I don't think I've really ever understood what it meant to be "American". Or the idea of a national identity never really dawned upon me as an important aspect or property that ever mattered as an individual. Someone being Chinese, German, or Peruvian never really registered in me mentally, as a nationality versus just an ethnicity. You spoke Russian, looked Russian, but you were just another person.
The idea of national pride always seemed antiquated, until I went outside. Yesterday I had an eye-opening experience discussing international politics with an Iranian. I should have known it was going to be a heated discussion when his first question was "Do you Americans hate us"? He was aggressive in telling me how terrible the United States is and how Americans have destroyed the world. For sure, the US Government is not a saint. I will be the first to disparage the actions of both the Obama and Bush administration. Guantanamo bay is horrific, Iraq unjustified, we've meddled with Iranian affairs, and we love oil and want to influence the middle east. Either I'm too brainwashed, or he was, or probably both to some degree, but asserting opinions like 9/11 was an inside job, no jews died on 9/11, or Iran will never use nuclear bombs because it is against Islamic law has very little basis. It was the first time, where I actually felt really compelled to defend the American government. The first time I actually thought being American and having that label meant something more than an overused political talking point.
I know it's really cliché, but I felt proud to be an American.