Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day, when people are supposed to celebrate their love of the United States of America.
I can tell you, I definitely love Boston. I love Massachusetts. But do I love the US as a whole?
…Eh. It’s okay.
It’s kind of like that old, cranky, racist relative whose presence you don’t enjoy but whom you can’t bring yourself to disinvite from Thanksgiving. Or the apartment that has bad water pressure and a terrible landlord and no air conditioning and heat that barely works, but that you don’t move out of because it’s cheap and convenient.
Speaking of moving, if you’re thinking that if I don’t love it, I should leave, chill. I didn’t say I hate it. But love is a strong word, and while I tolerate America enough that I’m not actively trying to leave, I wouldn’t say I love it.
And if you’re indignantly thinking that people have fought and died for the right for me to say that I don’t love this country, I agree that freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. In fact, so do several other countries. It obviously doesn’t exist anywhere, but it does exist in just about every other developed country. Same for freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It’s great that we’re not, say, North Korea or Syria, but why are we comparing ourselves down instead of up? Why not compare ourselves to Canada or New Zealand, which have all those great freedoms but also have universal health care, guaranteed maternity leave, and less gun violence?
It’s hard to love a country that’s so full of stupid people—or, if I’m being generous, willfully ignorant people. In any case, no one who voted for Trump is smart. I do think that’s a pretty fair statement. Take a look at this Facebook group, which I sometimes read when I want to see how the other side thinks. Or, rather, doesn’t think. Seeing the things that Trump voters believe written out in their own words make it impossible for me to have even the slightest bit of empathy for them.
We are a country that finds value in ignorance and inexperience—hence, the election of Trump, the denigration of educated people as “out of touch” when they’re the ones with more information, the clinging to beliefs in things that are easily disproven—“alternative facts,” if you will.
We are a country that disregards an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is man-made and that our county is the biggest perpetrator of the pollution that causes it, all because people don’t want to make sacrifices and work for the well-being of the world.
We are a country that clings to the Second Amendment—which refers to a “well-regulated militia” rather than the individual right to bear arms, and which was written when it was impossible to perpetuate mass shootings with the types of weapons that existed then—despite overwhelming evidence that there is less gun violence in countries with stricter gun laws, all because people are too selfish and fearful to pass any laws that would make it even slightly harder to possess a weapon that’s much more likely to hurt you or a family member than to be used in any sort of self-defense.
We are a country that regards life-saving health care as a privilege rather than a right, a country where many people would consign their fellow citizens to medical bankruptcy or death because they’re afraid that they might have to pay a bit more in taxes to prevent that from happening.
We are one of only three countries TOTAL that does not guarantee paid maternity leave to new mothers.
We are a country where cops are constantly getting away with unjustified shootings of innocent black people.
We are a country with an alarming tendency to disregard inconvenient history in the name of patriotism. It’s true that every country has shameful things in its past, but we have people who take pride in having ancestors who fought for the Confederacy—ancestors who were traitors to their country out of a desire to preserve slavery and white supremacy—and defend public Confederate monuments. We have people who whitewash the horrors of slavery, people who defend horrific things in our history like Japanese internment, people descended from immigrants who were discriminated against who nevertheless would reject refugees fighting for their lives because they’re not from the right country or don’t follow the right religion.
It’s funny how things have changed in the seventy-odd years since World War II, when we fought against a genocidal German regime. Now Germany, which has sheltered many of the refugees we’ve been rejecting, is a moral leader for the world.
We’re the bad guys now.
So I’m very grateful to live where I do, a place that’s less ignorant than most places in the US. But until the attitudes of much of the rest of the country change, until we acknowledge and reject the worst parts of our history while embracing the best parts, like our welcoming of immigrants from all over the world looking for a better life, I can’t say I love this country as a whole.