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The American Flag | Wikimedia Commons
The American Flag | Wiki­media Commons

As we read by the fire­place in the Her­itage Room, cozy on a chilly Michigan afternoon, we transport our­selves into the realms of those whom we study. While we phys­i­cally exist in the same beau­tiful envi­ronment, we risk becoming so enchanted by per­sonal adven­tures that it goes unap­pre­ciated. Our pre­oc­cu­pation blinds us to the marvels we encounter each day.

The same is true for our American identity crisis. Self-absorbed, we allow routine living to distort both the context we live in and the noble legacy that we share. While we expect America’s exis­tence tomorrow, we overlook the patriotic her­itage which guar­antees its sur­vival today.

Divided we become our greatest enemy, yet together we are an indomitable force for good. We have his­tor­i­cally braved for­mi­dable odds with the sword of justice and armor of optimism. We are Amer­icans. We must reaffirm our faith in what unites us as a people in order for our country to survive. Con­ceived through a shared faith in the idea that there is no greater force for pros­perity on earth than spirit of free men and women, the United States rose to inter­na­tional supremacy. Immi­grants who share this faith, including my grand­father, flocked to American shores to seek a brighter future for their children. We are a people inspired by an idea that cannot be touched by our enemies: Absolute Truth.

Faith in this idea defines American patri­otism. Critics who scourge such patri­otism as so-called “blind nation­alism” mistake the former for a hollow belief. Colin Kaepernick protested the American flag as a relic of “oppression,” ignoring the fact that it rep­re­sents much more than the dubious actions of several cops. The flag not only embodies American freedom, but it solemnly drapes the caskets of those who gave their lives for it. While Kaepernick’s dis­turbing protest is within his rights, it does not merit the praise, emu­lation, or attention that it has received. While we must acknowledge America’s failures, we should not pes­simisti­cally define our country exclu­sively by its flaws. Instead we should appre­ciate the ines­timable blessings that our American lifestyle affords us. American patriots are not blind nation­alists. We are the opposite: know­ingly grateful cit­izens who refuse to take our freedom for granted.

Patri­otism is also essential for us to put our national motto, E pluribus Unum, into practice. Love of our country engenders love for our coun­trymen. When Captain Humayun Khan approached the Afghani vehicle that would det­onate and claim his life, he did so self­lessly and patri­ot­i­cally. He com­manded his fellow sol­diers to stay back because he loved them and willed their safety above his own. Captain Khan did not share their religion or race – only their American identity.

Blinding self-absorption often leads us to take the beauty of our country for granted. This char­ac­ter­istic breeds the com­pla­cency that, over time, causes us to forget who we are as Amer­icans. Once our identity is lost, so too is our country. Patri­otism keeps faith in the American idea alive in our hearts. We will only make America great again by being stronger together.

The next time we shiver with Dante as he explores the unfor­giving depths of the under­world or bravely accompany Odysseus on his har­rowing voyages, let us not take for granted the story around us. Occa­sionally look up from your books when in the Her­itage Room, fellow stu­dents. A leg­endary chronicle might be closer than you think.
Razi Lane is a Junior studying Pol­itics and History.