If you are like many Americans you are probably proud of being an American. I’m sure you have your reasons. Whatever they are I can tell you now that it’s silly to be proud of something so superficial as nationality, and just because we’re all guilty of it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not silly.
You don’t choose where you are born so why should you be proud of it? It was in the Georgia Aquarium that I decided that it would be much better to be a manta ray. Someone asked me how long do they live. I said probably about 20 years, but that’s 20 years of flipping around (no really, they were doing flips in the water, you can almost hear them going "wheeeeee") in the water versus the dull drudgery of human existence. But I digress, the point of that episode was simply to illustrate that given a choice some would choose to be born elsewhere under different circumstances.
Take for instance the State of Texas. Texans are probably the proudest people in the United States when it comes to their state. Many people are Texans before they are Americans. I'm one of them. I am proud of Texas, so what? We have accomplished great things. There are a million and one reasons to love Texas; there is plenty to be ashamed of like our miserable education system (more on that later). Yet despite my pride for the Lone Star State I think that I would still rather be a manta ray.
An important group of people to look at in this issue are the Germans. The German people have an incredible amount of accomplishments to be proud of. Composers like Beethoven or Bach, philosophers like Nietzsche or Kant, engineers, leaders and so on. The Germans also have a good deal to be ashamed of, most notably the Holocaust. With the good comes the bad. I realize that there remains room for patriotism and without it the apathy would kill entire nations, however Germany is a perfect example of the dangers of nationalism.
When I was discussing the topic with a friend he asked if I would be able to defend personal accomplishment. I can see the connection between the idea of pride in one’s country and their personal accomplishments. A personal accomplishment is something that as an individual you have succeeded in and there is pride in that. Neil Armstrong can be proud to have landed on the moon. You can be proud that you made straight A’s for the first time. These are things that you personally have worked towards. This is the difference in personal accomplishment and something a group of men composed centuries years ago.
Pride in one’s country (or state) is something that most people have. In some instances it can be a good thing; I wouldn’t want a politician in office who was not a patriot. Yet blind patriotism and flag waving because “America is the best nation in the world” is silly. The United States, just like Germany, has done some pretty screwed up stuff that we shouldn’t be proud of. When I had a German foreign exchange student he made the comment that flags were ubiquitous in the United States where as in Germany flags were really only flown outside government buildings. The point here being is that Americans tend to overlook the terrible things that have been committed by our nation in favor of the good ones. The problem here being is that a nation of flag wavers can never truly join the international community in the fullest sense. Or in the case of Texas, join the United States whole-heartedly (the same can be said for most of the deep south anyway).
Be proud, you might as well. Just remember that you didn’t choose to be where you are.
Texas is best America?