When I was quite young, I would often go to Pakistan. I remember standing in airports and begging my mom to let me hold my own passport. The times that she did, I would hold it with both hands with the face side up so everyone could see that I was from America. Even though I didn't understand everything it meant, I knew that it was something special because I always heard people in Pakistan talking about how they wanted to move there. They would have looks of fascination on their faces as they asked me about how the roads were, what kinds of food I ate and what I did in school.
When I started college, it was the fall of 2001. Soon into my undergraduate education, our country changed forever. My friends ranted about American foreign policy, In our name, Bush invaded Afghanistan and soon thereafter we were in Iraq. In those years, I learned to dissent. I no longer held my passport with pride and rather than flash it in airports, I kept it tucked away until the moment I was at the customs desk. Although I didn't go as far as telling people I was Canadian, the only time I spoke up about my country was to speak against the actions of my government.
It was years later that I was able to appreciate that the blind outrage some have for our country is as destructive as the blind patriotism I have always been quick to despise. Our country is struggling because it is involved in unjust foreign policy, it doesn't provide a living wage and it denies basic civil liberties to so many of its citizens. Our country is beautiful because we have freedom to dissent, because it allows for social mobility, it is full of opportunity, it is diverse and it is aspiring. Adali Stevenson said, "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." I love America and because I love it, I want it to be something better than we could have ever dreamed for it to be. It has come a long way and now it is the work of our generation to find some way in which each of us can, in our own tranquil and steady way, help make it something even more beautiful.