I do not consider myself a patriot. More often than not, I struggle with the elements of division, superiority, and blindness that have inundated America. Most conversations surrounding politics or religion make me want to turn in my citizenship for all the misunderstanding, disrespect, and division. I do not care to be grouped in that category of "American." You might think that the violence, oppression, and genocide we have witnessed around the world is reason to believe America is excluded from the "inhumane," but we too are capable of loosing our humanity for a moment.
Despite all of that, I do know this: we are blessed. We live in a nation of incredible abundance and progress. The more time I spend outside of the US, the more thankful I am for the seal on my passport. I find myself judging my neighbor and my nation, until I remember the incredible meal I just had, the college diploma on my shelf, how cozy my bed is, or that I have a job and a bank account. Sometimes I carry shame and embarrassment for how lavishly we live. Walking around the streets of Kolkata, I felt like royalty, but I was more sad than proud.
For the past few years, America and I have been at odds. I have been trying to reconcile myself to her. Along the way, I have discovered hope, transformation, and humility. I know that we've got a lot of work to do yet, but I also know that we've come a long way. Rather than gain pride, I am more humbled to be an American. I find that I have a renewed sense of responsibility. Rather than try to shrug off the smell of America when I am in another country, I am compelled to embrace who and what I am, sharing my resources, knowledge, and experience. I believe that we have a responsibility to be the best possible representatives to the world of this little pocket of humanity.
I think the fact that we are the United States of America is pretty cool.
I love this stanza from Wyclef Jean's song "Million Voices" (written for the film Hotel Rwanda):
"If America, is the United States of America,
Then why can't Africa, be the United States of Africa?
And if England, is the United Kingdom,
Then why can't Africa unite all the kingdoms
and become United Kingdom of Africa?"
Maybe if we consider ourselves ambassadors of peace, we might be able to share our dream with Rwanda, Sudan, Libya, and Haiti. And if we come together with openness, in brotherhood, maybe they can teach us something great too. Let's do away with the us and them. We don't need it. Because that's not really us and that's probably not really them either. When heaven crashes into earth and we all come around the table, I'm not so sure the passport, flag, or political position will matter so much. I do not wish to sit at that table able to speak only of myself, nor do I wish to sit in shame. I only hope that I already know my neighbors and that we have joy in being different, together.
PS. My heart still swells when I hear the national anthem, and I really love this cake - even an unpatriotic girl can love a cake that is a flag.