This year, I noticed it has become more and more unpopular, even “offensive,” to express American patriotism. Kneeling for the National Anthem is now applauded as an act of courage, while chanting “USA” at sporting events is met with disdain because it is somehow not inclusive enough. According to a Gallup survey published back in the summer, 74 percent of conservatives consider themselves proud to be American while only 32 percent of liberals would agree. What’s perhaps more intriguing is that these numbers are similar to those from Obama’s presidency, meaning that Donald Trump is not the determining factor. So why is it that so few liberals express pride in being American?

One crucial explanation lies in the fundamental differences between the Left and Right’s opposing viewpoints and ideologies. It is a common misconception that American patriotism is purely a celebration of the “white men” who founded it. Such a claim is intellectually dishonest and far too oversimplified. It is still an accusation from the Left, who reject that America was founded on anything but slavery, bigotry, and violence.

In truth, what made America so beautifully unique is that it was founded upon ideas outlined in two of the greatest documents in human history, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution; that we are all individuals created equal and in the image of God. Because we recognize those truths to be self-evident, we also acknowledge there are certain natural rights given to us upon creation, not by any government. While we understand that no government can take them away, it is a necessary institution in order to protect those rights, as James Madison writes in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

The American experiment was unheard of in history at the time. Our founding fathers applied Western Judeo-Christian values to a new form of government, wherein our leaders would work for the people rather than the other way around. The people were to elect those leaders whose powers were limited by checks and balances. They created a nation where all religious practices were legal, speech was not restricted, the people were armed, and freedom reigned.

What keeps America so beautiful is that those ideas unite us still as a nation, in spite of our “melting pot” of cultures and ethnicities. We are not a homogeneous population, nor do we have an official national language. Anyone in the world can legally migrate here and become an American, which cannot be said for most other countries. We have different backgrounds, skin colors, and religions, but the things we have in common – our eternal national values and freedoms – will always link us together.

It is okay to recognize two truths simultaneously: America and its people are not, nor have ever been perfect. Slavery will remain a morally egregious part of our history. We should never forget it. We have not always lived up to the values upon which our country was founded, and we must keep trying every day, one step at a time. The United States has still single-handedly pulled 75% of the world out of poverty. We made freedom and prosperity possible unlike ever before. We’re a flawed people, but we are the most virtuous nation in human history.

I am part of that 74 percent in spite of our flaws. I am proud of a country that fought a near-unbeatable war so its people could be left alone; proud to live in the freest, most benign nation in the history of the world. I am unabashedly thankful for these United States of America this Thanksgiving and every day.

Jennifer S