Happy Fourth of July everyone. I’ve celebrated 21 Independence Days, but this is the first time I’ve celebrated outside of the US. I’ve spent the past week and a half travelling Ireland and the UK as part of a study abroad program.
For one of our courses we were assigned to interview native Irish about their attitudes regarding Gaelic. The Irish government has been working to revitalize the Gaelic language, and part of that includes requiring Gaelic to be taught in the schools.
Most of the younger Irish we interviewed were unable to actually speak Gaelic despite having taken it in school. In fact, most of them disliked their Gaelic classes. What was interesting, though, was that they all felt that future generations should take Gaelic classes. They see it as part of their heritage and something they want preserved.
All the Irish we met were proud to be Irish. As much as they acknowledged past national follies and as much as they railed on their current government, they were genuinely proud to call themselves Irish. When we moved on to Wales we noticed much the same. The Welsh were proud to be Welsh.
Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I fail to notice that much patriotism from my fellow Americans. Our Americanness isn’t as much a part of our identity. Sure, we have moments of grand national pride. Our patriotism swells as we sing the national anthem or watch fireworks light up the sky on July 4th. But where is our American pride the rest of the time?
To be fair, certain groups of people (military or people from certain geographic regions) display a fair amount of patriotism. But the average citizen? I’m inclined to think that as a whole we could be doing better.
Many people take pride in their mixed heritage but forget that being American is an important part of that heritage. They forget that whatever else they are, they are American. They can be proud of their ancestors’ nationalities while still being proud of their American identity.
Or maybe the problem is that America’s history doesn’t stretch back as far as the history of other countries. But that’s no less reason to be proud of it. In our brief time as a country we’ve accomplished some impressive things. We won our independence from the great British Empire with a ragtag army that had never fought together. We established a government that, in many ways, was as revolutionary as the war preceding it.
We have our great novelists, artists, athletes, scientists, poets, musicians, philosophers, and political thinkers. America has produced people like John Steinbeck, Thomas Edison, Norman Rockwell, Henry David Thoreau, Louis Armstrong, Jesse Owens, Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Arthur Miller. And that’s only to name a few.
While there are certainly reasons to be discontent with America and the direction it’s going, we don’t have to let our national pride suffer. In fact, I’m inclined to think that if we were a little more proud of our heritage, we’d work a little harder to secure America’s future.
I’m proud to be an American. I don’t always show it like I ought to. But the people of America have accomplished great things, and I believe that we can continue to accomplish great things, despite our faults.
May the star spangled banner long wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.