After celebrating the U.S.A.'s birthday, I spent some time reflecting on being an American. The conclusion that I came to is that I'm incredibly lucky, blessed, and proud to be one. Jane did the best job of explaining what it is to be American, so I'm going to borrow her words for my definition:
"I am not a Native American, but, I am a REAL American. And my friends are real Americans. In America, most people immigrated and settled there. My ancestors...come from Ireland and Germany and who knows where else, but I am a real American. My friend's ancestors come from Korea, but she is still a real American. Americans come from all over the world...Some of it is definitely geography – I was born in Virginia, so I am American. My parents and grandparents were all born on U.S. soil, so I am American. But there is so much more to it than that.
"I think it is a mindset. To be American is a way of thinking, an attitude, a frame of mind. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - isn't that kinda what defines Americans? We believe in these things so strongly, that they have shaped our national definition...I am idealistic. “No” and “because” are never legitimate answers to my questions if I believe they shouldn't be. I get to rock the boat and try and change the world. And, even more importantly, I believe I can.
"There are things I just don't understand because I am American – and I will never be able to truly appreciate them. I have never had to live through the pain and turmoil that is part of the very recent history of the people I currently live with. I don't really understand what it is to struggle. My life has been so easy, comparatively, it is a joke. I am privileged, simply because of where I was born. And even now, I am living through the day to day struggles of a developing country with a time limit. I leave after 2 years. That is not the case for the people I am working and living with. This is their life.
"I am free to have all kinds of thoughts about myself and my country. I can think and choose and say whatever I want. I can be the biggest patriot out there – or advertise how bad I think America is. I can be somewhere in the middle. I can question the choices of my bosses and my nation's leaders. And, if I don't like them, I can stand up and say something. Not everyone in the world has that privilege. And I view it as a god given right."
As Jane points out, we are able to think and live according to our own values, to choose our words and actions without fear of oppression, and determine the course of our own lives. We can read and write what we want, we can worship (or not) as we choose, we have the power to overthrow the government if it becomes unjust. No matter where we originally came from, we have those inalienable rights--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--no matter what form those ideals take for any individual. And our government goes out of its way to defend and uphold those rights! That is pretty amazing.
So, thank you to the men and women who had the courage build this amazing country, to those who put their lives on the line to defend it, and to every person who is part of the U.S. God bless America.
Happy 4th of July!