Excerpted From: Karin Mika, The United States and the Need for an Improved Global Citizenship in the Twenty-first Century: How History Shaped Our Identity as a Nation, 72 Cleveland State Law Review 25 (2023) (410 Footnotes) (Full Document)


KarinMikaIn recent years, the Far Right has often hijacked the idea of what constitutes a “patriot.” Even the flag itself has become a symbol of being a true American. Moreover, the Far Right has defined true Americans essentially as white, Christian members of nuclear families who go to church, support local community endeavors, the right to bear arms, and anything military-oriented. For the Far Right, any criticism of the police or how the United States might actually be harming other countries in the world is taboo and unpatriotic. This is true unless the police are seeking to restrain any claimed “patriot” group from articulating its position (even if violently).

There is no definition set out anywhere of what is a true patriot, but those who have been labeled patriotic feel their own exclusion without need of a definition. A patriot seems to have become an odd--if not contradictory--combination. There is pride in being able to trace one's relations back to the Revolutionary War, co-existing with support for the southern cause during the Civil War. Immigrants and first generation Americans are not necessarily excluded from being considered patriots, but usually only those of a certain heritage are able to become part of the “club.” Patriots must reject all aspects of socialism, but still be kind to their neighbors and the underprivileged through community projects. Patriots must respect authority, but disregard it if authority is used to facilitate an improvement for what they perceive is their agenda for those who are deemed unworthy. Patriots must also, like the patriarchal hierarchy of old, love the United States “or leave it,” even if the United States takes actions that are unacceptable and condemned in other countries.

This Article is not about the correctness or incorrectness of mindsets. It is more a study about what is exceptional about America, and/or why so many believe that America is chosen by God as the most exceptional country in the world--thus being entitled to act within the world as superior. Believing in the exceptional nature of one's religion or one's country is not a novel concept. In fact, it has been the major reason for most of the wars and destruction that have occurred throughout history. However, as at least some of the countries in the world are understanding that it would be a good idea to look at the fate of the world more globally, many in the United States have gone in another direction. They have done so at a time when the United States is no longer the single most dominant force that rules the fate of the world. This Article will explore how it is that the United States got here, and why it is dangerous to remain here.

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My father, who essentially lost his country in World War II, called the United States “the greatest country in the world.” Like many immigrants, he looked to the United States as the country that would help the oppressed and welcome those who had nowhere else to go. Unfortunately, like many immigrants who made a new life in the United States, he found his senior years to be difficult as he discovered that the United States could be rather heartless with respect to the most vulnerable. After dedicating the best years of his life contributing to the economic wealth of his adopted country, he found himself left with a minimal social security check that did not cover household expenses nor the rising costs of his prescription drugs. He, and many other peers, then began wondering whether it might have been better to have taken their chances in Europe as it rebuilt.

There is no doubt that the United States, at least philosophically, developed one of the best governments that has ever existed. It is still the envy of many countries around the world, especially those who have been trying for centuries to create systems where there are peaceful transitions of power. But it must be acknowledged that the United States was able to develop as it did partially because it is a young country that was able to benefit from trying not to make the mistakes of various predecessor countries and empires. It simply did not have the baggage of kings, family bloodlines, and historic homelands that its counterparts in Europe were constantly battling over.

It must also be acknowledged that the geographic location of the United States kept it far afield from the wars that forced Europe to have to rebuild time and time again. Its geographic isolation also enabled it to commandeer the vast resources of the territorial United States through overwhelming the Native population while not having to continuously war with European countries that had claimed their own pieces of the new world. These factors (and then some) allowed the United States to follow a path that allowed it to become the superpower it became in the Twentieth Century.

But it is no longer sufficient nor appropriate for the United States to assume its own superiority, especially when some of the benefit of that superiority was only available for a minority of its population. To not wind up on the trash heap of empires past, the United States must cultivate a level of humility and take its place as more of an equal among other countries. It must also develop more of a social conscience regarding its own citizens instead of seemingly targeting many citizens as villains.

Karin Mika is Senior Professor of Legal Writing at Cleveland State University College of Law where she has taught Legal Writing since 1990.