Redefining the American Patriot
by Jake Haskell


While Obama’s landmark victory is beginning to sink into reality and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought it an appropriate time to stop patting ourselves on the back and begin to look toward the changes in our national attitude we must back up with a will to do better as a country. 

With this in mind, let’s flash back three Tuesdays ago. I am sitting on my maroon couch watching MSNBC skip from camera to camera to show people all across the country celebrating. Amid the revelry on the screen and my own celebratory inebriated state, a woman reporter comes on the screen and jubilantly declares, “Only in America could this have happened!” I cringed at the sound of her ignorant words. This is exactly the kind of sentiment that needs be removed from our patriotic doctrine. 

Growing up I was always aware of the general sentiment in the media and in our culture. The message was clear; we live in the “greatest country in the world.” I accepted this as the truth until I was old enough to form my own opinions and assumptions as to my nation’s alleged greatness. I truly love this country, but coming of age during the Bush administration’s tenure has been a humbling experience, and I believe more Americans than ever are aware of our nation’s fallibility. 

I deeply love this country, but I can never forget its many flaws and vices. Yes, we elected a black president. We also enslaved and entire race of people for over 150 years, so let’s not get too excited, ok? We are not the greatest civilization to ever stand on the earth and we are not the chosen people. We are simply one more nation in the world, no better, and no worse.

I don’t think the average American thinks that our nation is functionally the “greatest” in the world anymore and that is why I am discouraged when I hear this self indulgent rhetoric used over and over by our politicians and the media covering their every move. 

It is only by chance that any of us were born here so how could we possibly be better people? Are we better because of our economic standing and our military might? Is that the definition of the “greatest democracy”? 

No, our pride should come from the trust that we as a people, including our government, are working toward promoting justice, and limiting suffering inside and out of our country. 

We admire the humble man when it comes to our icons; movie stars, athletes, and our political leaders are admired for their individual forms of humility, so why not hold that abstract idea of America to the same standard?

I call America an abstract idea because the word holds a world of meaning that has been created by poets, politicians, and of course people from every corner of the earth.

America as an ideal is not static; it is left to its people to shape and change it constantly until one day it may live up to the embedded ideals of freedom, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness that we have been celebrating prematurely. 

And as always, the time is now. We must take up the burden of ancient ideals and work toward fulfilling them. Not to prove that we are the greatest, but because it just and because it is right.