Last weekend was a great time to be American. Following a festive Saturday celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Team USA surged to a historic third World Cup title in a legendary, record breaking victory.
The USA is an amazing country and we, as its citizens and residents, have much to be grateful for. We should strive to never take this for granted. From my time living and traveling abroad I am even more appreciative of Title IX and the vast network of female athletics it helped create; my ability to walk through CWRU campus as a solo female at night; our well-planned, efficient infrastructure; unparalleled customer service and, of course, Chipotle.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have my qualms about our country. When landing on U.S. soil after a trip abroad, I always find the walk through the airport irritating: loud Americans hustle about, spoiled children beg for McDonald’s and everywhere you look there is a neon light advertising something.
Even when abroad, I find myself distancing myself from America. I will defend Packer-land until the day I die, but when someone exclaims they can’t stand Americans or asks if all Americans are gun crazy, I find myself struggling to find an answer and half heartedly agreeing with them.
For a while in high school I lived in Australia; I will never forget when my teacher asked the class what capitalism was and I bellowed “Murica” much to my classmates’ amusement.
Americans are confident capitalists, two characteristics that we can be proud of. Confidence helped propel Team USA to victory and our free enterprise has secured our economy as the strongest in the world.
But confidence trickles into loud, annoying, pushy and arrogant. Americans want what they want, because they want it and we are the best in the world, so we better get it.
Our capitalism looks a lot like blind, unwavering, unhealthy consumerism. I hate driving through the outskirts of Chicago because of the endless stream of warehouses, concrete and billboards. Our excess is sickening: I gag when I see a Kardashian’s closet or a nine year old with an iPhone.
Spoiledness, arrogance and selfishness do not a leader make.
Rather than barrage the internet with inappropriate tweets celebrating the USA’s victory over Japan (Pearl Harbor was trending after the final) or invent a new social media website that further undermines eye contact, let’s solve real world problems that are having devastating effects.
We don’t need another Snuggie or Google Glass (those fall under the excess category), but we do need the confidence to face the toughest problems in all their complexity and innovation to create lasting solutions. What if Facebook skipped the next news feed update and sent a few programmers to work with scientists, anthropologists, field experts and community leaders to use technology to combat the drought in California, systemic racism throughout our country or provide cutting edge, culturally relevant education to disadvantaged children throughout the world?
Many of us in America have a near unlimited amount of resources and opportunities at our fingertips. Buying new clothes and gadgets can be fun, but let’s use our resources not only to better our lives, but the lives of those around us.
I am proud of our country and grateful to be an American citizen, although we as a country should strive continue to do better. Continue to wave your flag of red, white and blue, but take a moment to question who we are as a nation and how we can be the best America possible.
In the proceeding competitions where Team USA participates and Independence Day’s, practice reflective patriotism rather than blind patriotism.
Heather O’Keeffe is a senior studying biomedical engineering and minoring in sports medicine. Her favorite word is bougie. She finds the impending departure of Jon Stewart saddening.