Since the Sept. 11 attacks, American pride has become just another trend; the national anthem, just another Britney Spears ditty; the flag, just another hip pair of Air Jordans.
Yes, the Stars and Stripes are symbols to which most of us can relate. We were taught in elementary school that the stars represented the 50 states, the stripes the 13 original colonies. We learned how the tattered flag, illuminated by the explosions of bombs, stood tall over Fort McHenry, as the Americans valiantly overcame a British attack 190 years ago.
And Friday, a few dozen Americans will no doubt blow off their fingers reenacting the battle over a few beers and some barbecued chicken.
But hey, you can’t shake their pride.
However, our pride and blind patriotism these days isn’t exactly winning us points in the international community. It’s time we take this holiday and, for once, use it not to celebrate the American way, but to reflect on our brief history and learn from our mistakes. Heck, maybe we can avoid another Sept. 11 in the process?
While we condemn Saddam Hussein for being an inhumane dictator, who at one time gassed his own people, let us not forget the foundation on which this country was developed.
The beginnings of our country are often credited (or mis-credited) to the voyage of Christopher Columbus. In 1492, some scholars believed the population of Native Americans north of modern-day Mexico to be 18 million. As Europeans came on shore in the 1600s, a thirst for newfound land, a penchant for spreading new disease and a violent disregard for a group of people who had called this land home for more than 10,000 years, led to the Native Americans’ sad demise. In 1900, the population was reduced to 250,000.
And as we rapidly wiped out their civilization, we also took hold of millions of Africans and made them our slaves, selling them and trading them like material goods. And today, much like the natives, millions of blacks are struggling, stuck in a vicious capitalistic cycle where money equals education and power. And most can’t get a fair share of any of the three.
Let us also not forget our founding fathers, who we so proudly hail. Let us not forget that they were traitors to their English homeland and branded terrorists themselves.
As we characterize Palestinian suicide bombers as animals and freedom-hating freaks of nature, let us not forget the American militiamen who, under the cover of trees, opted to fight British forces from behind sniper scopes during the Revolutionary War.
As we look back on recent history, let us not forget the war we just fought and are still fighting. A war which is based on finding weapons of mass destruction. And, as we still search for these weapons, let us not forget that in the history of modern warfare, only one time has a nuclear bomb been used. Let us not forget that it was the United States which extinguished 75,000 Japanese in the blink of an eye.
Racism, genocide, slavery, imperialism: the four underlying principles that today make America the land of the free and the home of the brave. Does that make you proud?
This Friday, as we celebrate our nation’s birthday, let us not be proud that we are Americans. Let us be thankful we are on the other side of the cannon. At least for now.
It is not to say that their Constitution, their democracy, their freedoms, all these ideas they passed down to us weren’t admirable. They were, but they turned their backs on their country.
Ryan Meehan is a senior, majoring in literature and The Oracle’s Editor in Chief.