Do you ever wonder that? How on earth is it possible to be proud to be born the citizen of a certain country? How can a sentient being take pride in something that was absolute chance? That they would be born in this nation over another? Why is winning that lottery something you should take pride in? Sometimes I wonder this myself. Below are the reasons I argue that I can and should take pride in being born an American.
I’m the son of Irish and Scottish immigrants. People who came to this country to escape things like the potato famine and oppression from a monarchy. Like many Americans my relatives did not hail from the aristocracy in their native lands. Had they been of a more fortunate blood-line they most likely would have stayed home.
So they came here. To a nation that claimed to welcome them on paper but in reality did not necessarily want all of them to come here. “Irish need not apply” was a sign found in many storefronts. The White Anglo-Saxan Protestants which I also can claim heritage to, referred to some of my ancestors as “Green N Words.” Some of the Irish who came to this country when my family did, landed on American Shores and immediately were shipped off to fight in the civil war.
Whether Scottish or Irish ancestry I’m proud to claim that my family served this nation upon arrival. My grandfather was a decorated WWII Veteran. Irish Marines are the single most decorated ethnicity within the Marine Corps for combat valor. These are Americans I am proud to claim in my heritage .
My Grandfather returned from WWII and started his own business. He became a member of his church vestry, he was on the town rotary. He was a valued member of the community. My Father grew up in the projects in Jersey City. He grew up shining shoes and selling christmas trees to earn a buck. He worked as a janitor’s aid after hours in the same school he took classes in during the day.
At one point he found it easier to make a buck in less honest ways and pursued that path. After finding himself on the wrong side of the law, he decided to pursue a career as an electrical contractor and he worked his way up to owning his own business. He and my mother, another business leader in the family, gave me every opportunity they didn’t have. This nation may have a history of discrimination and oppression like every other nation that has risen to power. One thing we have not discriminated against is an individual’s ability to capitalize on inefficiencies in the market. My family has benefitted from this freedom of opportunity.
America is in fact the manifestation of a philosophy. A theory of government that no one believed to be possible until we pulled it off. America gave several gifts to the world in their founding.
Prior to the signing of the declaration of independence, colonialism was an accepted practice. At the end of the Revolutionary War in America it became an accepted practice to overthrow a Monarchy. Rather than return power to a new Monarchy the American people made clear that the rule of a group would be conditional. To do so planted the power in the people of this nation.
Finally, this form of government was a theory, an idea at one point. Much like socialism, communism, fascism it was just a theory of rule. The American people executed this theory and unlike the aforementioned forms of rule we have survived to great success.
This last portion of my pride in this country stems from one of the greatest things about our people. My citizenship, family history, and military service do not make me any better than any individual who earns their citizenship tomorrow. Furthermore, I am no better than an individual who burns our flag, detests our form of government, and kneels during our anthem. In fact, the very ability of an individual to hate this country, detest our government, and remain a full citizen, is why I love this country. I am rewarded in this nation based on the merit of my character and the hard work I’m willing to contribute to our capitalist economy.
I believe many people wrongly encourage those people who hate this country to go somewhere else. I ask those people who hate this country to stay. Your rumblings have one of two results on the outcome of our proud history. They can reinforce our beliefs. Or they force us to adopt new beliefs that can withstand your rumblings, making us stronger in our own resolve and enhancing our pride in the stars and stripes.
Even though we seem to forget this in our words and actions, America is in fact a land of immigrants. This very fact means we all are lifted up by the growth of others whom we share no bloodline with. Every American is related to me, but by a common bond of opportunity and a deep affection for freedom. A human being can land on these shores tomorrow, take all the necessary steps to become a citizen and claim the same heritage and pride that I do. I believe they should be expected to contribute to this nation as a citizen. Yet if they don’t, they are allowed to ride the coat tails of our trials, tribulations, and growth as a nation.
This shared heritage is what separates America from so many countries throughout the world and it is something I take great pride in.
John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.