There are a few reasons why I’ll never fit in with conservatives. Anti-abortion doesn’t mean pro-life, people shouldn’t be denied services and rights based on sexual orientation, and whoever said “take our country back” in the 2016 election knew next to nothing about Native American history. But no matter where individual conservatives stood on those issues, there was always one thing they could agree on: patriotism.

Until recently, I used to believe that patriotism was synonymous with “America is the greatest country on Earth!” or “America first!” And sentiments like those make me cringe. How can America be the greatest when we’re far behind other countries in intelligence and human rights? How does putting America above everyone else honor God? What can we be proud of?

That clip above was aired before Trump became president. And since we turned into the world’s court jester, my view of patriotism became more and more negative. But then I saw that post-election Black-ish episode where the main character says “I love this country even though it doesn’t always love me.” Then I saw Emmanuel Macron inviting American scientists to France so that they might have the finances and resources to fight climate change. And that’s when it finally hit me:

Patriotism doesn’t mean being competitive so much as it means being loyal. Your country is a lot like your family. You can’t choose where you were born, nor can you choose who raises you until you can take care of yourself. Maybe your relationship has been great, maybe it’s been nothing short of absolute shit. But even if you leave and never see them again, you can’t bring yourself to completely hate them. Why? Because they’ve been part of you for so long.

It’s the same with your country. No matter how it’s treated you, living here has made it a part of who you are. So, America, here’s my message of patriotism to you:

We’ve had an odd love-hate relationship over the years. I never know exactly what you think of me. Sometimes you made me laugh, other times you scared me shitless. And I won’t deny that I’ve envied Europe for its British literature, French sweets, and Norwegian scenery. We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, and there’ll most likely be many times in the future where we’ll disagree some more. But you’re still a part of me that I can’t ignore. When they wanted better opportunities, my ancestors came to you. I was born and raised here, and thus you’re all I’ve ever known. And while you’ve sometimes made it tempting to leave, the truth is there’s a part of me that can’t bring myself to hate you. Maybe it’s your people, maybe it’s your burgers and chips, or maybe it’s my inner-American tendency to defy logic and reality, I don’t know. And maybe I will leave someday, depending on where God takes me. But the fact of the matter is, I’ve come to love you too much to give up and leave now. I will fight for you, for as long as it takes, because you and your people are worth fighting for.

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