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American Pride?

With riots in the nation’s big cities, an ongoing plague, and the continued popularity of Tic Toc among the nation’s youth, it seems like 2020 is lasting forever.  But, believe it or not, the year is half over.  Believe it or not, the 4th of July is just a few short weeks away.

That’s right.  Our annual mid-summer holiday is almost here.  The ultimate celebration of the American spirit when we remember the time we sent the British home to cry into their tea. 

But if this year feels a little different there’s a good reason for it.  According to Gallup’s annual poll of how proud Americans are of their country, national pride is down significantly.  In fact, in the two decades that the poll has been conducted, American pride is at an all-time low.

The poll, conducted May 28 through June 4, shows that 42% are extremely proud of their country while 21% said they were very proud.  Rounding out this list are those who are moderately proud, a little proud, and not proud at all (15%, 12%, and 9% respectively).

Historically, respondents who identified as Republican were more proud of America than those who identified as Democrat.  This year is no exception with the R’s coming in at 67% in the extremely proud category while the D’s only came in at 24%.  Perhaps the biggest surprise in this regard, however, is that Republican pride suffered a 9-point drop from last year’s poll.

There are several factors that could be contributing to this decline.  First and foremost is the nation’s current situation.  For several months now, an international pandemic has kept people cooped up in their homes.  This same pandemic has removed traditional American pressure valves like live televised sports and going out on weekends.  This pandemic has rendered many unemployed and caused a sharp increase in food prices.

Another contributing factor is a run of violence that has engulfed our inner cities.  Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and several other large cities (and even some smaller cities as well) have all seen businesses vandalized and looted, store owners assaulted, police assaulted, and downtown areas left in ruins.  In one case (Seattle) a police precinct was abandoned and left to the rioters who have occupied it along with several surrounding city blocks and a park.  The city leaders seem unable or unwilling to reassert their authority in the area.

For many minorities, the reason behind these protests is also a reason for this lack in national pride.  Despite statistics that suggest otherwise, there is a continuing perception of systemic racism in this country that regularly manifests itself in the police killing of unarmed black Americans.  The unfortunate death of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and riots at just the time this poll was being conducted certainly contributed to the fact that minority pride in America lagged well behind that of the white community by a significant margin. 

Not only have these events called into question much of modern American politics, but they have also attacked America’s past which has long been one of the strongest sources of national pride.  Statues in cities across the nation have been vandalized and many are calling for their removal.  Additionally, many have called into question whether or not America has ever been a moral nation.

A third contributing factor to this decline in national pride is the current state of our politics.  America has long been divided between two different groups: the left and right, Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative or whatever term you want to use for the two.  But each passing year seems to separate the two sides even more.  Not only that, but each side seems to become even more entrenched in their respective positions.  A willingness to talk with the other side, to hear and consider their positions is lacking.

Although these problems predate Trump by more than a decade, he has become the poster child for this phenomenon through his frequent use of Twitter where he is belligerent toward any and all who disagree with him and he readily embraces the worst conspiracy theories on the market.  For their part, Democrats have matched the President step for step in anger and combativeness on social media.  Additionally, liberal media personalities and celebrities carry this into traditional media as well. 

Not content to leave this in cyberspace, the vitriol has carried over into actual politics.  An impeachment marked by extreme political bias on both sides marked the opening of this year.  Investigations by congressional democrats into everything around Trump have been ongoing since then as has investigations by the Trump administration into the activities of the previous Democratic administration. 

This never-ending political roller coaster has rendered Americans exhausted of the political process.  Even the most stalwart political junkies would appreciate a day without some “latest development” in an ongoing political battle. 

Finally, and perhaps the biggest contributing factor to this decline in national pride, is the simple fact that there seems to be no end in sight of this continuous political squabbling.  We have just under six months until the November election.  During that time, Trump is going to continue to be Trump.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.  Democrats are going to continue to respond in kind. The intensity of this is only going to increase on both sides as campaign advertising dollars start to flow and super-PAC’s join the fray.

As the 4th of July approaches and people prepare to grill out and set off fireworks in celebration, the revelries may feel a bit muted.  We are not in a high point of American history.  We are in a land between.  We are stuck in a moment where many claim that America’s rich history of individual freedom, and the expansion of that freedom to previously oppressed groups, isn’t enough.  We are stuck in a moment where hope for a better future for America is fading.  This land between can be a depressing place.  It poisons both the view of the past and the view of the future.  But it need not dictate our reality.  We can rekindle pride in our country by reminding ourselves of how far we’ve come.  We can once again hope and work for a better future for America as well.  Afterall, what is hope if not belief in the future?  And what better way to bolster that belief than with hard work to make it a reality?

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