I remember at my Catholic elementary school saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day. I did so dutifully. If I didn’t, I certainly would have been punished by the nuns.

This Fourth of July many Americans will wave the flag or wear the flag on T-shirts and shorts.

As an adult, I have never been a flag waver. I’m uncomfortable with patriotism.

We can honor those who served in the military on the Fourth of July. Latinos have fought in every U.S. war dating back to the Revolutionary War against the British.

They fought in the U.S. Civil War and WWI. More than 500,000 served in WWII alone. Many Latinos died fighting in Korea and Vietnam. They served in the Gulf War and in Afghanistan.

According to the Department of Defense, 17.2% of active-duty military personnel from all service branches identify as Hispanic or Latino.

We also should not forget the deported veterans.

Since the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, the U.S. has deported an estimated 94,000 immigrant veterans. Most of those military members were legal permanent residents who committed at least three misdemeanors, making them deportable. Some were highly decorated veterans who suffered from PTSD and were partially or fully disabled. 

I had an uncle who served in Korea. He came back to Chicago damaged and broken. He struggled to find work. He died of a drug overdose. 

I do not glorify war and how it can destroy people like my uncle.

We have to acknowledge that this country was built to support white supremacy. The land was stolen from Native Americans. Slave labor built this economy. Today the economy would collapse without immigrant labor.

The flag was literally used as a weapon against a Capitol police officer during the January 6 insurrection. Violence was committed in the name of patriotism, in defense of a president who created and promoted lies about a stolen election.

It’s impossible to align with what the insurrectionists salute. They used the flag to deny people their votes and to assault democracy. They were fighting for exclusion not equity, for tyranny not democracy.

The Republic did not fall that day. Democracy held strong but still there are cracks. There is some justice as more than 1,000 people have been charged in connection to the January 6 attack.

We have an indicted former president who stands accused of mishandling  classified documents, including sharing a secret Pentagon document with plans to attack Iran.

The truth is not the truth anymore as people eat up conspiracy theories that go viral on social media. They support a former president whose actions can be considered treasonous.

I agree with the James Baldwin quote: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” 

I struggle to reconcile all the conflicts in our country such as police brutality and political violence against immigrants. I struggle to celebrate our independence.

But I will continue to fight for it – with words.

Teresa Puente has spent her career reporting on immigration and Latino issues in the U.S. and has also reported extensively from Mexico. Previously, she was a staff reporter at the Chicago Tribune and...