Raised in Berkeley — she remembers when free speech was a left-wing thing — Caitlin Flanagan though of America as “this all-powerful, invulnerable, monolithic thing,” she tells Yascha Mounk in a Persuasion conversation.
After 9/11 happened, she remembered that a real estate company had put foot-high plastic American flags on everyone’s lawn for Fourth of July. She found them in the garage and put them in her front yard.
I remember . . . for the only time in my entire life feeling like I’m an American, and I love this country, and I stand for this country. . . . (It was) the only time in my life that I ever thought that this is a good place. Growing up the way I did, all I’d ever thought about was things like the School of the Americas teaching torture in Latin and Central America — all these terrible, terrible things America has done.
People say the history of American taught in school celebrates the triumphs and ignores the evils, says Flanagan. But Berkeley schools didn’t just teach history, “warts and all.” It was all warts. Students learned “that we were just an imperialist, colonialist country.”