I am from the United States, both physically, and mentally. Though I haven’t lived there in almost 6 years, it plays a major role in my identity, whether I like it or not. Engulfed by my extremely liberal school, I primarily hear negative perspectives towards the United States government, and Americans themselves. I walk home after a long day of school and swim practice, and I argue with my father over the most recent conflict in the United States. He always says the unjust American government is no worse than every other nation. Sure, police brutality is a problem, but he argues that it’s a problem everywhere else too. I always find myself stumped by his points. Why do I- and many of my friends- feel like the United States is so horrible when all of its evils have an equivalent from a different country?
I have thought about this a lot, and the reason many Americans feel so passionately about the problems in the United States isn’t necessarily just because of the explicit wrongs. It’s betrayal. Americans feel betrayed by their own country.
A part of me says that whatever I’m feeling is just the price I pay for growing up. It is simply a result of my fading ignorance and new awareness for the world around me. When I talk to my friends, who are from outside of the United States, they don’t relate in the way I’d hope. Their disappointment doesn’t root as deeply as mine. Do I personally just care more about the problems that plague my country? Am I simply overly patriotic and facing inevitable disappointment as I see the truth?
In second grade, after I put my backpack in my cubby labeled “Annie” in large font, I sat on a colorful rug decorated with zoo animals, letters, and numbers. My classmates and I listened to the morning announcements, whispering to each other and quietly trading silly bands. We then stood up, pledged allegiance to our flag, and recited the golden rule. This was a standard morning. In fact, through the 3 other places I lived following these memories, one being an American school in a different country, the single part that remained the same was the pledge of allegiance. I recited it every morning of school through 9th grade, after which I moved to my current school in Singapore.
None of my friends from outside of the United States share this memory with me. It may seem small, but I now realize how pledging allegiance to my country every morning for the first 9 years of school has made an impact. I am seeing life through a veil. Even if I don’t verbally express it, the way in which I was taught about the world and my own country while living in the United States causes me to feel a sense of superiority and pride for my country. It may sound like I am simply describing patriotism, but it is more. To feel patriotism I would be able to admit it. However, as I described, I often feel no pride as an American. I now understand why. The education system I grew up with in the United States infected me with an inseparable feeling of pride for my country, that when challenged, uprooted my way of thought. As if all of my truths were no longer valid.
When conservative Americans complain about the recent “anti-American” sentiments, I believe they are feeling the same thing. It is not their fault they are blinded by the United State’s “superiority.” They have been infected by the American education system just as I have, and just has everyone else in the United States has. The only difference is that I have left the place in which this force thrives in, and am surrounded by healthy people.
Just as conservative Americans refuse to separate from this force, liberal thinking people are simply a different product of this same force. Rather than holding tightly onto their roots, they are fighting it. They are realizing that everything they have been taught is a lie, and that the United States is no better than any other country. Just as most other powerful nations, the U.S was built on faults. The only difference-causing the unparalleled passion from opposite sides of the American divide- is how we were taught. So, as different as the ideas of a middle aged white man in Texas and a teenager in California may seem, they are all the product of a veiled truth. The product of a failing education system that has lied to them.
So, I guess the next step would be to find a solution. If we alter the American education system, will the stark division begin to disappear? What exactly needs to change?
Writer: Annie de Castro