A Pew Research study from 2013 showed at that time that only 32 percent of Millennials said the United States was the greatest country in the world. As Independence Day 2017 is upon us, it’s clear that there is a new kind of American patriotism, one generated from social media, partisanship, ethnic division and a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be a U.S. citizen.
Overall, the Pew study reported sharp differences across generations in the responses to the “greatest country” question. At the time, 48 percent of all Americans surveyed said the country is the greatest while 42 percent agreed it was “one of the greatest” in the world.
The only other survey available was done by Gallup in July of 2016 in which 52 percent of adults responding stated they were “extremely proud” to be an American. But the problem here isn’t the response, it’s the question.
Asking open-ended questions and using the word “greatest” and “proud” to qualify the answer is like asking if someone thinks chocolate is the greatest flavor for ice cream. It’s totally subjective and has absolutely no basis for any level of fact or qualification.
It can’t be measured or quantified. It’s opinion only, and that’s kind of the point, to get the subjective opinion and determine how people “feel” about the country. It’s a way for those reporting the survey to easily spin the results to their favor.
Some people might see any lack of modern American patriotism as a kind of black and white problem; either you’re a patriot, love America and absolutely everything it stands for, regardless, or not. The idea that it’s that simple is troubling, to say the least.
I think you can be an American patriot and still acknowledge that we’ve got some major problems, going all the way back to our beginnings. You don’t have to be one or the other.
Many people say that those who oppose government policies are “unpatriotic,” but I disagree. Our right to be in opposition of a government we sent to Washington to represent us is at the heart of our basic freedoms from tyrannical rule. If we don’t like what they’re doing, we vote them out. And it always works – when people vote.
To me, the very heart of “unpatriotic” behavior is when someone doesn’t vote at all or refuses to simply because the choices are less than desirable. You will always prefer one over another. Donald Trump became president because of a divided and mostly apathetic liberal mentality.
If every Democrat who opposed Trump would have voted, particularly women and minorities, there is no way he could have reached the Oval Office. But because people were divided between Sanders and Clinton, it fractured the vote and many people just stayed home. That’s unpatriotic.
Patriotism isn’t about flag waving or living with a glorified, head-in-the-sand mentality of our country. Patriotism is far more about trying to be the best American we can. If each of us makes the most of our citizenship we will, together, create a more patriotic citizenry in which we can all take pride.
Once again, remember that patriotism has nothing to do with facts. The general definition of a patriot is someone who has an attachment to their respective country or regime. It’s based on feelings, sentiment, and passion toward national loyalty.
But according to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, American patriotism is not a blind allegiance. It’s more complicated. It’s rooted in the words of the founding fathers, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words are unique to the American dialogue and culture.
Patriotism shouldn’t be reduced to pointless rhetoric. I consider myself patriotic, I’m proud of what we have accomplished as a nation. More than once we have helped to secure the world from the grip of evil (yeah, sounds cheesy), but we’re not perfect. We never will be.
Americans can be proud of our nation while being mindful of our mistakes. It’s not mutually exclusive. Like a loyal friend, a patriot sees a true image, warts and all.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com