By PHOEBE SOLOMON
Patriotism has embedded itself into the heart of American culture. Patriotism can be seen in the American flags that fly proudly outside of buildings and homes. It can be heard in the country’s anthem at sports matches and in the Pledge of Allegiance recited by students across the country.
Pride in one’s country should, by no means, be suppressed, but just like Americans can become enveloped in their love for their country, they can also become enveloped in a state of lasting discrimination. Based on America’s history, from the complete demolition of the Native American population to the contemporary controversies of gay and women’s rights, intolerance is nothing new and continues to be prevalent today. Many Americans tend to stigmatize groups of people who have wronged the nation in some way, especially those who did not even commit any such injustice but are in some way associated with those who did. For example, many of the imprisoned Japanese Americans in World War II internment camps were American citizens, and some had even fought for the United States previously. Instead of questioning such a civil injustice, many American citizens did little to change their prejudice toward Japanese-Americans.
Discrimination can also be linked to extreme patriotism, which can lead to excessive glorification of a country and create the misunderstanding that one country possesses all the correct policies and motivations. Rarely is one side of a conflict always on the right side of history. If one particular institution is constantly hailed as ethical or honorable, then prejudice can develop against other established beliefs or ideals. This prejudice is evidenced, for instance, in the American nationalism which led to the increase in racial stereotyping and hate crimes against Muslim Americans after 9/11.
It is also unwise for an individual to align him or herself to certain ideologies. Most people have different points of view and reasons for them. Expressing one’s opinion should not entail bashing another’s beliefs, especially without prior knowledge of them. Anyone who is passionate and thoughtful enough to argue his or her opinions should respect other views and overcome any barriers relating to different cultures or languages.
This respect, however, can only occur when one is willing to open one’s mind to different perspectives and put him or herself in the shoes of other people in different circumstances. Like any other country, America is not perfect and has distinct flaws, but from the birth of this country, the government has granted citizens one of the most important fundamental human rights: freedom of speech. That right demands a sense of responsibility for it to be used wisely.
Differences comprise the whole of society. Nobody should be deemed inferior merely because he or she is different. It is unlikely that there will come a time when everyone agrees on any one subject, but perhaps compromises to the issues lying at the heart of today’s biggest controversies can be found in the fundamental diversity exhibited by every individual person.