I have a confession. I’m really, really bad at being a typical Kentuckian. I didn’t vote for Trump, I don’t know a single farmer first-hand, I couldn’t change the oil in my car if my life depended on it, I’ve never dated a cousin and I think the Kentucky Derby is super overrated (your silly hat looks ridiculous by the way).
Meeting me, it may come as a surprise that I was born here, and my parents’ parents were born here, albeit in Harlan, the most stereotypically Kentucky of all Kentucky places.
If you compare yourself and I, it’s probable that we’re nothing alike.
Yet this is my home. This is the land where my forefathers came in search of a better life. I love this place. It’s not perfect, by any means, not even close. Maybe I’m not really good at being a stereotypical man of this state, or this country, but I identify with y’all. I understand you, I know what makes you tick because I was raised in a similar fashion, on similar soil. I know you, for the most part, to be good, honest people. I love you because, though we are wildly different, I am you.
So, by definition, I am a patriot. I love the place I was born. I love the people in it, and even though I disagree with them on most everything, and there are so many things I want to see fixed, I’m not ashamed of that.
Sometimes though, since I’m not affiliated with either major political party, I feel like everybody is telling me that I’m either not a patriot, or that I can’t be one.
Some of y’all believe that you aren’t one if you’re not a truck drivin’, dip spittin’, sweet tea sippin’, red state, red blood son of a gun that loves Jesus and Garth Brooks, one only a little less than the other.
I don’t agree with so many things going on, even right now. For instance, I think Ken Ham’s “museum” is an atrocious embarrassment. If you can be a grown man, look me in the eye and tell me that saddle really belongs on a velociraptor then I’m going to suspect you have mental problems.
Speaking of that, I’m tired of non-natives coming here and telling us what our values are or how we should run things. Ham is a crazy person from Australia, our governor is a rich guy from New Hampshire. Our junior U.S. senator was born in Pittsburgh and our senior in Alabama. Maybe we have a crisis of conscience going on right now.
I feel the same way about our country as a whole. I don’t love this place any less because it has flaws, or because I think its people sometimes make poor electoral decisions. If you think that makes me less of a patriot, then too bad. You can’t take this from me.
On the other side of the aisle, I feel like some folks think being a patriot is a bad thing. It’s a word so ingrained with far-right conservatism anymore that people that lean left feel ashamed of it. I don’t care. Love isn’t love if you only feel it when things are going well. That’s not how love works.
Both Kentucky and America have significant flaws that must be addressed, but I love them anyway. For what they stand for, for me, for what the dream stood for, for my ancestors, for what I hope it can mean to my great-grandchildren. I love it because there is a significant portion of my country's citizens that sees these flaws and are actively working to make them right. They aren't always in the majority, they aren't always successful, and they don’t always agree on what the flaws are, but the American spirit is not dead. That makes me proud, and that’s how I know I’m a patriot, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you know a good place to hide a body-sized object.