Careful with the Fireworks: Two Millennial Denver Broads Discuss Patriotism

Sydney Hodgson | @SydneyLHodgson with Guest Contributor

Alexis Crews | @LexDeMedici  

Growing up, I always loved 4th of July. I counted down the days until I could proudly don my Old Navy flag tee and cook up a feast of traditional American Food--deliciously processed hot dogs, Cheetos and root beer--with my family. The whole neighborhood met at an old baseball field to watch the fireworks and kids gleefully danced around waving shimmering sparklers above their heads while the sun went down. In my liberal Oregon hometown, everyone came together to celebrate our country and our freedom.  

This year feels different.

Maybe it is because I am growing up and don’t feel the same incriminating rush when handed a firecracker popsicle and miniature explosives, or maybe it is something larger and more significant. I figured I couldn’t be the only one with these emotions, so I sat down with my dear friend and brilliant politico, Alexis Crews, to discuss patriotism, nationalism, and the state of our union.

Broad Sydney Hodgson (right) and guest contributor Alexis Crews. 

Broad Sydney Hodgson (right) and guest contributor Alexis Crews. 

SH: I have been thinking a lot about patriotism and how we show pride as Americans. It is not the first time that I have disagreed with a political leader, but it is the first time I have questioned the democratic system and the the voters who put him in power. But this is about more than who is in the White House. With a democratic process should come the understanding that we are not always going to agree with the people in power. I think people forget that. We forget to consider the reasons why people feel a certain way or believe in certain things. We forget to talk to look for common ground and begin to ignore the fact that we are usually more alike than we are different. That was prevalent during the last election and is even more evident in the months since.  

The confrontational nature of politics and the polarizing stance of the media has brought out the worst in us. And with that I think the identity of young American women has shifted a little. As women we are often stereotyped as the sensitive ones who lead with empathy - and I think there is some truth in that - making our role and responsibilities in a contentious political environment incredibly important.

AC: I think nationalism and the idea of being a patriot is interesting in a time of civic discord. You and I grew up in a time where 9/11 took place in fifth grade, I was in New York and you were in Oregon- no matter where we were located that day we felt a sense of fear and then days later a sense of American pride. We were proud to be Americans, proud of our soldiers, proud of our nation coming together in a time of grief.

Being a woman, seeing what took place in this last cycle was truly disheartening and made me question our nation and my love for it. The glass ceiling was left unshattered once again, except this time it was women who prevent that from happening. Election night really made me question how we stand together as women. The Women’s March, which I chose not to participate in, was a great testament to women leading the movement in saying this is not our country, this is not who we elected- which is great, but protesting only does so much. I’m an African American woman, so I’ve been protesting my whole life, and did not feel as if the March was inclusive of people who looked like me. The erasing of Shirley Chisholm as the first women to ever run for President, was disturbing. How can you take pride in a country that constantly works against your race and sex?

There will always political uncertainty and distrust, it’s how a democracy works. One side always knows better than the other about how to effectively run the country. What we’re seeing today takes place every 20 years or so in major democratic countries, it’s how we stay balanced-as a nation and as a world. What we’re seeing right now isn’t pretty, sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. Sometimes we’re so disenchanted that we would rather watch Real Housewives of New York (my guilty pleasure) than watch the news or even read the newspaper- but it’s our JOB to stay informed. I think how we combat this stagnation and political unrest is by remaining informed. No matter what side you’re on, you must stay informed, because there is so much misinformation floating around that you need to trust your own gut, not some pundit on tv.

 SH: What characteristics define American identity today?

AC: Pride. I think of activist groups who are vocal about issues that truly matter to them across all social, racial, gender lines. 

SH: Yes, I think of all the large protests that we have taken place this year. How many times did you learn about protests in school? It is pretty incredible to participate in and witness events that future generations will be reading about in textbooks. Even when the source of them is negative, it is reassuring to see people take a stand. History in the making...

AC: I learned about protests first at home, because my family participated in them during the Civil Rights movement and later in college because of how civically and socially charged my college campus was. You’re right, it’s pretty incredible to participate in events that future generations will read about in textbooks, but what comes afterwards? I’m also a little disheartened with the “pop-up movements.” For a majority of these groups there is a lack of follow through. Momentum has shifted from being constructive and finding solutions a “woe is me” mindset, which lead to disengagement in the first place. Many people also have selective memory and only rally around stories that the media focuses on. I hear stories of protestors coming to offices to talk about Russia and only Russia, what about the budget and all of the cuts that were/are on the table, what about what’s happening at the Dept of Education, DHS, DOL and HUD? We’re just now seeing protestors across the country come to offices and protest the proposed healthcare bill, but where were they on the votes that don’t have major media attention? Will our children read about how people continued to fight as a mass for freedoms and rights or will they turn to the next page and it will talk about how nothing changed in 2018 or even 2020? The “woe is me” mindset is what truly scares me. How would you describe the American identity?

SH: Stubborn. The flip side of pride. It’s like all hope is lost for four years and then campaigns and the election force us to pay attention, only to push us away again with negativity. Whining has become so commonplace, which just leads to more noise. So we are proud that we have a voice but stubborn and disheartened that things are not easy to fix or that our voices are not always heard. And like you said, people pick and choose the issues they care about, and they are often the ones that get the most press. So many issues are ignored.

Americans are full of contrasts and contradictions. I see that as a common theme here in Colorado as well. It’s an environment filled with varying extremes, leading to a complicated identity.

AC: Colorado is in a sense a state for people who are looking to escape, not in a bad sense, just in the sense that people move from all over the Country for what this beautiful state has to offer. I see the American Colorado Woman as someone who is thoughtful about her opinions, where and who she spends her time with, what books she reads, bars she goes to, concerts she attends, trails she hikes and which ski pass she buys. She’s conscious of the world around her, for whatever reason, and isn’t doubtful of her own power and has the will to change what she doesn’t like. Colorado’s history of women who were pioneers sets a path forward for women living here today.

SH: You are so right. Thinking of the state’s history, Colorado women are in a prime position to take control of our our situation and affect real change on a national level. This state is filled with young, aspirational individuals who are trying to build their lives in a place that allows them to be successful and also enjoy their days. Sure, for many people that means skiing every weekend and smoking legal marijuana, but as a whole we demand a certain quality of life that isn’t available many other places. There is something about this state that makes you believe in opportunity - it’s really a very stereotypical vision of the American ideal. We are invested in keeping this balance and therefore must be engaged in local and national politics. That gives me hope and I think that bodes well for the coming years. What are your hopes for the future?

AC:  I hope that I can continue to say that I’m proud to be an American 10,15, 20 years from now. I think we live in a time where everything is at our fingertips in terms of news, travel, and meeting new people that we forget to really connect to one another. If we remember to connect, and truly connect, we can remember what it means to be an American, to be a patriot and not just Instagram pictures on a beach on the Fourth of July, but celebrate our nation’s beautiful and sometimes very tragic history. I also think that we as women need to celebrate our complex identities, embrace them and own them while being respectful to the woman sitting next to you.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Alexis Crews and do not reflect the official policy or position of any agency or office of the U.S. government.

Alexis Crews got her start in politics at an early age. She’s worked with a variety of organizations and campaigns including Obama for America and New Era Colorado. Alexis served as U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s Outreach Director on his re-election campaign and most recently served as U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s Outreach Coordinator and Constituent Advocate in his Denver Office. Her portfolio includes, but is not limited to: Healthcare Policy, Foreign Policy, Judicial Policy, while working as a liaison with the refugee, religious minority, and African American communities. Alexis is launching her own political and public relations consulting firm, Artemis Public Solutions, this summer. Follow her on twitter and instagram.