Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is one of the first things we learn to do in school. We continue to recite that pledge every single school day until we graduate from high school. Every day we stand, place our hands on our hearts and speak those all too familiar words.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, allegiance is defined as loyalty or commitment to a superior or to a group or cause. While the words loyalty and commitment imply choice, this allegiance has become compulsory in our country. We were never taught that the Pledge of Allegiance was symbolic of our choice to support our country. We were taught that it is just something that we are supposed to do. We were taught to never question it in the same way we were taught to never question our government.
This toxic nationalism leads to certain groups of people blindly supporting legislation in our country despite it being against their own self interests. As Americans, we currently live in a country where being able to own a gun is seen as an unalienable right, but healthcare is not. According to our government, my right to own a gun is more important than my right to see a doctor or to go to college even if I cannot afford it.
As Americans, we are accept a political climate that you couldn’t be blamed for feeling like it does not care about our health or education, so why do we continue to assume it’s normal to stand up and declare our allegiance to them? Why do we declare allegiance to the powerful individuals who care more about lining their own pockets than our well being? We refuse to demand more of our country, and we refuse to stand up for our own self interests all because of a misplaced sense of allegiance that has been engraved into us since childhood.
Our nationalism has also led many of us to believe America is better than other countries even though statistics often say otherwise. In the most recent World Happiness Report, we see that people in many other countries all over the world are happier than Americans. This happiness has a correlation with countries whose governments provide more to the people. Lots of these countries have free healthcare, free higher education, and less violence.
American nationalism has also become equated to pro-white agendas. When people of color speak out about the injustices they face in this country, they are told to go back to Africa as if this is not their home just as much as it is for white people. When people speak out about the prejudices and cruelty Muslim individuals are subjected to, the government bans these individuals from entering the country and forces them to leave.
In this country, if a white person commits an act of terrorism, he is too often seen as mentally unstable and in need of help. If a person of color commits an act of terrorism, chances are they are a terrorist and cause our government to “randomly select” everyone with a similar skin tone.
This needs to stop. America is far from the being the best country in the world. We have people who are starving because they cannot afford food. We have people who sleep outside because they cannot afford a home. We have families who will soon be forced to declare bankruptcy because they have a sick child. We have teenagers who want to be doctors and lawyers who will never achieve that dream because they cannot afford college. We do not care for all Americans. The systems in this country privilege certain individuals while abusing less privileged people.
The only way that we can improve this country is to be more self reflective and to be more open to criticizing the things we were made to believe were right when we know they are wrong. We cannot be afraid to challenge the power structures within our country because they are what creates so many problems for all Americans. We must learn to value every American equally and stand up to people who do not.
The only way America can become better is if we all demand more of our government and from each other. While pride in your country can be a good thing, it has to be deserved, and America does not deserve it. It is about time we work to earn that pride.