America’s youth’s take on the ever changing meaning of patriotism
Mary Dupuis ’19
Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
Sitting down to watch Marvel’s most recent film, Avengers: Infinity War, one might notice that the beloved character Captain America doesn’t look quite the same. Maybe it’s the new beard, maybe it’s the different shield, or maybe it’s the lack of the star on his chest and the classic red white and blue attire.
This new look is the perfect allegory for what is happening in society today. Captain America is still a good man who will fight for his people, but he does not seem to wear the American colors on his sleeve anymore.
Patriotism is undergoing a massive change in the way that it is perceived in American society today. Now, many feel that in order to be patriotic someone must support America and its leaders wholeheartedly.
“A lot of kids don’t really like the fact that Trump is in charge of our country and think that he makes us look bad. So, they don’t want to say they’re patriotic and be portrayed as a person who supports Trump, because if you’re patriotic it seems like you like Trump,” says senior Jenna Hall.
Senior Rahsun Watson agrees, and believes that a person who is patriotic must bleed red, white, and blue. “Someone who’s patriotic is someone who always stands up for their country and doesn’t see any wrong in their country. They’re super 100% ‘Go America we’re the best’ and just take a cocky viewpoint of their country,” says Watson.
On the flip side of the coin, Head of Social Studies Department and Government teacher Beth Welles feels very differently about how one might define themselves as a patriot. She believes that simply showing respect for the country is enough.
“I just think that showing respect for America is patriotic. That might be representing American values like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, accepting diversity of Americans,” says Welles. “It can also be shown as showing respect to the flag. I think it’s just living by American values of accepting diversity and those basic freedoms we agree with,” adds Welles.
While there may be varying viewpoints on how patriotism is defined nowadays, many believe that the reason for patriotism being less common is due to the country’s current political leaders symbolizing patriotism.
According to Lynn Vavreck, the associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, the declining sense of patriotism is due to things that represent it wrongly. “…Patriotism in America is on the decline. But the decline seems to have more to do with reactions to the symbols of American democracy than its values,” as quoted in The New York Times article, “Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic. At Least, in Some Ways.”.
Senior Jenna Hall feels that she is very patriotic, however, she believes that many people may not be due to their dislike of those running the country.
“I consider myself to be patriotic because I’ve always loved my country, I’ve always wanted to do something for my country, and I’ve always wanted to be in the Navy. I see being here as a blessing because I know in other countries you can’t do half as much as we do here and I’m very thankful for what we have. I just like to show my patriotism for that,” says Hall. “But, I think that patriotism is dying in the youth of America. That goes back to our government because if we don’t like who’s in the office we don’t want to represent what they’re doing,” adds Hall.
Junior Grace Osmialowski agrees, and says that she does not feel comfortable proclaiming herself to be a patriot when there are so many things happening in the country that she does not agree with.
“I don’t consider myself as being patriotic really. I think that there’s a lot of things that are going on right now and I’m not comfortable supporting a country where stuff like this can happen, like gassing people at the borders and stuff like that. It’s just really not something that I want to support, so I just don’t really support it,” says Osmialowski.
Even though some people may be openly patriotic and some are clearly not, there is the possibility of being a bit of both.
“I’m disappointed in my country. I’m very disappointed in my country. But, I also do love my country all at the same time. I’m disappointed in my country because no one wants to stand up for what’s right,” says Watson. “People just want to say what’s wrong and ‘Oh this bad stuff is happening’ but they don’t vote. I don’t put blame just on Trump. I put blame on the people who just refuse to vote. I blame ignorance,” adds Watson.
Many students feel that with this lack of patriotism and the growing sense of division in our country, it is taking a turn–and not in the right direction.
“I have seen a change in America for the worse. I have definitely seen a change in the country since 2016 when Donald Trump got elected,” says Watson. “The reason I say this is because we weren’t even upset about a wall or about immigrants at all until this person who had a big enough voice came out and said ‘We need this wall built’ or ‘We need this reformed’ and stuff like that. It all stems from bigotry and from his own selfish reasons and his own personal beliefs and not the beliefs of our country,” adds Watson.
United States History teacher Todd Myers feels that the country isn’t going in a better or worse direction, but a different one altogether. “I don’t know if there has been a change for better or for worse, I think people are more wrapped up in their own individual things versus helping community,” says Myers. “The last time I can remember everybody got together and was really patriotic was after 9/11. Everybody had American flags and people were nice to each other for week, and then it kind of wore off. But it seems like most people are either too engrossed in themselves and their own family and they don’t really spend a lot of time with community or doing stuff for other people,” adds Myers.
In order to rectify the division in the country and make patriotism to what it once was, people have many varying ideas, from just simply talking to giving students an outlet to express their patriotism.
“Let teengers vent, and then say, ‘Okay what are we going to do about it.’ I think today it’s ‘Oh there’s a problem, I’m going to Tweet about it, but not actually do anything.’ So I think it’s trying to get people more active and involved in actually solving the problem, rather than just complaining about it,” says Welles.
Myers agrees, and feels that the rekindling of a love for America in society must start in the youth. “I’d say to rekindle the youth’s love for America we need to get them more involved. I think that the kids need more ways to be able to express patriotism that you would actually see,” says Myers.
Watson also feels that in order to revive a love for America and a drive for change the youth needs to become more involved with each other.
“We need to promote togetherness. We need to have discussions with other people. Talk to someone who doesn’t come from your specific background and let them know of your issues and then vice versa. Have them let you know their problems and their thoughts on your issue and where they come from,” says Watson. “Then, try to come to a compromise to say, ‘This is okay, but that’s not, and we both agree.’ If people meet inside of a middle ground and talk it out and have a grown conversation about their point of views and then mash them all together that can possibly rekindle the political aspect of our country,” adds Watson.
With great controversy about what patriotism means and an even greater divide between the people of America, students feel that the time is now for youth to become active and spark up a new love for their country once again. Whether that be by speaking out, voting, or petinioning, the youth can be patriotic once again, and define patriotism for the rest of society.