When did loving America stop being cool?

One of my most frustrating moments traveling abroad is when I find myself at a hostel, sitting with a few Americans and people of other nationalities.

Somehow, the conversation always turns to America. One person will start bashing our foreign policy, our obsession with Wal-Mart, or our disdain for walking. It doesn’t bother me that other people have issues with our country. I do, too.

Small town 4th of July
My town's adorb 4th of July Parade

But, I represent my country, and I feel like part of my job as a traveler abroad is to shed some positive light on an oft-criticized nation.

Apparently, most other American backpackers don’t share this opinion. Inevitably, one or more of the other Americans will join in on the bash sesh.

“Yeah, America sucks, man.” “Our country is so f-ed up.”

What? Yes, there are things about our country that are messed up, but aren’t you here supposed to be representing us, showing people that we aren’t a nation of ignorant, slovenly, Cheeto-eating Tea Partyers addicted to “Keeping up with the Kardashians”? (Though I can’t exclude myself from the Cheetos and Kardashians parts…)

And so what if we are?

I love prom. And I love throwing "80s prom" birthday parties long after I graduate high-school.

Why is it okay for people from every other country to have boundless pride for their country and their people, but not for Americans?

Canadian backpackers proudly flaunt flag patches on their bags. Have you ever seen an American with a flag patch? No. That’s because many Americans even pretend to be Canadian when they’re abroad. I’ve never been ashamed to say I’m American, and I’ve never had any negative reactions from locals. People in other countries are more open-minded than you think.

Even here at home, it is hipster to hate on the States. Patriotism is soo uncool.

Building with American flag in Washington, DC
Patriotic-looking building in Washington, DC

Yes, our economy has crashed and many people are struggling to make ends meet. We often make questionable foreign policy decisions. Our health and education systems need serious improvements. Our silly fights about (in my opinion) “duh” issues like gay marriage and abortion waste valuable time and resources. Factory farming is disgusting, and our oil sucking ways are problematic. The list goes on.

America is, of course, an f-ed up country. But, it’s my country. To me, it’s like family. I see its flaws, but I will be here through tough times. And I will defend it to the bitter end.

I don’t believe in blind patriotism, but I also don’t believe in blind unpatriotism.

Rusted red Chevy S10
This was one of my first cars. I feel like it's very American. Note the log that served as an e-brake.

We shouldn’t forget how lucky we are, just for the purposes of being cool and fitting in with all those Eurokids in skinny jeans talking trash about the States.

So, I’m here to say that I love America.

Michigan beating Michigan State in 2004
Michigan Stadium. My happy place.

I love blue box macaroni and cheese. I love “The Bachelorette.” I love Willie Nelson. I love Bell’s Oberon. I love trick-or-treating on Halloween. I love Wall Drug. I love Elizabeth Warren. I love “Magic Mike” (the previews, at least). I love Target. I love Elvis Presley. I love Pontiac GTOs. I love college football. I love the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  I love that we have The World’s Largest – Frying Pan, Ball of String, and Santa Claus.

The World's Largest Frying Pan
Can check that off the bucket list now...

I love Oprah.. and Jerry Springer. I love “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Of Mice and Men” (had to put something in there to make me sound smart). I love opossums. I love girl scout cookies. I love flip cup. I love Denny’s. I love Abe Lincoln, especially now that I know he slayed vampires. Did I mention I love Twilight? Team Edward AND Jacob, bitches. I love Thanksgiving. Hello, I love electricity!

The vampire sign in Forks, WA
I love that this exists at the border between La Push and Forks, WA, home of Twilight.

How about the ipod? Toilet paper? Internet? Artificial heart? Airplanes? Telephones? Soft-serve ice cream? Snuggies? And LASERS? Don’t forget about lasers!

Good shit comes out of America. I’m not saying it’s a perfect country, but none is.

You’re thinking of Switzerland. Of course you are. We have had some dark times in our short history, but who hasn’t? Maybe we don’t run as smoothly as the Swiss, but that’s because of our size, and our diversity. And because nothing runs as smoothly as the Swiss.

People walking in Central Park in NYC
Central Park in NYC. Smell the diversity!

With so many different voices adding to the mix, it’s hard to harmonize.

But, that’s the beauty of it.

Umm, hi. This may or may not inspire my desire to do a USA chant later today. *This is, unfortch, the only photo not taken by me. I would love to give credit to whomever took it (and find this man), but I don't know where it's from.

I love that, in spite of everything, I still feel like this is a country, where, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, you can accomplish your dreams.

I also love the fact that we are free to hate America. We are free to form Tea Parties, live on communes, and save the whales. We’re allowed to be carnivores, vegans, and freegans.

Girls and American flag
We're also free to wear camo jackets to parties when we are freshmen in college. Not advisable, but allowed!

All I’m saying is that I’m glad I was born here, and that, despite certain things in our history I am ashamed of, I am not ashamed to say I love this country.

I’ve traveled to more than 35 countries, and there is none I’d rather live long term in than in the States.

That’s because I love this land. I love that I can get into a car and drive from the ocean to desert to forests to mountains to plains to swamplands. For those seeking adventure and beauty, look out your back door.

Open road in America
No country is better for road trips.

The thing I love the most, however, is our people. I love our friendliness, our openness, our fearlessness, and our craziness.

This IS diversity, folks.

For any American who travels, and who thrives on different cultures, don’t forget about where you came from.

Girls riding a jackalope in Wyoming
How can you not love a place with giant statues of fake animals called Jackalopes?

I love that here you can hear different languages, see people of all different shapes, colors, and sizes, and find foods from every corner of the earth.

And, I love that the one thing we do have in common is that we call America home.

I’m sure many won’t agree with this adulatory epistle to the USA. Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m blinded by my upbringing, maybe I’m just delusional. But I think that this place is pretty cool.

Happy birthday, Amurrrica. I love you.