- 04 Jul 19
This is the day on which Americans celebrate independence – but also the greatness of the most powerful country in the world. However, everything in the garden is far from rosy. And some citizens of the United States of America have decided that it is time to cry halt to the charade. What follows is a deeply felt cry from the heart.
Today is the 4th of July, and unless you live under a rock, you know what that means. It means that no matter where they are in the world, Americans everywhere will be celebrating their beloved independence day.
I, however, will not be participating, despite the fact that I am indeed an American. No, it’s not just because I am outside of the US. This isn’t my first 4th spent abroad. Five years ago, I celebrated the 4th in Germany, where my host family grilled burgers and brats and allowed me to start a campfire and teach them how to make s’mores. Since then, with each passing 4th of July, I have become less and less patriotic, but overall still celebrated the holiday. The 4th of July is a day we’re meant to rejoice in the freedom that graces our country. Ultimately, it allows us to display our pride and let the whole world know that we are proud to be Americans.
Which is precisely why, this year, I have decided to cease my celebration of the 4th of July altogether – because I, unfortunately, am no longer proud to be an American.
Before any other Americans reading this start accusing me of being ungrateful or treasonous, telling me that I take my country and my freedom for granted, allow me to add a disclaimer. I am in no way telling you that you shouldn’t be proud to be an American. I am not saying I hate America or other Americans. I am simply telling you why I am no longer proud to be one.
This has been a hard conclusion to come to, let alone write about for a magazine. I’m not happy about it either. I want nothing more than to be able to say with 100% truth that I am proud to be an American. But how can I be when we are doing so many awful things that go against the very fundamental morals of our country?
I know the sacrifices that have been made for our freedom. I was raised a military brat. Both my parents, my sister and brother-in-law serve(d) in the United States Air Force, my uncle and grandpa in the Unites States Navy, and my other brother-in-law in the United States Marine Corps. My family spans across all branches of the military, working in a wide range of fields within them. In other words, I was raised with a deep respect for my country and all who have served it.
I was raised also with the belief that we are the good guys; that we help when others won’t; that we protect the innocent and weak and act with justice and liberty always in mind. So imagine my surprise when I grew up to find out all of that had changed. Imagine my shock when I realized the words that wrap up the Pledge of Allegiance that I recited every morning in school for 12 years, “with liberty and justice for all” were no longer true. Imagine my sadness when I started to wonder if they were ever even true in the first place.
We are a country founded on the principles of equality, opportunity and freedom, and we seem to have forgotten that. The lack of fundamental rights in our country at the moment is appalling. If we are truly a nation that is of the people, by the people, for the people, then why do we barely care about our people?
Our greatest flaw as a country is that we do not accept our own flaws. Instead we sweep them under the rug, denying they were ever a problem in the first place. In Washington D.C. stands the beautifully and respectfully done National Holocaust Museum. It tells the stories of the horrid events that happened during World War 2 over in Europe; but where is the museum about American slavery? Where is the major museum that delves into the history of African enslavement in America and pays respect to all those who were ripped from their own homelands and murdered on our own soil?
Across Europe as a whole there are 20-plus former WW2 concentration camps that are open to the public and educate on the events that took place, but of the 10 Japanese Internment camps that were used in during WW2 in the US, only one is open to the public today, and only because it is owned by the US National Parks Service. Throughout our history we have committed inhumane crimes against the Native Americans, Africans and Japanese on massive scales, but why do I barely remember learning about those events in school?
There are pages missing from our history books and perspectives missing from our curriculums because we, as a country, are afraid to admit to our own wrongdoing, and that gross act of responsibility-shirking is being carried over into modern society.
Where is the justice in how we treat women in our country? According to a survey done by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, the US is the tenth most dangerous country to be a woman in. I originally found that shocking, but after considering everything from the lack of proper health care for women to the incessant rape culture that endangers us every day, it seemed unfortunately accurate.
Whether it’s about birth control, abortion or the overall concept of bearing children, women are constantly denied the right to decide what to do with their own body, which ultimately kills more people than it saves. We also have the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries, which is ridiculous considering we have some of the most advanced medical practices in the world. Post-partum care is an extremely neglected aspect of women’s healthcare in the US. Unlike other countries, such as Holland where women are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave and a professional nurse to take care of them for about two weeks after the birth, America’s laws only dictate that a woman’s job can be held for her for up to 12 weeks after she gives birth. And don’t even get me started on the gender pay gap, which is even worse for women of colour.
And what about the justice in how we treat immigrants in America, where is that? At this very moment, our southern border is journey’s end for people who are trying to legally and peacefully seek asylum in our country and pursue their own American dream. But instead, we are treating them as worse than criminals. Children are being torn from their parents and kept in cement cells, being forced to take care of other children younger than they are.
Reports from law makers who have visited the facilities, such as Congresswoman Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez say that people there have gone 15-plus days without showering and are being forced to drink water from the toilets. Their living situation is rightfully being compared to concentration camps. They are being deprived of all basic human rights – all because they are legally attempting to seek a better life for themselves and their families. For a country that was essentially made from immigrants, you’d think we’d be more understanding. Instead, we have allowed ourselves to become plagued with xenophobia, and form within ourselves the audacity to tell them to “go back to where they came from.”
We are an extremely hypocritical country, constantly preaching that all life is sacred without actually meaning it. The life of an unborn foetus is sacred, but not that of the mother carrying it. Not those of the children being kept in cages at the US-Mexico border. Not those of children who are being mistreated in underfunded foster care systems. Not those of the children who are being killed in school shootings because our country refuses to give up their assault weapons.
Not those of the black men and women that police officers gun down in the street with little to no reason because of the institutionalized racism that is ingrained into our society as a whole. Not those of the people living in poverty who are constantly told to “stop being lazy and get a job.” Not those who are being deprived of health care simply because they cannot afford it. If all life is truly sacred, then why does our country not act like it?
Honestly, there are so many other reasons why my American pride has dwindled to such a low level. The mistreatment of minorities, people of colour and indigenous peoples; the lack of affordable health care; the complete disregard of climate change and our dying planet; the fact that our president has been accused of sexual assault by 24 separate women and somehow still sits in the oval office. So many things. But if I were to list them all in this one article it would take you a solid week to read it and also probably crash the website, so I will refrain.
Again, I do not hate America. But I do see what an incredibly powerful and loving country it has the potential to be, which is why I am so disappointed in what it currently is. I am truly saddened that I feel no pride for my nation. I want to be proud to be an American. With every fibre of my being and soul I truly want to be proud to be an American. But America has given me no reason to be proud of it.
That’s why I wrote this.
For me, writing this article is my ultimate form of patriotism. Despite my disappointment in my country, I will not abandon it. I will continue to do my part to make it better, to fight for what I believe is just, so that I may again believe that we are the good guys; that we do help when others won’t, and that we will protect the innocent and weak and always act with justice and liberty in mind. I am only one person, but I will do everything I can, so that one day I may once again celebrate the 4th of July as a truly proud American.
Sarah Henry is from Longmont, Colorado in the USA. She is a senior at Iowa State University, double majoring in journalism and mass communications and German. She is currently interning for Hot Press Magazine for the summer as a photographer and writer.