MARCANO: I’m proud to be an American and of America

Ray Marcano

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Ray Marcano

I found this poll from Ipsos interesting. It said seven of 10 people who live in the United States are proud to be an American.

But that led me to another question: Are you also proud of your country? According to a Pew Research Poll, just 39% of those surveyed said “yes.”

That may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. You can be proud of where you live while being not-so-proud of the country’s shortcomings.

Most of us will celebrate July 4 by participating in or watching a parade, going to a picnic, or spending time with family and friends. It’s an American day where people generally focus more on what makes this country special and less on what makes us different.

There’s a lot that makes us special.

It is true we have what seems to be innumerable and insurmountable problems that distract us on a daily basis. But it’s also true that we have come further in 250 years than most countries have come in 2,500.

This is not Pakistan, where women have the right to vote but are sometimes prohibited from doing so by village elders and their husbands.

This is not Myanmar, where the government engages in what the international community calls genocide against one of its ethnic populations, the Rohingya Muslims.

This is not South Africa, where 64% of the country’s Black population (vs. 19.5% in the US) lives in poverty and has little prospect of shedding the legacy of apartheid.

We should be proud of an America that has tried to make equality a hallmark of what we stand for. We have not succeeded, yet, and have a long way to go.

But we try.

We have laws on the book (now, anyway) that protect same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights. People can be put to death in as many as 11 countries, including Iran, just because of who they love. Our government doesn’t do that.

Here, we can generally say what you want and write what you want and all you risk is an angry email from someone who doesn’t agree. Try that in China, North Korea or Russia. You’ll face arrest or worse.

As a Black man who has faced more discrimination than I care to recount, I could make a compelling argument for why I’m not proud of America and highlight all of her flaws.

I’m not blind to the plight that we’re in. There are scary headwinds that threaten our republic. I point that out a lot to remind us that it just takes pulling out one thread to unravel the entire fabric of our democracy.

But I also look at what else goes on around the world. When I compare that to what we have, I come to this conclusion: I’m proud to be an American and proud of the country in which many of us try to be better. It won’t always work. Never has, never will. But most of us don’t give up on a quest to improve our communities and who we are. Most of us care for our neighbors and friends, regardless of ideology. Most of us try to be decent and kind.

So before I go to my Monday cookout. I’ll go to the American flag that hangs next to my garage, think “thank you,” and remind myself as bad as we think it is, it could be a lot worse.

I’ll remind myself, on our Independence Day, that America really is the greatest country on earth.

CONSERVATIVE DISCUSSIONS: I had a good talk with a group of self-described conservative voters last week on a range of issues. You’ll read about that soon. I’m going to schedule a similar talk with liberal voters sometime in July. Stay tuned for how to participate.

Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages each Sunday. You can send him a question or comment to raymarcanoddn@gmail.com

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