I’ve been giving some thought this week to what it means to me to be an American. It is all I’ve ever known. I’ve never been outside the country with the exception of a short trip to Mexico when I was in high school. I do know I was extremely grateful to be home when the plane set down, but that might have had more to do with my relief from nausea from food poisoning. (I don’t recommend getting food poisoning in Mexico.)
The novel I’m working on right now is fantasy, set in a world of my own creation. I noticed early on that I had inadvertently given my main characters a strong sense of duty. They have a job of protecting people, which they take very seriously, and I’ve realized this is something that has been deeply ingrained in me, something that is very American. I’m sure there are others who might disagree with me. My brother has said before that we’re one of the only countries that pays for advertising to encourage people to enlist in our military services. Or maybe we are the only country that does that, I don’t know. (That lack of knowledge sadly seems to be an American thing as well. In my opinion, America is a very ignorant country, but I’m making an effort to focus on the positive right now.)
July 4th is a holiday I’ve always taken for granted. It’s one that belongs only to America; a holiday that, for the majority of Americans, means fireworks and barbeques and spending the day in the summer sun, relaxing. This year marks the 237th year since Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman were appointed to draft a formal declaration of independence, severing the 13 colonies from British rule. I’ve just recently read that declaration. I must have read it in school at some point, though I have no memory of it. I think I’ve heard Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech more often than the Declaration of Independence, and I’m only beginning to understand parts of the Constitution and its amendments.
But I do know this: we may be a young country, but the freedoms our country affords inspire people. I don’t think so many foreigners would immigrate here if that wasn’t the case. I do know that we are one of the only countries with a government that allows its citizens the freedoms offered in the Bill of Rights, especially ones like the right to bear arms, or freedom of speech. I read an article about a woman in Cuba who has been arrested multiple times for speaking out on her blog about what it’s really like to live in her country, and the injustices of the Castro regime.
I also know that I am blessed and truly thankful for the fact that I was born in America; that I will never have to think twice my ability to choose who I want to be and how I want to live my life. That, in the simplest terms, is what it means to me to be American.
Wishing you all a very Happy Fourth of July!