One of the main elements that I remember from my grandparents’ home is the American flag—the presence of red, white and blue.
There was one hanging by the front door, large and undeniable. Within the home and the car there were miniature versions on the computer desk, on the kitchen counter stuck in a vase amidst an array of colorful flowers, hanging from the rearview mirror.
And then there was my grandmother’s closet—her blue pants, white shirt, dangly red earrings. She was the biggest flag of them all.
Growing up, I continually heard the likes of:
America is the best country. It is the land of the free.
God bless America.
You’re so lucky to be an American citizen.
And whenever I asked, “Why? Why is America so great?” I received scrunched eyebrows and a quick, “It just is.”
It just is.
At a young age, I realized that was the best answer I was going to get. So I accepted it, my grandmother’s word. What else was I supposed to do at age six?
I recited the pledge of allegiance from my soul every morning at school, and whenever I saw something red, white and blue, I’d think to purchase it as a gift for my grandmother. The thought that I could add something to her collection of patriotic items made me feel worthy of being American.
And so, in my six year old mind, America was the best country ever to be created. Others wanted to be us but didn’t deserve to be. I held this as my truth until, years later, I realized that my question was never properly answered. Nobody ever really told me why.
I have stepped outside of this belief, but I am still witness to it almost every day, in some small way—this blind patriotism. And now in the colors red, white and blue, where I used to find pride, I am often reminded of the lack of humanity a cavalier attitude can create.
We want to keep others out. And if they’re in, we want to kick them out. They aren’t deserving. They weren’t born here. What?
This is what I eventually came to realize: Being patriotic about our country is like favoring and sanctioning brown hair simply because we were born with brown hair. The red or black or blonde haired people don’t deserve to have brown locks, and if they dye their hair they should be obligated to change it back. Crazy, right?
This mindset slays our empathy, our goodwill. Above all, it deteriorates the ability to connect that we as humans naturally possess. It pits us against one another. All we see is the flag floating above another person’s head, that blaring difference that, in reality, is not much of a difference at all.
We are all human. We have experienced hardship, some of which we still carry in our hearts. We can be kind and generous and motivated. We can also be rude and insensitive and judgmental. And none of this depends on which country we were born in or on which we live. It doesn’t matter who our ancestors are. It’s time we stop viewing people by their nationality and start viewing them as human, without disparities.
We need to lean towards humanity, not nationality.
Author: Jenna Meyer
Editor: Travis May
Image: Brandi Korte Flickr