With the presidential election approaching in November, it is at this time once every four years that our country is infused with proud and powerful patriotism. Candidates preach American strength, revitalizing a belief in the greatness of our nation, while fervent supporters wave miniature Stars and Stripes in the audience. Politicians often attempt to redefine what patriotism should look like. Although political rhetoric often exaggerates such enthusiasm, it does pose a fundamental question to the public: Are you proud to be an American? This month, the High-O-Scope asked the same question to some of our very own students and staff.
Finding answers, however, proved to be more difficult than we had predicted. Patriotism is a highly individualized and personal topic. But as we found, it may also be one which is not often discussed at our school, or perhaps in most settings. Junior Tevan Chinsangaram admitted, “That’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, I guess.” His sentiment seemed to be echoed by many students. Even those who gave answers took some time to think, and with good cause. Patriotism can be a touchy subject, especially among a generation which is being raised in a culture of awareness concerning our country’s flaws. Many students were glad they lived in America, but were quick to define the word “proud”. Cameron Reimer, a sophomore, said, “I’m proud of the things America stands for, but I’m not proud of some of the things America has done, that’s for sure”. He was not alone; other students, and even some staff, had similar comments. Mr. Larrowe seemed to agree wholeheartedly, articulating that, “Our ideals are great! Freedom, life, liberty, the concept that all men are created equal – that’s good stuff.” But, as Mr. Larrowe continued to explain, ideals and reality are two separate things. Our nation has stumbled repeatedly in the past, with human rights crimes in other countries, racial inequality at home, and an abhorrent disregard for the environment. This may be why many people do not take pride in the U.S. Sometimes, it can be embarrassing to identify as an American. The question then arises, where does our flag-waving pride in America come from? It may be partly international, yes. People from many countries view the United States as a symbol of democracy and freedom. As senior Jacob Strittholt points out, “We have values that are, at least in my experience, only present here.” It’s true, our country is unique in many ways.
Sometimes though, especially as a high schooler, it can be difficult to relate to a strong sense of patriotism. When asked whether or not she is proud to be an American, freshman Sidney Hutchison shrugs and says, “Sometimes.” Her response was similar to others which expressed disinterest towards the subject – which by no means is a bad thing. What happens concerning the American reputation often takes place far away from home, without any significant impact on our personal lives. That being said, as we grow older, this question will pop up more and more. Many of us will be eligible to vote within a few years, and will play a part in the democracy which makes our country so special. Some of us may enlist in the armed services, and others might take jobs in politics. Whatever our path, the incredible thing is, the answer to the question – Are you proud to be an American? – is up to us. We can work to create a country in which that answer, without hesitation, is yes.