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A Matter of Respect: Changing the conversation about America

In the last few weeks of the election cycle, things have been a bit tense. It seems that as we all process our anxieties about a very contentious election, we’ve turned our stress and anxiety against the very nation that gives us choice in our leaders. Everywhere I go I hear people putting their country down, saying they hate it and complaining about every little thing they see wrong with it. In the news, I see people burning flags and refusing to stand while the national anthem is played. 

The United States isn’t perfect. Far from it. We’ve been called the great experiment and with every experiment, there are successes and failures. But living in a nation that allows us the freedom to express ourselves and provides amply for our needs, for the most part, should be acknowledged and appreciated. Please remember how fortunate we are to live in this great country and all the freedoms we have.

Here are ten things to consider before disparaging your country.

  1. Your country is not just the government. The country is the people, the land, and the culture. That’s you! Without the people, it would just be miles of nothingness. Try to be more specific when you’re talking about what you hate. You can disagree with policies or politicians without denigrating the country itself. 
  2. If you were born here, then you should respect the place where you were born. You won the lottery when it comes to opportunities to succeed in a safe and nurturing environment, one that many people would do anything to have. 
  3. If you are an immigrant, you should respect the country that took you in during your time of need and gave the chance for a better life, and the people who helped you learn about their culture.
  4. Appreciate that you live in a country with one of the highest living standards in the world. Most people here have all the basic necessities of life and lots more (phones, cars, televisions, houses bigger than their needs, etc.). We really are lucky to be born in a country with such rich resources.
  5. Consider all the great opportunities you have by living here. If you work hard enough you can be anything you want. The United States was built by dreamers, and still encourages us to limit ourselves only by how hard we are willing to work. 
  6. By not rising, or placing your hand on your heart when the anthem is played, you are showing disrespect towards the veterans, military, police, firefighters, and paramedics, and all that they’ve sacrificed to make your country a safer, better place to live. The flag isn’t just a symbol of our country, but of the people that fought to make it what it is. 
  7. Think about what John F. Kennedy said, ”Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” If there are things that you want to change, are taking positive steps to see that happen? If you aren’t, then your complaints are simply adding negativity and changing nothing. 
  8. If you do object to something, whether a policy or a representative of the government, make it civil. There’s no shame in disagreeing but you can make your comments polite and helpful rather than just complaining. 
  9. We live in a democratic republic, which means our nation is what we have made it. If you don’t like something about it, don’t blame your country. Vote to change who is running it. Or run yourself! Ours is a government BY the people, for the people.
  10. Respecting our nation is just one earmark of integrity in my book. Loving your country means respecting it as it changes and grows and being a responsible citizen, not just a clanging bell in the crowd.

The United States isn’t alone in this. People around the world have decided that complaining is more effective than working to better their lives. And in most of those cases, a little comparison to more restrictive countries could show them a lot. Most people just don’t realize how lucky we are to live in a country with so many freedoms. 

We all have a responsibility to be a part of our communities and societies. We can choose to be productive and positive or we can choose to drag the overall conversation down with unproductive negativity. I choose option A and hope you’ll join me. Together we can make our country an even better place for us all. 

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