I’m proud to be an American – BUT – it’s so sad that that symbols have been co-opted by forces for negativity.

When I was growing up, American flags were symbols of charming, trendy patriotic pride. No shame in pulling out the stars and bars, not even on the 364 days other than the 4th of July.

And to be clear: I am a patriot. I love the United States, I’m proud to be an American. I do think this is the land of opportunity, I do think there is room for advancement and change here more than anywhere else. We’ve done a lot of horrible things in the world, but we’ve made a lot of progress and contributed human rights and civil rights.

Mind you – we have a LONG way to go. (Black Lives Matter.)

And we have a truly corrupt system that could be improved a billion times over through redistricting (gerrymander) reform and campaign finance reform.

But we are a land of hope.

In short – and in the words of Al Franken – I love my country like an adult loves their parents – with nuances, caveats, faults and all. So I am proud to be an American – even with our faults.

I think that’s one of our greatest downfalls, these days – a nuanced appreciation for America.

Do I believe in American exceptionalism?

Well – isn’t that a bit too arrogant and over-the-top?

Anyway. Getting to my point –

Every summer I buy my kids Native shoes, recently. I’m a big fan of Natives (not an #ad) for their trendy and whimsical designs and quick functionality for summer wear.

This year, I got my younger one American flag natives. One foot for the stars, the other for the bars.

I knew he’d love them.

Now that the tag is off and he proudly sports them every minute, I have total buyer’s remorse – because they look so…nationalistic.

And I hate that I feel that way. I hate that flag-hugging is something Trump has adopted and now I feel like I need to make a disclaimer for my kids’ shoes.

“I love my country. And i love the flag. But these shoes make me feel like I need to disclaim that I’m not in the MAGA camp.”

That rabid America First-ers have taken pride in the US flag away from me infuriates me. That my kid wearing American flag shoes might signal to other people that we don’t believe Black Lives Matter or in LGBTQ+ rights or that, god forbid, we believe “America First.”

It reminds me of when I bought my first used car and there was a Christian fish symbol on the back and I absolutely had to remove it ASAP.

Yet, I am spiritual and have no problem with Christianity (the loving, genuinely open and welcoming kind of Christianity, that is. Not the super-evangelical, dare-I-say nationalistic and un-nuanced kind of religion.)

My family in France used to mock me for being an American who could display American flags. In France, anyone who displays a French flag is hyper-nationalistic.

That was two decades ago.

Now? – I kinda agree.

Patriotism and nationalism are not the same thing. I’m a patriot. I’m not a nationalist. I don’t think we have the prescription for how to do it right and everyone else is doing it wrong.

For me, that means I love my country, but I don’t think it’s infallible. I believe in American exceptionalism only to the points I highlighted above (and definitely thanks to my white privilege) but not without saying we have screwed up so many, many things.

Per usual, I need to stop thinking too much about what others think and be true to myself and my family. My kids are thrilled with their new shoes. So be it if someone thinks they’re a symbol of MAGA. Hell, I believe we can make American great, again, too! (By voting Trump out.)

And if those shoes attract a Trump supporter, so be it. We can bond over what we have in common – a love for the red white and blue. Because it also goes for me: I’m proud to be an American.