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An American flag (Photo by Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle).

If you know me, you know that I am extremely candid about the United States and its many flaws. In high school, I even wrote a speech highlighting the issues of inequality, incarceration, and gun violence in America, with slaps against the nationalist saying “America is number one”. I am stigmatized as unpatriotic, inconsiderate and anti-American.

The shocking part? I am a military kid.

In our country, American exceptionalism – the idea that the United States is inherently superior to other nations, including our current history and society – dominates our political discourse and even our high school history lessons. This idea presents patriotism as declarations of American supremacy. But criticizing your country shows maximum patriotism. Recognizing our flaws and asserting ourselves reflects the true essence of American values.

Dr. Edmund Fong, expert on American exceptionalism and professor at the University of Utah, describes American exceptionalism as “the environment and the formation of this country that made us unique … in terms of being a favorable place to be. to liberty and liberty. . “

Originating in colonial times to justify the rebellion in England, today’s American exceptionalism fuels patriotism and the belief that our country “can do no wrong,” as Dr. Fong put it. And I agree with him. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel comfortable criticizing our nation.

However, schools still teach the myth of American meritocracy and exceptionalism, making it difficult for students to grow up thoughtfully criticizing this nation. With attempts to censor the truth and ban the teachings of our nation’s dark history, our education systems continually downplay this country’s shortcomings and promote loyalty to our past rooted in American exceptionalism.

These actions should be cause for concern, given the way our country’s political system has been built on government critics and authority figures. As Americans, we have a right to condemn those in power and the institutions of our nation, especially when they do not reflect our own American values.

My family takes this responsibility of criticizing our nation seriously. Everyone frankly expresses their resentment for what has become of the United States, with particular contempt for our government, our police services, our schools and our health care systems. This criticism comes from a place of hope and experience – the hope that our country can improve from where it is now and from our experiences of service in the military.

My dad, uncle, and grandfather are retired Navy veterans. My mother also served in the Navy and my other grandfather is a retired Marine. I uprooted my life many times for my parents’ deployment, moved to different countries and military bases, saw my father being sent to Afghanistan, and witnessed the return of brave soldiers to coffins. . Wanting to make my parents proud, I joined AFJROTC in my high school.

And because of my experiences with the military, I don’t believe in American supremacy. Neither did my parents. And neither can you.

Support for American supremacy includes patriotic celebrations. Our current displays of patriotism are, to say the least, haphazard and inappropriate. On July 4th, we see it in the form of bikinis with American flag and flags fluttering on trucks, which violate the flag code. When we remember September 11, we affirm that the event united the nation when in reality Muslims and dark-skinned people suffered and still suffer from hate crimes and prejudice. People even use Memorial Day as an excuse to get drunk.

These acts do not illustrate the patriotic celebration and are in fact incredibly disrespectful to the millions of people who risk their lives for American values. They break the work of my family and other military families, and do not promote respect or gratitude to our troops.

While there is nothing wrong with believing and standing up for our country, we cannot condone the wrongs of the past. American exceptionalism covers our shortcomings and, in turn, hinders our ability to criticize the nation. Dr Fong perfectly underlined that “the true patriot is someone who recognizes how this country is perhaps not up to what it could be and is committed to working in this direction”.

In order to dismantle American exceptionalism and rid our nation of nationalist patriotism, we must understand American history and use it to educate others – understand that the United States, like any other country, is not perfect, but we must strive for perfection.

It is normal to show solidarity with our American compatriots. It’s good to celebrate red, white and blue. But stop using patriotism and nationalism as synonyms, because we are one nation among many who are also fighting for good.

What I want to see from my fellow Americans are respectful and knowledgeable celebrations for the dedication of all our military efforts. I also want to see more criticism of our nation, the institutions we employ, the people we elect and other aspects of this country.

For the hard work and sacrifice of my family and many others in protecting American values, please use our right of criticism to rid our nation of inner evils.

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@ CamdenAlexande1