Lexi Boccuzzi | Let’s embrace a true New England summer.

On the Record | I learned to be patriotic in one of the country’s most liberal regions.

Lexi on the Fourth of July in 2008 hanging an American flag on her childhood home in Connecticut. / Photo credit: Lexi Boccuzzi

By Lexi Boccuzzi

Inside my bedroom hangs a full-sized American flag. For anyone following the American flag test (cited by Chloe Hunt in her recent piece), my décor leads to the conclusion that I am a registered Republican. While these people would be right, growing up in New England I rarely jumped to this conclusion. I was born and raised in the only region in the country without a single Republican representative in Congress. But, as anyone who’s ever been there can attest, it probably has the most American flags per capita. It is there I learned what it means to love America.

When people find out that I am from Connecticut they are often shocked I’m conservative. After all, my state has a Democratic super-majority in the state senate and hasn’t elected a Republican to the United States Senate since 1982. However, two years ago when my closest friends from Penn came to visit my hometown for the Fourth of July, they got it. “I understand why you are so patriotic,” they said as we walked down the idyllic American flag-lined streets just steps away from the Long Island Sound in my hometown. But the New England summer aesthetic that calls for hydrangea bushes, Fourth of July barbeques, and rocky shorelines is only part of the story.

Fourth of July 2007 in Stamford, CT. / Photo credit: Lexi Boccuzzi.

My father’s family moved to Stamford, Connecticut from Italy when he was 6 years old. They joined a thriving but decidedly lower to middle-class Italian immigrant community. Both my grandparents worked manual labor and service jobs as their 5 children learned English and sought out opportunities in their new country. My dad and his siblings all graduated from the same public high school that I did and baptized all of their children at the first Catholic parish they attended in the US, where we still attend the occasional Italian mass.

Despite growing up in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, my public schools were extremely diverse both racially and socioeconomically. My high school was made up of 75% racial minorities and 50% economically disadvantaged students. Almost all of my friends had at least one immigrant parent and weren’t Christian. I spent my evenings tutoring underprivileged students and teaching financial literacy to primarily disadvantaged students through a program called Junior Achievement. I was hyper-aware of all of the problems America’s fiercest critics often cite to explain their lack of patriotism: wealth inequality, racial divisiveness, and lack of political representation.

Flag Day 2011 at Roxbury Elementary School in Stamford, CT where Lexi attended. / Photo credit: Lexi Boccuzzi

And yet, I saw my community as a beautiful reflection of everything that necessitated preservation in the United States. I learned about American history, in only the way Yankees can teach it, a hyper glorification of the colonial and revolutionary projects with a significant emphasis on America’s failures over slavery and Civil Rights of course. This made me realize that our experiment was one to be immensely proud of. It was because of the nation’s founding ideals that my family and my friends were able to start anew, assimilate and offer us a better life than they had. I realized that an embrace, not a rejection, of what makes America exceptional is what is required to expand freedom, opportunity, and equality to more people, just as it has been throughout our history.

As I grew more politically engaged, I was surprised to find out that this was a proposition rejected by many of the liberals and progressives who represented my state. How could one grow up with as much natural beauty, preservation of history, and diversity as we had in Connecticut and reject America? 

This motivated me to get involved in local and state politics, where I saw a strong commitment to service among those I worked with and for. As I knocked on the doors of my neighbors or attended town meetings, I participated in a long and storied New England tradition of local governance. Here, patriotism will always mean listening to and advocating for those in your community. My work made me fall even deeper in love with a country that encourages its citizens to look out for one another, and gives everyone the opportunity to have a say in who represents them. This privilege became even more striking to me when my dad went on to become a citizen and cast his first ballot in 2021.

Lexi with her parents the first time her father voted in 2021. / Photo credit: Lexi Boccuzzi

To me, being from New England is entirely consistent with my patriotism and my desire to conserve the values that make our country the freest the world has ever known. And yet, to my continual frustration, few see it that way. In a recent study measuring civic engagement as an indicator of patriotism, Connecticut ranked 48 out of 50 states. It is not surprising therefore that my love of nostalgic Americana country music, which feels like my childhood, shocks my peers. Why wouldn’t they expect my red, white, and blue wardrobe to be skin deep? 

I am immensely grateful for everything my community taught me, and I can say I will be in pure bliss as I spend my Fourth of July weekend at parades and fireworks displays on the New England shoreline. However, I worry that the preppy influencers and many of my neighbors have missed what makes our region and our country so special. It’s time for the Ralph Lauren American Flag sweaters to be more than just an aesthetic. 

Lexi Boccuzzi is a 2024 graduate of the College where she studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Stamford, CT. Lexi is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Post. Her email is abb628@sas.upenn.edu.

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