This was roughly a year ago.
It was almost closing time at the job site, and I was shooting the breeze with my old Coptic coworker “F.” I remember on that day F had passed his citizenship exam. I had helped him study the government section. Spirits were high.
At some point our discussion shifted from the present to the past. I used my phone to play some Egyptian music, which greatly amused F. He started telling me stories about being a driving instructor in his hometown, how wildly people would drive there.
From there, I played the Egyptian national anthem, and he translated parts of it for me. F told me that he would miss his homeland, especially temperatures that never reached the lows in Tennessee.
I then decided to play the National Anthem.
F’s demeanor completely changed. He spoke not a word, nor did he move as the song played. After the anthem finished, and in a tone of voice usually reserved for our religious discussions or emergencies, he started telling me of the oppression of his people in Egypt, of the hatred some Egyptian Muslims had for his people and our faith.
F told me that he could now call America his home, that he could raise his children without the constant fear of them being raped or murdered for worshiping Jesus. He started crying.
And I felt shame, because I felt nothing close to a similar affection for the Anthem, for my country.
So here I find myself today writing in favor of nationalist sentiments, patriotic stuff usually reserved for old white people, people not cool enough for our esoteric and super-meaningful hipster ideologies. I continue to find more in common with the old people than I do with the hipsters and edgytarians.
Certainly, there exists an abundance of things I dislike about this nation today, but overall things really aren’t that awful. I live in relative peace and comfort; the closest I ever come to actual oppression is when I trigger a feminist on faceboook. I have a wife who loves me, a job that pays bills, and access to numerous outlets of entertainment for leisure time our ancestors couldn’t afford. I didn’t need anarchy or nihilism or game or reaction to achieve these things.
Maybe I should at least have enough decency and respect, not to mention ideological consistency, to permit myself to feel some genuine reverence and love for things people have spilled blood over. Things my ancestors left their homelands to have. Things we nuked cities, decimated aboriginals, and straddled this Earth like a colossus for. Those things have a lot to do with making my life today possible. Those things are hard to replace.