I am the summer intern for the Lehigh Valley Press weekly newspapers. I am 19 years old and entering my sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This summer has been an exciting one.
Obtaining my driver’s license, securing an internship and seeing my brother graduate from an Ivy League university, which has not only caused him stress for four grueling academic years, but physical pain as his studies at Cornell University once forced an ulcer to burn through the wall of his stomach and allow digestive juices to leak into his abdominal cavity.
Is a computer science degree worth a perforated ulcer?
Most importantly, I saw the reenactment of a well-known parable, David and Goliath. We learned from this biblical story that humans are capable of defeating any trials or tribulations in their lives through will and conviction.
You might have overlooked this if you are not a soccer fan or preoccupied with your own devices, but this summer a soccer tournament was held in the United States called the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
This tournament, held every two years, is played between countries of North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
As a descendant of Haitian parents, you could probably guess what team I was rooting for.
Although they are unlikely to admit this, everyone in my family knew our so-called “unceasing” support of Haiti would be ephemeral since we didn’t expect the Les Grenadiers to get very far.
In fact, my father and I, in secrecy, placed a wager on whether Haiti could salvage one win in their opening games or lose all three matches. My bet was placed on the latter.
Haiti took the Gold Cup by storm.
By the skin of their teeth, Haiti defeated Bermuda in the first game. Most thought it was luck, including me.
Next, they soundly defeated a respectable Nicaraguan side, turning heads everywhere in the soccer world.
How could a country pervasively ravaged by both an unimaginable earthquake and political upheaval even field a soccer team, let alone defeat two teams?
The battered and utterly decimated country could no longer be ignored.
Consequently, I purchased a ticket to watch Haiti play Costa Rica at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.
When I got there, I saw the Haitian fans decked out in their traditional red and blue, belting out their national anthem with such happiness and joy.
Their uplifting singing engulfed me, too, leaving me susceptible to their infectious happiness. Like a virus, it spread throughout my body, a tingling feeling in my toes and a pounding sensation in my head.
I felt the raw emotions of these Haitians slam into me like an ocean’s wave.
Haiti defeated Costa Rica 2-1 and their dream run continued, rallying back from 2-0, to beat Canada 3-2 and move on to the semifinals.
This run came to a disappointing end though, when Mexico, due to an egregious call from the referee, awarded them an easy opportunity to score. Mexico capitalized and won the game 1-0.
As I closely followed Haiti’s path to the tournament, I pondered what it meant to be patriotic.
Sure, I was cheering for Haiti’s success but there are so many aspects of Haiti that I condemn.
When I was cheering for Haiti at the soccer game, was I inherently supporting the Haitian government’s push to eliminate subsidies and allow fuel prices to increase?
Was I supporting the government’s lack of emphasis concerning literacy, or was I even supporting gangs in Haiti to rob citizens to compensate for the lack of governmental support, just how they robbed my uncle at gunpoint a few weeks ago?
No, but I was a prisoner to the moment and forgot about all of Haiti’s problems.
The actual definition of patriotism is the love for or devotion to one’s country, according to Merriam Webster.
I am not devoted or love the decisions that are transpiring in Haiti, but this wasn’t clear at the game.
How can you cheer for your home country and denounce its problems at the same time?
Patriotism, by definition, isn’t either good or bad.
If you live in a country that supports the rights of all individuals, then it’s easy to be patriotic.
If you live in a country that doesn’t support the rights of all individuals and continues to be patriotic, that certainly raises issues and questions regarding your character.
For example, the USA Women’s Soccer Team recently won the World Cup. In their parade, celebrating their achievement, fans were screaming, “U-S-A, U-S-A” and also cheering “equal pay, equal pay.”
U.S. women soccer players are suing their federation for gender discrimination. The discrepancy of pay between men and women is a sizable difference and players on the women’s national team feel this is due to their sex.
Americans love their women’s national team but execrate the wage gap. This was clear at the parade, as so many fans lamented their frustration through organized chants, even during a moment when the national team has just accomplished a tremendous feat.
If we want to be patriotic about the country we support, we must celebrate accomplishments and successful strides but also heavily scrutinize its wrongdoings.
We cannot remain tight-lipped over issues even at times where it seems inappropriate.
We can’t settle.
We must be outspoken about problems that persist in our country. We can do this while also being patriotic and proud of our country’s accomplishments.
Up until a year ago, there stood an 8-foot-tall statue of a Confederate statue nicknamed “Silent Sam” at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The statue was erected in 1913 as a memorial to the 321 alumni who lost their lives in the American Civil War and to all students who joined the Confederate States Army.
It is seen as a symbol of historical remembrance by conservative alumni and state legislators, but for me, and so many others at UNC, we see it as a sign of racial oppression.
Walking past a monument that honors a war that attempted to continue the subjugation of black people can be terrorizing to people of color.
To get this message across to school officials, it took consistent protests.
Although university students ended up toppling the statue, which I vehemently disagree with, the university allowed tensions to reach such a point.
Being passive about a burgeoning issue led to this point but even as students protested, they did not castigate the university as a whole, only this specific aspect.
In short, my soliloquy is simple. Before we sing the praises of our country, hometown or even favorite brand of clothing, we should be educated about its past and present, so our love and devotion to it, or our patriotism isn’t ambiguous to any onlookers.