NOTICE: The views expressed in The Vermilion's opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect those of The Vermilion staff or of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Many people believe patriotism is dead in America. That we've lost any sense of pride for where we are, respect for what it's given us and love for what it can be. I don't believe that; instead, I believe that we need to reevaluate where our country is in relation to the principles it was founded on.

A common phrase is that we are a country of immigrants. It's true, and contrary to popular belief, immigration is what incentivizes patriotism. It's what lights the torch the statue of liberty is holding because we will be flooded by people who want to be here, people who chose this country, who dreamed of it.

American soil is the backyard to the natural-born citizens, but with immigration comes a fierce passion for the land they immigrate to. Those individuals will be the most patriotic people you'll meet.

Why am I saying all this? Well, as you know, voting day is coming up. We'll be able to decide between a few different candidates, a few different policies and a few different laws.

What I urge you to do is look closer to the principles you'd like this country to have. Similar to how the founding fathers encouraged immigration, they also discouraged a two-party system. There was a reason for that, and that was because we become blinded by our party lines.

The red blindfold on Republicans tells you that Democrats are sensitive and weak. The blue blindfold on Democrats tells you Republicans are stupid and heartless. They're both right. What people often forget is that these party lines are developed by people, and the parties are full of people. Whatever conclusion someone came too, they did it out of what they believe is self-interest.

I'm the conservative writer here at The Vermilion, and I remember when I was first vying for the job. I told my friends, my family and the most common response was "conservative?"

Whether that was because of my own beliefs or because of the reputation it may give me, they were hesitant to congratulate.

It's because of how fierce our divide is. The blue will lambast the red till they're … well, blue in the face. The red will do the same, in response, when in all reality, barely anyone knows what they're talking about. It's because a two-party system doesn't foster education and research. It fosters hatred and vitriol.

It otherizes one side of the aisle. It demonizes them to where all you see is red … or blue, respectively.

So alright, I've complained for about 430 words — what's my solution? I'm glad you asked, reader, because I really wanted to give the answer. Don't vote for a party. Don't associate with a party. Don't represent a party.

Instead, vote for people. Associate with people. Not parties, but the people themselves. If it's an independent, do it. If it's a Republican, go for it. If it's a Democrat, cast the vote. Like the people you vote for, and you'll be surprised to see how fast you become represented.

When I vote, I vote based on merit. If he’s a Muslim Democrat who says he'll raise taxes during an inflationary period of our economy, I'll be the first to vote for him. If he's a Republican Catholic who says he'll promote small business, local governments and individualism, I'll be the first to vote for him too.

The founding fathers didn't just make a country; they made a group of principles. My first example was of immigration and how a founding principle was the idea that we should be a country people want to move to, a country people want to have pride in, a country people want to be patriotic about.

Another founding principle is to vote for who represents you best. Not who your parents voted for, not what your party says, but who represents you best. Keep that in mind for this Saturday, and happy voting.

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