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A few years ago a friend who was familiar with my numerous critiques of United States racism, imperialism, and militarism asked whether I hated the U.S.A. On the contrary, I replied, I love the United States. My friend then inquired how this was possible in view of the many bad things that I said about our country.

I responded to my friend by observing that my feelings about my country were something like my feelings about my own family. I love my family deeply. I am part of it, and my family is part of me. I do not claim my family is perfect, or that it is the greatest family in the world, or that family members (including myself) are free of flaws. I am deeply troubled by whatever problems my family has, and I feel a strong desire to correct them, if possible. I am particularly disturbed if a family member denies or ignores an obvious problem. I rarely sing the praises of my family because such behavior seems outlandish, insecure and likely to convey quite the opposite meaning. Indeed, my love and respect for my family should be self-evident.

A country, like a human being and a family, is a complex and contradictory entity with both good and bad elements. However, a country is far more powerful than an individual, and thus its bad elements will be far more catastrophic. One can love the freedoms, openness, energy and beauty of the U.S.A. — as I do — but an ethical person cannot ignore the genocide and slavery on which American society was founded. Nor can an ethical person blind themselves to the racism, imperialism and militarism that still permeate our nation.

My love for the United States is expressed in my refusal to ignore these pathologies and in my intense desire to correct them. My love for the United States is expressed in the pride I feel when the country does good things. My love for the United States is expressed in my hope that our society will move beyond capitalism and towards a more rational, egalitarian and sustainable economic system. My love for the United States is expressed in my continued desire to be part of this country whatever its faults may be.

As implied above, I am part of the United States and the United States is part of me. Thus, Tom Mayer is not free of the pathologies embedded in American society. Although I have worked to divest myself of racism, I continue to benefit from the white-skin privilege that saturates our culture. Although I have critiqued imperialism and struggled against it, I continue to receive some of the advantages bestowed upon the imperialist hegemon. Hatred of the United States would thus be tantamount to hatred of myself. It would useless, unproductive, and psychologically annihilating.