By: Kenzi Fry
I am proud to be an American. Conversely, I am deeply, deeply ashamed. If you know me personally, you know how passionate I am about the democratic process. I believe in American exceptionalism in the sense that we, or those who are invested in politics, are constantly striving for a better America, one that reflects our country’s founding principles more clearly.
That is not to say that the United States is a flawless nation; we consistently commit acts that contradict our exceptionalism. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated that “America was never really that great,” and maybe we weren’t. Maybe the atrocities committed by our government outweigh the prevailing and uniquely American idea that things can, should, and will be better. I like to think that they don’t. Historically, progressive ideals have won out on a variety of issues; it seems that regardless of the time in history or the current political climate, there is a rational hope for a better future, a brighter day. I am reminded that we had to endure the presidency of Andrew Jackson long before we elected Abraham Lincoln.
My favorite former president Barack Obama recently wrote about Senator John McCain’s legacy and how, while they fundamentally disagreed on a number of issues, their “fidelity to something higher” brought them together and allowed them to effect meaningful change. I believe wholeheartedly in this principle. The idea of something higher is what drives us all, especially in the pursuit of a government more by and for the people. It is why we protest, why we challenge our leaders, and why I believe that dissent is patriotic. Accepting nothing but the best from a country that was founded on the principle of equality and justice for all is a patriotic action in and of itself.
Despite my conviction, I am frequently told that disagreeing with our leaders is unamerican in nature and counterintuitive to our goals as a country. I argue that when we challenge our leaders to be better, to look within themselves and examine how their actions and policies effect the lives of Americans and individuals outside of the United States, we help to facilitate growth. Protests say “we expect more.” They say, “we can do better, there is a brighter day, we are the people and we want justice.” Dissent is something that we as a nation should be proud of; it is what drives us forward toward the realization of more progressive ideals and a better world.