I got a new hat for Christmas. I know, not the most exciting start to an article, but that’s because you don’t know how sweet this hat is. It’s a North Face snapback and it has an American flag prominently displayed on the front. Pretty dope, right? I thought so too.
Until last weekend.
I walked into the bar, feeling myself in my new hat, and started noticing I was getting a reception that was a little colder than usual. Some side-eyes. People squinting to get a better look at me. I was confused by the attention, until I reached my table and one of my friends took one look at me and said,
“Is that a Trump hat?”
I stared at him, confused. I even took my hat off to confirm that it hadn’t morphed into a MAGA cap at some point during my walk over. Finally, I responded.
“No. Why would it be a Trump hat?”
He answered with words that have stuck with me in the days since.
“I don’t know. I just saw the American flag and assumed it was.”
Since that incident, I’ve been talking to people about his view, and I’ve learned that many people assume the same thing. I’ve heard everything from, “It just seems like only Trump supporters are proud of this country right now,” to, “Isn’t being patriotic basically saying you support our president?”
Excuse my language, but fuck that.
I’ve been a liberal and a patriot my whole life, and there’s no way I’m letting anyone else dictate whether or not I can love my country. Being a patriot has nothing to do with your political party or beliefs, and everything to do with believing in the people of this country. I’m a first generation American, and my immigrant parents raised me with the belief that this is the greatest country in the world; a belief I still firmly hold to this day. Does this mean that I think the United States is perfect? Hell no. We need a lot of work. Shit, after this president, we’ll have a ways to go to even get back to where we were before November 2016.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t love this country.
Recently, it seems as though people assume that conservatives have reserved the right to be patriotic, and that could not be further from the truth. Sure, if you’re a supporter of the current political climate, it’s easier to love this country. But that doesn’t mean you own the rights to patriotism. I might not be happy with our president, recent policies, or even our government as a whole, but that doesn’t stop me from being a fan of my nation. When your favorite sports team loses, do you stop rooting for them? No, you hold your head high and declare yourself a fan through thick and thin. Through good times and bad.
Patriotism works the same way.
As for those who claim it’s unpatriotic to criticize your country, to march in the streets for change, or to ridicule our president—you have no idea what patriotism is. This country was built on the ideals of freedom, innovation, and change. Built by people who didn’t like the way things were, and resolved to fight for what they believed in. There is nothing more patriotic than working to better your country. Through action, through words, and yes, also through criticism. Marching for equality for American women is patriotic as hell. Protesting police brutality on American citizens is patriotic as hell. Criticizing a president that isn’t doing what you believe is best for America is patriotic as hell. In fact, the least patriotic thing you could do is allow your country to regress; to give up; to not fight for change.
Democrat or republican, if you believe that your president, your government, or even your political party is no longer aligned with what’s best for this nation, it is your patriotic duty to fight to change that.
Stick up for what you believe in, whether your party agrees or not. If you believe that minorities are being abused, assaulted, and even murdered by the police that they look to to protect them, attend a Black Lives Matter rally. If you believe that tax cuts should help the average American, call your representatives and voice your displeasure. If you think the president is going to tweet us all into a nuclear holocaust, support the First Strike Bill that limits his ability to launch nukes without congressional approval. This country is far from perfect, and it’s up to you, and me, and all of us, to help make it better.
I’m liberal and I love this country. I want to change it. Improve it. Help it. That’s what being a patriot is all about. And I’m not going to let any political party own the rights to being a patriot. My liberal ideals are what makes me a patriot. I believe in helping those who need it, whether they are refugees trying to escape a horrifying past, or citizens trying to escape a cycle of poverty. Those are the ideals this country was founded on. After all, the Statue of Liberty doesn’t say “Give me your rich, your Caucasian, your upper-class with offshore bank accounts.”
Being a liberal and a patriot means I have nothing but respect for those who kneel during the anthem, and nothing but respect for those who served and sacrificed for their right to do so. It means I will protest sexism in the United States on a Monday, and start a “USA” chant in a bar on a Friday.
And it means I’ll wear my new American flag hat proudly because I’m a patriot.