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Douglas: Why I won’t hide American pride

Sam Douglas, Columnist

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On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave the commencement address to the graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The speech, while offering advice and thanks (and pardon to those cadets with minor infractions) to the Class of 2014, was also Obama’s chance to articulate his views on America’s role in international politics. Yet, in reading through The New York Times’ transcript of the address, I found myself drawn not to the president’s delineation of future roles, but in how he spoke about our country’s present successes. In doing so, I felt two very strong and very opposite emotions: pride and shame.

I was and still am — proud of my country. As emphasized by the president, the U.S. is the most powerful nation on earth  that power coming from our military and cultural leadership. Obama praised our immigration policies, the dynamism of our economy and our unrivaled “hub of alliances.” He goes even further in claiming that “the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.” I consider it an honor and a privilege to call myself a citizen of this “unrivaled” country.

However, in spite of that, I also felt shame at being proud of the U.S. There is, in the circles I frequent, and I think in the greater population of millennials, an opinion that apathy is a valued trait. Apathy emerges at the expense of allowing one’s self to experience something to the fullest extent, but it turns into general hatred of feeling vulnerable or passionately. This is exemplified by a tableau I passed last week outside of the Levere Memorial Temple on Sheridan Road: two students lounging in the flags stuck in the lawn for Memorial Day, taking selfies. Perhaps they, like me, are proud of this country, but with pride must come a modicum of respect. Respect for fallen soldiers, respect for our freedoms and respect for those who are not lucky enough to have them.

In families, members often offend, fight and lie to one another. Yet through this, healthy families stick together  disagreements lead to stronger bonds, mistakes are rectified and families decide to push onward into the future. Somehow they even love each other more because of it. To me, the U.S. is like a giant family, with members who, not always, but often have the respect necessary to forge healthy relationships. I understand that for me to contribute to a healthy national family, it is my job to forgive the “Memorial Day Loungers,” and I do. However, I can’t forgive myself for saying nothing to them when their actions affected me so deeply.

Many members of both my personal and my national family have served and died for this country, yet at certain times, I feel like I cannot be proud of their sacrifices because of the apathy so blithely flaunted by the people around me. But I should be openly proud. I should be proud and thankful that I don’t have to worry that my female peers will be kidnapped to be sold into the sex trade. Personally, as an artist in the theater, I can be proud that while federal funding for artistic voices may be scarce, nonetheless those voices are not silenced. I am proud that my fellow citizens are ready, eager and selfless enough to fight for the freedoms of others.

Did I take action to realize these freedoms myself? No. But my family did. Both my family by blood and my family by citizenship. Naturally that family is only as strong as the people who make it up, and institutionally, that family exists inherently in the people who are members. Because I am proud of the protectors of our country, I am proud of our country. And now, I’m not going to hide it.

Sam Douglas is a Communication sophomore. He can be reached at samueldouglas2016@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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