My mom tells a story about me of when I was two years old. I approached her and asked, “Do we have choices?” She didn’t know what I meant, neither did she know why a toddler was asking such existential questions. Not fully understanding the question being asked of her from such a small person, she said that yes we do have choices. She asked me to remember what I meant so I could tell her when I was older. According to her I made a promise to remember, but since I have no recollection of that conversation I don’t feel too guilty at having broken said promise. I have no idea what I meant.
But perhaps it was that early recognition that we have choices that put me on the road to being who I am now. Perhaps, as evidenced by such questioning at such a young age, I have always had a knack for asking questions. Regardless of how I arrived here, the fact is I constantly ask questions. I question the status quo without entirely setting out to do so. I simply ask.
The danger of asking questions is the answers you receive are not always pleasant to hear. Luckily for me, I was born and raised an American citizen thus it is highly unlikely I will be imprisoned for asking questions, going to protests, writing articles disagreeable to government officials, etc.
The freedom of speech and press, however, does not protect me from my peers and family members accusations that I hate the United States.
I am always shocked and slightly hurt when people make that accusation. After all, look at some of the greatest figures in American history: Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Alice Paul, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks. These men and women were people who questioned the status quo. They didn’t say, “This is wrong, therefore I hate America.” They said, “This is wrong, let’s do something about it.”
I see a lot of problems in the United States. Our broken health system created and perpetuated by a government that subsidizes the very food and industries causing the rampant diseases; our paternalistic nature that continues despite the obvious lessons from history that tell us to knock it off; our obsession with demeaning women in the media; our refusal to take care of our patch of earth over which we have stewardship; our pattern of burying the dark pieces of our history. I could create an extensive list.
It is possible that anyone who just read the above list is thinking, “She really does hate America!” Let me assure you, I do not.
For, despite all the problems I see and talk about and write about, I know that I can do something about it. Not only am I mentally capable of taking action, I have the freedom to.
It is true a lot of the people who have been harbingers of change in the United States have been met with opposition, even from the government that is supposed to protect their right to create change. Just look at the settling of the Utah territory by Mormon pioneers. The reason Mormons travelled so far outside the then boundaries of the United States was because their Constitutionally protected right of freedom of religion was spurned through violence, arrests, evacuation orders, and even an extermination order in Missouri that wasn’t revoked until 1976.
But despite the opposition that always accompanies change and those who ask questions, in the United States it is absolutely your right to speak out! And if people try to take those rights away, it is your right to fight against that, too! It might be a messy battle, but asking questions and making change is pretty much the norm of the United States. It’s what we do.
So, yes I do see problems–many problems–in the United States. Some of them scary, some of them frustrating, some of them I can’t believe even exist in this country. But in no certain terms do I hate America.
Furthermore, I must put into question why I am accused of hating America for recognizing its faults and talking or writing about them. People often call me un-American when I do. Frankly, I think it is quite patriotic of me to do so and quite un-American of others to ignore or turn a blind eye to this country’s problems, habits, and less-than glamorous moments in history.
Let me say that again: it is un-American to turn a blind eye. But it is patriotic to be an active citizen.
In multiple posts on this blog I have written about the First Amendment of the Constitution. All the amendments on the Bill of Rights are needed and wonderful and help to make the United States a great country. But for whatever reason the First Amendment is usually at the forefront of my mind. This amendment is one of the reasons I think it is absolutely vital to take action and say something when a citizen sees a problem: because we can. To have that right and not use it is like having two healthy legs and choosing to remain immobile for the rest of your life.
If you don’t use this integral right, you are abusing a gift. You are neglecting responsibility. You are doublethinking yourself into believing there are no problems.
I want to say again, I do not hate America. If I didn’t care about the United States I wouldn’t say anything. I would pack my bag, say, “See you never,” and go someplace else for the rest of my days. But I stay. I stay and do what I can to make this country a better version of itself. What good citizen wouldn’t?