Almost every American has an idealized version of what the United States should be. Some believe the best version of this country is in the hands of a certain political party. Others believe the country is better off under the governance of no party at all. Regardless of political ideology, almost any time a person is dissatisfied with the country’s current state of affairs, a common phrase appears: “That’s not my America.”
The phrase has become ubiquitous, casually thrown around in politics, Twitter and everyday speech. It’s used anytime a person wants to express discontent with the nation, especially during election season. The phrase comfortably removes any responsibility for the nation’s problems or shortcomings and places the blame on others.
Senator Kamala Harris repeatedly used the phrase “That’s not our America” in her kickoff campaign speech for the presidency in January of 2019. She used it as a way to unite her party to her views, yet the statement remains inherently divisive. “That’s not our America” instills an us-against-them mentality, forcing blame for the nation’s problems onto those who do not support her.
Not only is the phrase divisive, but it romanticizes the past. Saying “That’s not my America” gives the sense that things were better in another time. President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” buys into that same idea. It leans on heavy nostalgia for a time when American life was supposedly better or simpler than it is today. It unites individuals with a shared romanticization of the past.
The phrase “That’s not my America” is a cheap way to contend with the problems and shortcomings this nation faces. The phrase doesn’t quite mean anything. This country was built upon a myriad of ideologies and cultures — it is your America. America’s flaws are a burden to everyone living in this country.
While the state of this nation is worrisome, and oftentimes embarrassing, both parties furthering ideological and cultural rifts hurts not only themselves but the future of the nation.