So. The New York Times is reporting that young Americans (read: you and me) are far less patriotic than our elders, and that American patriotism over the last several decades has been in decline.
But that shouldn’t really be all that surprising to anyone.
In a 2012 inquiry from American National Election Study (A.N.E.S.), the overall feeling of “hell yeah, America!” one gets when viewing the ol’ stars and stripes on display was found to be very high across all age groups — no surprise, Americans love being from America — about 79 percent, with 95 percent of the participants in the study agreeing that they at least like, if not love, America.
The real difference can be seen once you break it down generationally. According to the Times, “81 percent of the Silent Generation (those who are 69 to 86 years old in 2014) love America while only 58 percent of millennials (18 to 33 years old) feel the same.” Additionally, “78 percent of the older generation consider their American identity to be extremely important. … [But] only 45 percent of young adults define themselves this way.”
Older Americans in our parents and grandparents’ generations are highly devoted to symbols of our freedom and democracy, like the flag and what it represents. But Old Glory just doesn’t do it for us younger folk, as we’re more into actionable properties of what it means to be an American, like equality and opportunity for all.
Considering how both those things are currently in question and flux, politically speaking (to put it lightly), is it really all that surprising that younger folk are less keen on being über-patriots? Us young types have grown up in a radically globalized world, perma-connected through social media, and filled with racial and economic diversity that far exceeds what was experienced by the older crowd when they were our age.
So traditional symbols of the good ole USA’s democratic leanings — particularly when co-opted by groups with agendas that feel less than filled with liberty and justice for all, — are, perhaps, a bit more hollow in their meaning than say, actually embodying those traits which Americans hold onto so dear. We’re optimists but we’re not sentimentalists (unless you’re talking about ’90s ephemera in which case we’re clearly all about it).
So yeah, maybe Milliennials are less keen to wave an American flag and feel all warm-and-fuzzy about it, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less devoted to those democratic ideals that make our country great. The world is changing and we’re just keen to get an update on what it means to be from the US-YAY!