Proud to be an American? A recent Gallup poll reveals that such pride has dropped precipitously this year and is at its lowest point since the poll began. 42% are extremely proud, 21% are very proud, 15% are moderately proud, 12% are a little proud, and 9% are not proud at all. As recently as 2016, 81% were extremely or very proud – today it has dropped to 63%.
Is it any wonder? With a toxic political environment, pandemic, economic collapse, and mass protests, our society is fraying at the edges. Meanwhile, our K-12 civics and American history scores are wretched. The Nation’s Report Card shows that less than 25% of eighth-graders are proficient in Civics or US History. Meanwhile, the New York Time’s influential 1619 Project twists American History into politically motivated propaganda.
Do we have reason to have some pause about American pride? Certainly. Huge swaths of our past are shameful: slavery; American Indian genocide; discrimination; and police brutality. We can readily critique our history and current flaws.
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However, we only can do that because we are Americans. We are brutal with our self-criticism because we are Americans. Because on July 4, 1776, we declared, in writing for the entire world to see, certain self-evident truths to which we dedicated our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. We declared our founding First Principles of equality, limited government, the rule of law, unalienable rights, the Social Compact, and the right to alter or abolish oppressive government. We were the first – and only – nation to do so. That is something to cherish.
There is no doubt that America did not fulfill those First Principles for all in 1776 or even today. But those First Principles inspired generations of patriots to move us closer to their fulfillment. Abolitionism, woman’s suffrage, and the civil rights struggles all called upon the First Principles to push the country toward the arc of justice. Demands for equality, the equal application of the rule of law, and protecting the unalienable rights of everyone is at the heart of the protests against police brutality. Unlike any other country in the world, we stand for trying to move our country closer to our First Principles. This has always taken hard work – and it always will.
Spurious attacks on our foundations and false narratives will lead to the ruin of the greatest, freest nation the world has ever seen. We should not despise the Declaration of Independence and tear down our nation. Instead, like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others, we should embrace our First Principles and do our part in improving our great land.
Still, the Gallup poll’s measure of “pride” is troubling. Pride is the gravest of the seven deadly sins.
With appropriate humility, we should rejoice in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, First Principles, and the good that America has accomplished. This is why my daughter and I started Patriot Week’s celebration that spans from September 11 (the anniversary of the terrorist attacks) – September 17 (the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution). We commemorate our First Principles, plus many of the Patriots who helped us better fulfill them. Without a renewal of the spirit of America, our country will die – by suicide – and the world will have lost its last, best hope for freedom. This Independence Day, celebrate our Declaration of Independence and rededicate yourself to perfecting our Union for the good of all mankind.
Hon. Michael Warren is an Oakland County Michigan Circuit Court Judge, host of Patriot Lessons: American History & Civics podcast, and co-founder of Patriot Week (www.PatriotWeek.org) with his then 10-year-old daughter Leah.