USA, I love you, but...

I'm grateful for the many freedoms and rights that are mine simply because I was born in the USA. I'm grateful for those who fought, protested, and risked or sacrificed their lives to ensure or increase my access to our freedoms and rights.

I try not to take any of this for granted. I have much love in my heart for my country, but I also have much sadness and anger for it.

One can love and yet feel anger, sadness, and shame at the same time. (every parent knows this) This is me right now. I do not feel proud of my country. I do not feel patriotic. I do not feel celebratory. I do not swell with pride when I see our flag or hear our national anthem. I do my best to recognize the good it represents, but right now, even that is a real struggle for me.

This does not make me anti-American. This makes me a concerned citizen who loves his country enough to call upon it to do and be better. Everyone chooses to do this differently. They don't need my approval to do so. History shows us that we are a better nation because people were willing to stand up, speak out, and relentlessly seek justice, freedom, and change. Nearly every figure we honor in our history books and with our monuments did exactly that.

Right now we are living in a polarizing cacophony of news, tweets, social media posts, debates, insults, belittling remarks, hateful rhetoric, political divisiveness, and side-taking. May we all STOP and take time to simply listen to one another. Step away from the cacophony. Seek opportunities daily to really listen with our hearts to the hearts of others without judgment and with no agenda of our own. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. I truly believe that we would accomplish so much more as a people if we made this our priority.

Take time to express positivity and love to people. Friends, strangers, loved ones. This is something we can all do. It costs us nothing. It doesn't require us to engage in a debate or form an opinion.

There will always be reason to stand up, speak out and relentlessly seek justice, freedom, and change in our nation. But in the midst of that, never stop listening and seeking to understand.

USA, I love you, but right now I don't like you.

Joel Barrett of is an LGBTQ writer, speaker, and gatherer. He is a former conservative Baptist pastor who shares his colorful, inspirational story of surviving ex-gay therapy with audiences everywhere to encourage living an authentic life not controlled by fear. Watch for the release of his book Godly, But Gay

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Joel Speaks Out

Kansas City, MO