After reading Brittany Smith’s last column, I find it not only shocking, but also quite saddening that she is ashamed to be an American (Reforming Patriotism, 03/26/2010). I am also deeply disturbed that Smith defines being American by everything this country has ever supposedly done wrong in the world. To say she has felt ashamed by her fellow Americans’ patriotism and that the waving of Old Glory is “too bold a symbol of pride” is appalling. The American flag has been proudly displayed by countless citizens since the Revolutionary War. I display it proudly every day outside my house.
I do believe she is correct in saying the flag signifies this country’s superiority over the world. But that’s because this country is superior to the rest of the world. For example, Smith attends the University of Michigan, one of the top schools in the world, and she writes for The Michigan Daily, a 120-year-old publication. I’m sure she lives comfortably somewhere on or near campus with electricity, heat and hot running water. She can say or write nearly anything without legal consequence and she can worship any god her heart desires. If she lived in one of the third-world countries that we supposedly oppress, these luxuries would be severely limited. If she lived in Iraq or Afghanistan as little as 10 years ago, she wouldn’t even be allowed to show her face in public, let alone write a newspaper article — especially one speaking out against national pride. I think most citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan are thankful for their liberation. Just ask any soldier.
I’m not saying the wars in those countries have gone perfectly — but does any war? And I’m not saying everything about America is perfect — that certainly isn’t the case. The health care system is flawed, and so are the welfare system, Social Security, the process of naturalization and many other government programs. Our government’s ineptitude was certainly apparent during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — but that is not what defines an American.
As a victim of Hurricane Katrina, I certainly felt like a refugee in the days after the storm. My family and I were homeless, had only three sets of clothes and had no idea where we were going to sleep each night. That certainly sounds like a refugee to me — perhaps not to the extent that we hear about in Africa or the Middle East, but a refugee nonetheless. Does that mean the government treated us as unequal? I don’t think so. No one had ever had to deal with something like that before, so no one knew how to handle it. Could the government have handled it better? Certainly, but they didn’t purposefully treat us as unequal.
My home was submerged in a mixture of swamp water, oil and sewage for three weeks, and when we returned to rebuild, we received no aid. Did we ask for it? Of course. Did we complain and whine when we didn’t get it? Maybe a little, but we moved on and did it ourselves with only the help and support of loving family members in other states. After 16 long months of hard work and determination, my family moved back into our home. I believe that’s what defines Americans: working hard to achieve your goals and not giving up during the lowest of the lows; and working hard to better your country, yourself and those around you. For that, I am damn proud to be an American, and Smith should be too.
Christopher Johnson is an Engineering junior.