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20.9.01

Rabi is wondering whether she qualifies as a patriot, and I'm thinking some of the same things. As much as I talk about Australia, and use their spellings, and praise their snack foods, I still think the US is the best country around. But at the same time, I would hesitate to call myself a patriot or say categorically that I love America. I think the problem is that America is too big a thing to reduce to a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. For a long time I thought it was an issue of sorting out the pros and cons, and deciding which side came out heavier, though this calculation would be too complex to do in real life. But it's more than that.

There was a letter in The Maroon-News last week from a kid who said he was ashamed to be a Colgate student because of how some of his classmates reacted to last Tuesday's tragedy. I'm one of the people he was railing against, as I believe it's important to understand the circumstances that led to terrorist action against the US rather than turning the situation into an ideological battle of good versus evil. But I could understand the feeling he was experiencing when I heard the first reports of violence against American Arabs, Muslims, and people (like Sikhs) who look to the uneducated eye like Arabs or Muslims. I had known this would happen, but I hadn't wanted to believe it. It made me ashamed to be an American.

This is the problem with group identity. Your worth becomes dependent on the actions of others. But why should the hate felt by some people reflect on me just because we live on the same scrap of ground and pay our taxes to the same treasury? That's how bin Laden justified killing innocent people -- the actions of the American government reflected on all Americans. That's how racists justify hate crimes against innocent Arabs and Muslims -- bin Laden's actions reflect on all people whose ancestors come from the same region of the world or call God by the same name as he does. I've avoided expressing patriotism because I didn't want to be associated with the type of jingoism that has been coming from our leaders and the media. But now I realise there's a deeper issue with patriotism -- it lumps you in with a group identity.

I am an American, because I live within the territory named "the United States of America." But I am neither proud to be an American nor ashamed to be an American or any combination of the two. I am only proud or ashamed of my own actions and thoughts.

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