This I Believe

Jamie - Santa Monica, California
Entered on June 19, 2007

This I Believe

When the outspoken Joe blurts out during U.S. History class, “America is B.S. and I don’t consider myself American,” I’m somewhat flabbergasted but keep my mouth shut.

I’ve never been very patriotic and I deeply disagree with many aspects of our country’s policies, both here and abroad, but something seemed wrong for Joe to so completely disassociate himself with America. At first I wasn’t quite sure why his bold statement made me stir. After thinking about it for a while I realized that I was offended not because I naively believe that America is in fact a “shining city on the hill” that the colonists idealized, but because Joe dismissed the core values of our country by completely rejecting America.

I believe we Americans eventually make progress towards doing the right thing. Our country’s terrible history of racism and inequality has evolved to a society where a black man and a woman are running strong campaigns for president. Historical changes are happening in our country right now. Americans believe in greater individual rights and equal opportunity. Any adult can vote and hold public office. People can publicly express their opinions, even controversial ones, like Joe did. American democracy seems to eventually work.

America is not perfect and does make mistakes, but I believe American determination gets us back on the right course. We may forget our better values of fairness and patience (the war in Iraq for example), but eventually our democratic process leads us to correct our mistakes. In our democracy the power of public opinion can influence our government’s policies and can even impeach a president. The results of the last congressional election, and maybe the next presidential election, will probably change the course of our present war. I believe we Americans eventually use our better judgment. We ultimately get back on track.

There’s a distinction between not agreeing with our current political policies and not valuing the wonderful ideals that American democracy is based upon. I believe in appreciating what we have achieved in our society. Great democratic principles have guided Americans over many generations. I understand Joe’s reasons for being upset with the politics of today, but I also believe in appreciating our basic values and appreciating our endless opportunity to become a better society.

I didn’t expect that in the process of writing this paper I would develop a deeper appreciation of American principals as well as a better sense of my own values. I think that knowing my own beliefs more clearly and strongly will help me to exercise my own right to free speech, as did Joe.