Be proud but responsible

Connor KocklerColumn, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print Sauk Rapids - Rice, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Throughout the last year, we’ve seen numerous protests against symbols of the United States. There have been criticisms of the flag, the national anthem and against some of the Founding Fathers. Some of these concerns do have merit, but if we’re not careful, even more topics will come under attack. The question that’s even now being proposed is, is it OK to be proud to be an American? And to that question, my answer is a resounding yes.

The United States of America truly is a special place. Our history, which is unique, has inspired the rest of the world. Dozens of countries modeled their revolutions and constitutions after us. People across the globe want to come to America whether to work or to study. There is undeniably something different, otherwise why would there be so much talk about the USA?

We’re interesting because we were the pioneering force in the world’s change from monarchy and oppression to democracy and liberty. The American Revolution spawned further upheavals in France and in Latin America, marking major changes in the global geopolitical arena. Here was a country that said “all men are created equal” and talked about “unalienable rights” that people were born with, not given on the whim of a tyrannical king. These very ideas scared, and continue to scare, despots the world over.

Of course, this is the idealistic version of the story, and many people will point out when we said “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, we did not mean it in fact. One could say maybe the Founding Fathers were just rich people wanting the British off their backs, but would this be 100-percent factual either? It absolutely would not be.

We as human beings are not perfect. Everyone has flaws, things they’ve done wrong they wish they could take back. All humans are the same way. Show me a perfect person and I’ll sell you a cheap New York City apartment. The United States is the same way. Every country in this world has flaws and has had some terrible moments in its history.

We are lucky enough, though, to live in a country where people are free to recognize the mistakes we have made and attempt to remedy them. We’ve had terrible people in our history, but we’ve also had a lot of good ones too. Gandhi said you shouldn’t lose faith in humanity just because some people are bad, that a few dirty drops in the ocean doesn’t contaminate all of the water.

I recognize we as a country are not done with our story. There will continue to be battles fought over rights and justice. But I won’t say the whole system is rotten just because of a few bad apples. I’m not going to give up just because we may have gone down the wrong path before. The most important thing is we are making steps in a positive direction. That’s more than many oppressive nations can say.

So I am proud to be an American. With that, though, I am committed to being an engaged and active citizen. I will know my rights and call out things that are wrong or out of step. Additionally, I will seek out solutions to our problems rather than just criticizing. We all have a part we can do to make the America that we want to see a reality.

Most of us didn’t choose to be Americans, we were born here or came here at an early age, and we can’t change the past. What we can change, though, is the future. If you feel America’s got some big problems and we can’t be proud of it until we change, then work on those changes. We all share this country after all. I’d want us all to be a little bit happier here.

Connor Kockler is a Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.

Author: Connor Kockler

Kockler enjoys extensive reading, especially biographies and historical novels, and he has always had an almost inborn knack for writing well. He also enjoys following the political scene, nationally and internationally. In school, his favorite subjects are social studies and language. Two of his other hobbies are golfing and bicycling.

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