Olympics medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in protest against the United States.

Our nation will remember when days of safety, peace and family were yanked from our country on Sept. 11. I grew up learning about the events of the twin towers, but never have I witnessed foreign powers terrorize the nation. In my sophomore year of high school, my chemistry teacher had the class watch a compilation of news coverages on 9/11. Of course, every year I watch my parents, my teachers, my aunts and my grandparents recount that day from memory — “I was at ___ when the twin towers fell …” — almost like a tick, a ritual for all those old enough to remember.

After they share these memories, I also notice a newfound or inflated sense of duty to protect the nation from criticism. After all, dissent against our government led to radical Islamic terrorists hijacking airline flights.

I don’t mean to disparage those fallen, or their families and friends left behind to grieve collectively on this tragic day when I say I’m not a fan of America. That’s right, I said I don’t like America in a piece about 9/11.

How unpatriotic of me? How insensitive? Well, for years and years, as long as I can remember, I’ve always been critical of institutions. It started off with school, because it can be difficult. Being bullied for most of my elementary years taught me to be skeptical of systems that claim to protect people. High school was my political awakening, and in senior year I was elected to be part of my school’s “We the People” team. As an alternative to the standard United States government credit, this class engaged its students not only in the classroom, but at competitions where we articulated our critical understanding of the American governmental system and Constitution. We argued and debated on topics such as corporal punishment, Marbury v. Madison, DACA and gun rights. I am proud to say that my class dominated the district competitions. No matter how far into the text or self-study I delved, my opinion on America hasn’t changed much. The U.S. is ridiculous — a joke.

That’s okay though.

That is my personal opinion and my form of patriotism. Patriotism is not only blind admiration and pride for the country you live in. Patriotism can be cynical and critical of our institutions because it brings to the forefront issues needing a resolution to better the country as a whole.

We have done marvelous things as a country, but I’d rather spend my time finding its flaws than reminiscing on accomplishments that no longer need improvement. There were times when the critical discourse of the U.S. was criminally punishable under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but shortly after passing Congress, it was repealed for its denial of our First Amendment rights: freedom of speech, assembly and print specifically.

This 9/11, as we grieve or learn more about the tragic events of 2001, let us not attack one another’s opinions. My patriotism may not look like yours, but diversity of thought is what makes this country great. Let’s not lose that.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

Broderick Sterrett
Broderick Sterrett is a new writer on the Opinion Desk. Pursuing an English BA at the University of Utah, he is ready to test and hone his writing on worthwhile topics to share.

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