I’m not too keen on fireworks. Nor do I eat watermelon. Do I sound un-American? I’m not too distraught by that.
It’s not something slipping beneath the surface of public vision that America these days is…not necessarily in its peak performance. But has it ever been? Isn’t there always somebody who is facing injustice, a population who is not treated with respect, those struggling just to get by? Isn’t that just something to be expected on the outliers of the “American Dream”?
As you see, tying today’s post back to the BBQ grill-out of a holiday the Fourth of July has become, I want to instead have an honest reflection of what it actually means to be American. Even looking upon my own perspective, I have often been very critical of the society around me. I’m not afraid to say that I would love to live abroad in another country, back up my bags and never come back. I look at other first-world countries with a slight sense of envy, the foreign-feeling culture and environment a breath of fresh air from the norm.
It’s important to travel outside of your small bubble of your everyday life. That truly allows you to come back and appreciate what is at your disposal, the elements of each day that we don’t even question but may be far out of reach. Having an sort of health care, even if its current status is up in the air. Receiving an education. Having freedoms that allow us to share our opinions and express ourselves, especially when that
As a part of my new internship, I am working with a non-profit that really stresses the importance of American policy-making. Beginning as a grassroots effort itself, the Borgen Project asks volunteers to promote contacting members of Congress to pay attention to the issues that we should care about as a country. The policies we create in Washington influence how other countries act and move forward. It decides the dialogue across the globe.
Because yes, to an extent, America is one the most powerful countries in the world. How you measure that is up to you, but from the perspective of influence, America is on the top. What issues we may be facing, we then compare to other countries. Everything can be measured via an American scale (even though that isn’t metric).
As critical I am, I am a hypocrite saying that we as people can be critical to the point that we neglect what makes America the country it is. The hard-working people who make our privileged lives possible. The opportunities we have to pursue our happiness and help others achieve the same goal. People all over the world wouldn’t want to immigrate and settle in a completely new country despite the difficulties involved if there wasn’t some sense of hope and promise within American borders.
We as Americans have a responsibility. We must take care of our own people. Awareness of domestic issues doesn’t contradict awareness of foreign issues, contrary to popular belief. And that means yes, we should pay attention to each.
But back on the domestic front, today of all days should serve as a reminder that yes, America has its obvious pros and cons. The ups and downs of modern society and of democracy are inevitable. We are not a melting pot of people, but a patchwork of cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. That itself requires celebration that we can all live under one flag woven with such a colorful thread.
I’m blessed to have grown up in a country that has afforded me the opportunities of healthcare, education, freedom, possibility. Of chasing the multitude of goals that arise in my mind and make them reality. I realize that even fellow Americans do not have the same privileges. With every benefit we have, we still misuse our freedom to scrutinize others for the differences that make the country so beautiful.
We’ve made progress. But we have plenty of work to do, especially under our current leadership. I’m not about to go on a bash-fest of what administrative flaws exist, but that’s not the point. It’s about our power as Americans to make our voices heard, to set the standards of what is important to us, to ask the hard questions, to organize and mobilize grassroots movements that make the world a better place. The powers can easily become a double-edged sword depending on our intentions, but with empathy and compassion at the forefront, so much good is possible. We can make America and the world a better place for everyone if we’re willing to use the concept of the “American Dream” as a platform for action and change.
Any American has the potential to do amazing things. Really, everybody should. And for those of us who can at this moment act on the issues we find important, we have a sense of responsibility for doing even the simplest things, such as a 30-second phone call or email to a Congress member, to make a difference beyond ourselves. America is known for its stereotypes of being self-centered, that we’re focused on our individual lives only, that we’re blind to what’s just outside our front doors. Stereotypes originate in at least a partial tinge of truth, but how we respond to that is up to us.
So blow some things up, legally and responsibly. Have a (veggie) burger hot off the grill. But don’t forget what this day means. The efforts of those before us and right now ensuring that America is as great as it is and the possibility of what could be.
Do I still think living abroad, even if it’s just Canada, is an awesome option for me? Definitely. But is America a country that I’m beyond grateful to call my own? Definitely.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie