Drive around your neighborhood and count how many American flags are flying proudly on your neighbors’ lawns. There are probably a lot fewer than there were 20 years ago when, in the aftermath of 9/11, patriotism ran high. Depending on your ZIP code, you may find more foreign flags and rainbows today coupled with yard signs that call you a bad person if you don’t subscribe to the modern left-wing orthodoxy expressed by simplistic slogans on complex issues.
When I first moved into my Denver apartment two years ago, my first roommate kept a rainbow flag draped over the railing on the front porch. She was the president of her high school gay-straight alliance. Being gay myself, I certainly had no objection.
Fast-forward to April, when I was taking a detour on the way home from church one morning, I found myself disappointed at the lack of patriotism exhibited by my neighbors through the stars and stripes. Instead, I drove by too many houses celebrating their tribalistic identities with rainbow stripes and Black Lives Matter flags rather than their unifying identity as Americans.
For months, my neighbor across the street flew the Ukrainian flag on his front porch. I can’t remember if he ever flew an American flag. If he did, I must have missed it (albeit for Halloween in 2020 he dressed up as Donald Trump with a long nose and pointed ears to hand out candy to kids through a PVC pipe).
The collectivized self-hatred idolized by identity politics has slowly turned the country on itself. According to Gallup, national pride hit a new low in the summer of 2020. The results were published exactly two years ago as the “1619 riots” tore the country apart in a season of deadly anti-American rage.
Only 63 percent of those interviewed said they were either “very proud” or “extremely proud” of their American heritage. In contrast, two years after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, patriotism peaked in Gallup’s survey, with 92 percent reporting they were “very proud” or “extremely proud” to be American, with only a slight recovery in the prior 12 months.
When I pulled in front of my apartment on that April morning, I realized I was part of the problem. The generic rainbow, torn and whitewashed after years of exposure to the high-elevation elements, flew on the balcony as some symbol of pride in my sexuality, which at this point, is really just a neutral fact, not something to feel either pride or shame over. In fact, I’m still white, which Twitter reminded me last week I should now feel shamed about.
Above all, I’m proud to be an American, a descendant of ancestors who fought for independence nearly 250 years ago and a great-grandson of West Virginia coal miners. My family capitalized on the American dream, empowering me to criticize people in power, which, historically speaking, is an extraordinary thing to do, even if I myself am not extraordinary.
I didn’t walk into my front door after church. I drove to the store and picked up a brand-new American flag, because our country is something to be proud of, too.