to cover up imperialism. A nation that has repeatedly committed acts of oppression, both against it’s own people and those abroad.

What both of these reactions have in common is that they are not in reaction to America as a mass of land that some people share via legal contract. They are in reaction to America as an ideal. They are in reaction to America as a fiction, a dream, a thing no country ever has been, or ever could be.

I like America. I like it because I like things that fail at noble goals. It’s relatable. Failure is inevitable. The world is driven by entropy into a point of total freeze, and in the meantime most of us are fairly incompetent. If your choice is to fail to either fail at being great or fail at being average-to-poor, I think it’s far better to fail at being great, because then there’s at least a chance you’ll end up fairly decent with a trend towards marginal improvement.

That’s the kind of country America actually is. Sure, we’ve done some fairly horrific things, but if you think that’s a uniquely American feature your world history teacher has rather pathetically let you down. We at least have the decency to (mostly) feel bad about it. Is that a cold comfort? Yes, of course it is. Of course it invalidates none of the bad, any more than the bad invalidates the good.

And America is so human, isn’t it? All countries are, but I possess the biased feeling that America is especially so. All of us mashed together with our different backgrounds, squabbling and clashing and trying to fit in and then rebelling against the entire notion of “fitting in,” putting in some effort to make things work and then collapsing on the couch in exhaustion, saying, “fuck it, this will be good enough for now, let me watch some TV in peace and I’ll give it another try tomorrow.”

America tries so damn hard. Sometimes it makes progress. Sometimes it makes things worse. But it really does try. I like that in a nation.


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