America has problems — and that’s OK

April 1, 2018 — by Ryan Kim

“It’s times like these that make me ashamed to be an American.”

This perspective has been constantly perpetuated in the past few years as more Americans are becoming increasingly upset with the status of the U.S. An increase in mass shootings, political partisanship and general dissatisfaction with recent presidential policies have led many Americans to decry the nation that once seemingly stood as the pinnacle of Western progress.

The views, however, are too pessimistic. Although we have the right to feel disappointed with certain trends and actions, we should not be ashamed of America.

It is true that the U.S. hasn’t been in peak condition lately; the stock market is fluctuating, and our international perception is being drastically warped by a divisive rhetoric and foreign policy, especially in the last year. Because of this, we are seeing a rise in the average citizen moving to speak out for social change.

This trend of facing adversity head-on has been a defining characteristic of the U.S. When abolitionists gained traction, they managed to overthrow the entire slavery system of the South. When the U.S. was hit by the Great Depression, politicians and laborers alike strived to rebuild their broken nation. When met with segregation, common citizens became figureheads of a national civil rights movement.

In all of these cases, the activists and social reformers understood what were the nation’s positive as well as negative attributes. They knew they could be proud of the progress America had made — and in what the nation could progress to next.

Today, when athletes kneel during the National Anthem, they acknowledge what the American flag represents and exercise their right to express their opinion. They respect what America stands for — they simply see problems that need addressing, and they act accordingly. The current #MeToo movement, the massive 2017 Women’s March and 2018 gun reform advocacy are all movements led by ordinary people who appreciate America’s ideals as well as its faults and are striving to fix these problems.

That’s part of the beauty of what makes this country unique: When we see a problem with, we rise up to fix it.

Of course, America isn’t perfect — is any country? What defines us as a nation is not our problems — it’s our responses, our solutions and our perseverance through obstacles. That’s what sets us apart as a unified, diverse and progressing superpower. That’s what makes us America. And we have no reason to be ashamed of that.

 

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