The other day I saw a poll question on the website Smerconish.com. The question was “How proud are you to be an American?”
Interesting question, I guess.
I really like Michael Smerconish, the owner of the website. He is also the host of a show on SiriusXM’s POTUS station and one on CNN. He is very smart, so I always learn something when I listen to him. He is very well informed, so I believe what he reports. And he is pretty non-partisan. He has been a Republican for most of his adult life, but is open minded and thoughtful.
I like him.
So I thought a lot about his poll question.
And here’s what I decided.
There are many things in my life that make me proud.
I’m very proud of my children. They are kind. They are altruistic. They all work in fields that let them help other people. They love each other. They are loyal friends. I am proud of them because I had something to do with how they turned out. I worked hard to be the best parent I could be.
I’m proud of my professional life. I’ve helped to teach hundreds of kids over the years. I’ve learned a lot, taken classes, listened to my smarter colleagues. I’m proud of having done my best to be a supportive and loving adult in the lives of my students. I did my best. I worked hard. I’m proud of my efforts.
My garden gives me a lot of pride, too. When I moved into this house almost three decades ago, there were no flowers. I have dug, weeded, thinned, composted, taken gardening classes, read books, transplanted, pulled up grass……You get it. I have worked very hard to make my yard look inviting in the warm months and cozy in the cold ones. And it’s all organic, too!
But when I think about the question on the website, I am confused.
Why should I feel pride in something for which I bear no responsibility? I was born an American citizen. I didn’t do a single thing to make that true. It’s true because of blind luck. And because of the courage and determination of my grandparents, who chose to leave the beauty and poverty of Italy in the hope of giving their children a better life.
I’m grateful that they did that. I’m happy about it. But proud?
I don’t deserve to feel pride.
How do I feel about the founding principals upon which this country was built?
Well. Given the fact that my ancestors were on another continent when all of that glory was unfolding, arriving on these shores only in the middle of the industrial revolution, I don’t see why I should feel pride in my country.
Do I like the principals and goals enumerated in our founding documents? Sure, for the most part I like them just fine. Sure. Freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness? All good.
But am I proud of them? No. Because I didn’t think of them, fight for them, sacrifice to see them put into place. I didn’t write them down and sign the Declaration of Independence even though that signature might have cost me my life.
So. I guess I’m not actually proud to be an American.
But how do I feel about my personal role in the life of the United States? Am I proud of that?
To some extent, yes I am.
I’m proud that I follow our political discourse. I’m proud that I read multiple sources to shape my ideas. I’m proud that I have gotten involved and have marched for causes I support. I’m proud of the fact that I always vote.
These are actions I’ve taken. Efforts that I have made, on my own, to improve life in this country.
I’m proud of myself as an American. But I don’t understand the idea of being “proud to be an American.”
I am an American because, by the luck of the draw, I was born here. I am an American because other people made sacrifices to get me here.
I am proud to be a decent, kind, loving human. I am proud to be inclusive and welcoming. I’m proud to be nurturing.
I am be proud to have given something good and beautiful to the world.
And I will remember that I have no reason, and no right, to be proud of the things that were given to me simply by luck.