The latest poll from Gallup trumpets a record low in the share of Americans who are proud of their country. It's the lowest point, the surveying company said, since the first time it asked that question in 2001.
Make no mistake, we're still a proud nation: 91% say they are proud of American scientific achievement. We're staunchly proud of our men and women in uniform (89%). We love U.S. arts and culture (85%), its economics (75%), sports (73%) and our racial, ethnic and religious diversity (72%). Overall, 70% of adults claimed pride in being American, though the number who said they're "extremely proud" was just under half.
Where we're not particularly proud is in the political arena (32% claimed pride) and the health and welfare system (37%).
I find that interesting, because although there's a lot going on politically that gives me heartburn, not for one second has any of it kept me from being both proud and grateful that this is my country. I love to visit other parts of the world, but I would not choose to plant my roots elsewhere.
I think the United States offers a fairly unique opportunity and even a civic responsibility to those who are unhappy with aspects of American life. We have more power as ordinary folks to demand good and do good than perhaps any other place, so if you're dissatisfied, do something constructive with the sentiment.
Our founding was aspirational. The people who knit the earliest iteration of the United States clearly hoped we'd dream and build and create.
We're a country that believes in the ability to make change, ground up. We have an equal vote at the ballot box (You know what I mean, so don't get sidetracked debating the Electoral College. Just go with it here, please).
We can rally behind a cause or boycott a company because it rallied behind a cause that we don't like. We can disagree — vociferously if we want — with politicians and with each other. That might not make family reunions uniformly fun, but as a foundational principal, it is spectacular.
There are moments in American history, past and present, that make me grit my teeth. And sometimes they make me cry.
But I also cry when I hear the national anthem — our song, regardless of our various disagreements — played when an American wins Olympic gold. I've never been more touched than seeing first responders line a flag-draped overpass on I-15 to honor a fallen hero whose vehicle will pass below. At a naturalization ceremony, my heart nearly pounds its way out of my chest as new Americans are born by choice, while so many of us complain or take this country's offerings for granted.
I am proud when the pesky yellow slip arrives telling me it's my turn to call to see if I show up for a jury pool, though it's usually at an inconvenient time. I am proud to vote, even when sometimes there's nothing much on the ballot. I vote mostly for builders and bridgers, rather than those who would divide us for personal gain.
Pride and patriotism — not the same thing at all — thrive on both sides of the political aisle and among those who claim a third party or no party at all. Smart people can see differences without letting it make them hate those who are different.
Mostly, I am proud of America because I know down to my bones that when something cataclysmic happens, like a terror attack, or something grand happens, like a long-shot moon landing, we all somehow find each other again across the man-made gulfs.
We are Stars-and-Stripes strong. May we always be the land of the free and the home of the brave.