I was rummaging through my clothes selecting items to donate for our Her Campus yard sale and came across a sweater I used to absolutely adore. I held the sweater out in front of me, smiling as I grazed my hand over the red, white, and blue stitches of the American flag across its front. It was soft- the kind of soft that only comes from years of love and wear.
But something didn’t feel right.
I started to think about what first impression others would have of me if they didn’t know me, and saw me wearing it. I faced two assumptions: one, that I was a Trump supporter, or two, that I was proud to be an American. The first could be easily dismissed, as the core values of love, acceptance, and kindness I was raised with wouldn’t align in the slightest with those who proudly wear MAGA hats. It made me question what our flag has come to represent, and how it has transitioned to be an emblem of only one side of the political spectrum. This led me to think about the second assumption that could be made.
“Am I proud of the country I live in? And if I am proud, what am I proud of?”
Though the answer seems obvious, I was surprised at how little I had actually thought about it after 18 years of living in my country, as privileged as that is to say. But could I blame myself? After twelve years of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning with my classmates, being told my whole life I live in the greatest country in the world, after learning how so many people risked their lives to come here, of all places, to live out the “American Dream,” there didn’t seem much room for critical thought.
But as I was standing in front of my closet, still holding my beloved sweater out in front of me, I had time to think.
I am not proud that parts of Flint, Michigan still do not have clean drinking water. I am not proud that old men are still allowed to debate my ability to make my own medical choices. I am not proud of new discriminatory laws passed to suppress transgender people. I am not proud of our deeply rooted racist history that still has an enormous effect on current, important infrastructures. I am not proud of our ongoing aid to Israel, as they move closer to becoming an apartheid state. I am not proud of our prison industrial complex. I am not proud of our white-washed school curriculums. I am not proud of our inequitable healthcare system. I am not proud of our unbalanced justice system. I am not proud of how we are more concerned over gun rights than children’s lives. I am not proud of how much it costs just to survive in America. I am not proud that the new American Dream, for many, is to leave this country.
I want to be proud of what our flag represents. I want the flag of my country to be a symbol of opportunity, equality, and respect. I want the flag of my country to represent liberty and justice for ALL.
So I folded the sweater and placed it aside. I want to be proud, but I’m currently not. Not today, but I am dedicated to working towards rebuilding a country whose flag I can be proud to wear for many years to come.