Why I Fell Out of Love With America

I’m not anti-America, I don’t hate our flag, and frankly, how could I when I love hot dogs—the foundation upon which our patriotic institution rests? In the current political climate, however, I feel like I have to preface that I don’t hate America, but I no longer idolize it like I did when I was younger.

Growing up, I believed in the American Dream where every citizen has a fair shot to become successful as long as they work hard. From celebrating Christopher Columbus to commemorating “I Have a Dream,” the land of the free and the home of the brave represented equality, progress, and freedom.

Obama became the 44th president when I was in 8th grade. On behalf of their parents, some of my friends were happy, some of my friends were upset, but most of us were politically unaware of all the implications that meant. Regardless of political affiliation or personal opinions about his presidency, Obama is the first African-American to be elected president in U.S. history. From 1789 to 2008, in a country that boasts of equal representation and a “melting pot” of cultures, we did not have one president of a different race for 219 years. Obama was living proof of the American Dream.

Nearing the end of Obama’s presidency, my sophomore year in college was underway, and the 2016 presidential election was ablaze. To my astonishment, the Republican candidate won.

How?

How could my neighbours, my friends, and my community support and vote for a man notorious for racist and misogynistic speech, accused by at least 20 women of sexual misconduct, and who actively questioned Obama’s birth certificate?

To my left, I saw communities shaking, fearful if the new president would follow through with all that he promised in his campaign. To my right, I saw a sea of red hats, tiki torching their way through anything that stood in their path. The spring semester following the 2016 election, I enrolled in a couple race theory courses where I learned extensively about Emmett Till, Anne Moody, Trayvon Martin, and James Baldwin. 

I realized that the foundations of my elementary education were sugar-coated; that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” to catalyze the Atlantic slave trade and American Indian genocide; that Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech wasn’t just about dreams for racial equality but also about demanding reparations for black men who are “still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” Public school education hinges on supremacy, feeding malleable minds that U.S. history is pristine and that Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the 13th amendment, even though he wasn’t an abolitionist (he preferred to move the African-American population to Africa instead of confronting slavery head-on), and the emancipation proclamation wasn’t morally motivated as much as a political tactic to win the Civil War. 

We aren’t explicitly taught this in grade school because we don’t want to acknowledge that we aren’t perfect.  Even after all of that still, I wasn’t completely demoralized yet.

Then the first lady of the United States wore a jacket that said, “I really don’t care, do u" to visit migrant children at the Texas-Mexico border. Then 17 victims died in a high school shooting. Then gun laws still didn’t change.  Then children were locked in cages. Then “concentration camp” was used in modern day context instead of just referring to the Holocaust. Then Amber Guyger, a White police officer, shot Botham Jean, an unarmed African-American, in his own apartment. Then three days later she was finally arrested. Then she was released on bond. Then she was only charged with manslaughter, not murder. Then I went to Europe. Then no one overseas had nothing good to say about Americans. Then I realized that no one really thinks America is all that great except for Americans. 

It’s a harrowing feeling, realizing that the nation you’ve adored since you could learn to walk isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. 

But also among the anarchy, there is still good. 

We see the #MeToo movement tackle sexual assault in strides. We see the fall of Larry Nassar. We see the fall of Harry Weinstein. We see the rise of survivors. We finally see underrepresented minorities in Hollywood like The Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. We see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win New York’s 14th Congressional district. We see change, and we see progress, and we see passionate people fighting for the America they know it can be. We see that people DO care. 

Just because I’m not blindly obsessed with the U.S. anymore doesn’t mean I hate it; it just means I’m more educated, and falling out of love with the romanticized version was just what I needed to fall in love with the raw and realistic version of the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

Sources: (1), (2), (3), (4)