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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

When I was younger I used to be very conservative. Until fairly recently, despite changing my views on many things and becoming much less religious, I still thought of myself as fairly conservative or at least moderate because I don’t really live a wild libertine lifestyle. After a conversation a couple of months ago with a friend who actually is moderate, I realized that I am in fact very liberal.

However, one thing that I’m still a little old-fashioned about is patriotism. I never thought much about patriotism before I studied abroad for a semester, but after living outside the U.S. even that briefly, I came to appreciate it much more strongly. At least, I came to realize that I am very much an American, and at the end of the day I prefer the country I grew up in to any of the others.

I started thinking about this after seeing an online poll about whether kids should say the pledge of allegiance in school. I also saw that a liberal friend of mine had voted “no.” I can imagine the reasoning behind that opinion, and I’m sure plenty of liberals agree with her. I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t matter much whether kids make that pledge or not, but if it were up to me I would say that they should.

Here’s the thing about America: it has some very, very negative things going for it. The “American Dream” isn’t much more than a myth–for every opportunity an immigrant gets they have to put up with more racism, xenophobia, language barriers, and governmental red tape than you can shake a stick at. And that’s just the legal immigrants. Even if you were born here, if you aren’t white and middle-class or richer you’re going to have a hell of a time making a life for yourself.

No, America doesn’t consistently live up to her ideals of “peace and justice for all” or “inalienable rights” or “give me your poor, etc., etc.” But at least we have those ideals. We still have a lot of racism, sexism, and other “isms” to work on, but at least most Americans realize that these are in fact problems rather than a divinely ordained way of life or simply the way things are. (Note that I said “most” Americans.) We should have better public schools and more free health clinics, but at least we have them. And I feel that a lot of people don’t really think about this, but it’s a huge, huge benefit: with the exception of Hawaii, we haven’t had war on our own soil in hundreds of years. In other words, if you’re in the U.S., finding the nearest refugee camp in the dead of night with enemy fire at your back is not something you have to worry about. Finding a job, a place to live, a decent school for your kids, and heath insurance–yes. Finding a refugee camp–no.

I don’t think America is God’s gift to the world or anything like that, but I do think that a lot of my fellow liberals (and some conservatives) get caught up in the many negatives of our country and forget that just having certain ideals as a part of our national consciousness is kind of a big deal.

The U.S. isn’t perfect by a long stretch, but I do love it, and I look forward to going back home.

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