Citizens can’t ignore our nation’s past
By: Autumn Barszczowski
When you grow up in the United States, especially after 2001, you are bombarded by American flags and overly-patriotic songs, encouraging you to sing about how you’re obviously proud to be an American.
Well, here it goes: I am not proud to be an American. Or at least, I am not proud of what the reality of being an American means today.
Let me explain. On paper, the United States is meant to be all about freedom for all people, but in translation from paper to reality, we have somehow forgotten the rights that this nation was built on. In the past few weeks, we have taken a step backwards for transgender rights, freedom of the press and have taken a step closer to the nationalism that I fear.
This nationalism I speak of is this idea that the United States is the best country in the world. That this country is the greatest, can do no wrong and is always the winner. In the past few years, the nationalism that I witness the most, is a blind love for a country whose flaws people refuse to recognize.
The more I learn about the United States, the more I realize how willing we are to cover up the dark spots in our history.
I did not learn until 10th grade about the treatment that was received by Vietnam soldiers after they returned from a war that many were forced to fight. It wasn’t until 11th grade that I learned about the amount of indigenous people that were enslaved or killed by Christopher Columbus, our national hero. It took me until high school to see that our history is not as squeaky clean as I once thought.
I have learned that growing up in this country after 9/11 meant that I would continue to be taught this clean history, expected to stand for the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, even when I didn’t agree with the words and that I would keep my mouth shut about the glaring flaws of our country.
I cannot let myself stand by and watch as these groups of people who cannot see the hatred that is brewing at the core of their nationalism. The hatred that is taking away rights that people have just gained. The hatred that has taken away the voices of the people who continue to be oppressed in this country.
I can’t be proud of a country that says that all men are equal, but only means that all white men are equal. That being a woman, or being black, LGBT, Muslim, Mexican, disabled or anything outside of the realm of the “perfect American” means that your concerns will not be heard.
That instead, you’ll watch as your media becomes “fake news” for millions of people just because the president says so. That you’ll watch as your rights continue to be dismantled before you and that everything that has been gained in the past eight years continues to crumble.
America is meant to be for all people. I cannot find myself being proud to call myself a citizen of this nation until we truly take into account the writing that our country was built on and work on making that written freedom into a reality for everyone.
One day, I think that I could be proud of our country. The numerous protests that have happened in Pittsburgh alone have given me faith that we can restore what has been damaged. Maybe not for a long time but, eventually, it could happen.
So I’ll keep my faith in those people who continue to fight back and until then, I’ll stand my ground about why I cannot be proud of this country until it recognizes its flaws and finds a way to improve them.