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.