In certain circles, it’s popular to criticize parents for giving children participation trophies, arguing that it raises kids who are unmotivated, entitled, and too fragile to deal with criticism.
Okay, let’s go with that.* I’d like to apply that same principle from parenting to citizenship.**
Loving your country shouldn’t mean constantly showering it with empty praise. I’m not going to give America a participation trophy just for existing as America. I’m not going to give it gold stars for freedom and democracy and equality until it’s earning them.
I’m not going to say that it’s the greatest on earth at everything when it’s not. I’m not going to let it think that its current progress in handling poverty and education and healthcare are already good enough, when there’s clearly room for improvement.
I’m not going to let it develop such a fragile ego that a criticism of any of these areas is taken as disloyal. I’m not going to inflate that ego by putting down all other countries, when it could be learning from some of them.
When it gets into conflicts, I’m not going to act like its side is inherently the right one, because I care about the quality and impact of its decisions.
I love America. With tough love. I believe in it’s potential, I have high expectations, and I won’t sugarcoat the truth when its not living up to them. It can do better. I want it to do better. I want it to be better than it ever has been before.
*I’m pretty sure these people are overstating the psychological impact of participation trophies, given that no kid cares about the looser prize anyway. But okay, its a convenient symbol.
** Yeah, anthropomorphizing countries is questionable, but sorry, that’s how these metaphors work.