Proud of my Country.

michelle_obamaThe nation’s next first lady got in a lot of trouble for saying that her husband made her more proud of her country than she had ever been. Shouldn’t we always be proud of this great nation, people asked.

I think I feel about my home country he way I feel about my family, maybe even the way I feel about myself. I love it. But we’ve done some stupid, wrong, evil things that we should be ashamed of. We have (to paraphrase Jim Wallis) built our nation on the genocide of one people and the slavery of another (We have in fact fooled ourselves into thinking that it was only one or two peoples we’ve subjugated in those examples when it was many nations). We’ve maintained policies at home and abroad that have been harmful, hurtful, and deadly to ourselves and to others. We are the only nation on earth that has dropped an atomic bomb.

As I said, I love it too. We have created beauty and hope, provided aid to millions, given the world an example of living together in vast diversity, and shared the knowledge of our experience with other nations. We’re not monsters. It’s just easy to miss our goodness sometimes, easy to get caught up in the real, true, bad stuff we’ve done and continue to do, and so yeah, often I’m not proud of my country. Often I get a little cynical and think that while we are the greatest nation on earth that might not be saying much.

There are many things that change that for me in the person of President-Elect Obama. We can carry on about the color of his skin, and the fact that many people who voted for him were not able to vote in their teens and twenties because of the color of theirs. We can shed our tears (and I have!) because we are proud that Americans voted for him in such large numbers that it is clear that a majority of us have moved beyond the sins of racism to begin to repent. We can pat ourselves on the back (not too soundly, mind) for taking another step away from discrimination and toward justice for all people. What happened here last night, especially for and in the Black community, is nothing short of amazing and something to be proud of.

But that’s not actually what makes me most proud of my country, and latte-drinking, Prius-coveting liberal elitist that I am, I didn’t vote for Obama because I wanted to see a person of color in the White House (nor did I vote for Senator Clinton in the primary because I wanted to see a woman there). I voted for Obama because I believe in much of his vision for the U.S. and for the world, and I hope he has the means to achieve it with us. I voted for him because I felt like he encouraged me to believe that I could be part of that vision, that we all are part of that vision, part of the change we want to see. He inspired and inspires me and others so much that the candidate he is actually superseded for me the candidate of color that he was. And that is the country we will live in, the world my daughter will inherit. Where the best person for the job might be a man or a woman, an African, Asian, or Caucasian, and that’s not what will matter–only that they are the best. And they bring out the best in us.

Much of what I also want to say Brad Ruggles says very well on his blog. Rather than parrot back his ideas, I’ll point you over to him. But he’s right. President-Elect Obama convinced us, even those who didn’t vote for him, that we are part of a team working together for a better world. And that’s the greatest country I know, the biggest reason to be proud.

Environment, tomorrow. Really.

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