I was a reluctant kindergartner. I didn’t like the idea of meeting new people. I wasn’t excited about having a teacher other than my older sister, and I was uninterested in being away from my mom and dog for that many hours of the day.
I told my dad this a week before the start of school and he told me he understood. In one of the riskiest moves he’s ever made, he said he’d like me to meet my new teacher. He thought I would love her, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have to go to school. I agreed to meet her, and my dad took me for a drive to the school that afternoon. We showed up unannounced and found Mrs. Young getting the room ready. She was warm and welcoming. She hugged me and my father and asked about my sister who she had taught eight years earlier. She gave me a tour of the classroom and talked to me about my fears. I don’t know how long the visit was but I do know by the end of it I was ready to start kindergarten. My dad’s risk paid off.
Mrs. Young was one of my favorite teachers and her class was one of my introductions to patriotism. Every day we’d say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing a song about America. The song that I loved the most and still find myself singing is This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.
This land is your land and this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.”
As a kindergartner, this song gave me a sense of belonging. As an adult, this song gives me a sense of purpose. I know that this land was not made for me. I was born and raised on unceded Mvskoke land, I am the descendent of men and women who were enslaved, and I am the daughter of parents who lived through Jim Crow.
This land was not made for you and me; but it could be.
A patriot is defined as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies and detractors.” I identify as a patriot because I love this nation; I also recognize it hasn’t lived up to its ideals.
As a patriot, I envision a nation where we all belong. I envision a nation where Black Lives Matter, Love Is Love, No Human Is Illegal, Healthcare Is a Human Right, Climate Change Is Real and Voter Rights Are Civil Rights. These are not American values yet; but they could be.
I believe we can create this together if we run for office, organize in our communities, have courageous conversations about social and racial justice, and uplift and multiply progressive voices. To me, patriotism means spending the rest of my life ensuring this land was made for you and me.
You can learn more about Rachel Willis and the movement to reclaim patriotism, Patriots Believe, here.
Join Patriots Believe & DemCast USA in our effort to reclaim our flag and the honor of being called a patriot.
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