Grateful to be an American. Humbled to be an American. Proud of the military men and women who have fought, and still fight, for this country, and proud of their families who hold it together while their loved one is in the middle of a war zone. (I repeat: in the middle of a war zone.) Proud of the countless Americans who have used their incredible minds to make advances in medicine and science and public policy and technology. Proud of all Americans who have fought for their fellow human beings. Proud simply because, through no grit or determination or work or calculating of my own, I was born to people with American citizenship? I don’t know…shouldn’t we, as Americans, strive to accomplish something of our own to be proud of? Shouldn’t we strive to be Proud to be an American who has Contributed to America?
Have you gone to work every day to make a living? Have you started a business and created jobs for others? Do you pay your fair share of taxes? Do you decline to pay your taxes in protest because it’s something you believe strongly in? Are you an educator, working to make Americas developing minds strong and healthy and curious and confident? Do you love your children? Have you overcome an obstacle you never thought you could? Do you stand up for what you believe in, no matter the cost? What exactly are you proud of? I understand being grateful to be an American. And I understand being humbled to be an American. But being proud to have been born with a certain citizenship, which was done through zero accomplishment of our own, should not be enough. We should strive to be Americans we can be proud of. When I recently took stock of my own accomplishments I was woefully lacking in those that contribute to making the United States a great nation.
Okay so I do pay my taxes. I do abide by most of our laws, though I will jay walk when the opportunity arises. I did manage to get through the Whole30 eating program, so that’s good. I’m generally a caring person. My husband and I have three rescue dogs and I feel like we take good care of them (though little Leo’s bad breath and Elena’s proclivity for scooting around the yard on her butt make me realize I’m a little tardy in getting them to the vet…). I call my parents to check in on them. I try to think about the example I set for my nephew and niece, though honestly, they are leagues beyond me. But given the needs of this great nation of ours, have I really contributed in a meaningful way that has earned me the right to be proud of what I have done as an American? Have my accomplishments, or even my failed attempts, risen to the level of those who have truly accomplished something they can be proud of that makes this country great? The answer is no.
I was born in the USA because two families moved here from Switzerland several generations ago. They left their families and embarked upon a journey to a new and better life in the United States. I was born in California because my grandma drove across the United States by herself in the 1940s to set up a new life for she and her husband, who was away at war, and their future family. I grew up on 40 beautiful acres and galloped around on my horse because my parents chose to raise their family in the country. None of these things, which have helped me to have a great life, are things I have done. Just like none of the things all of the great Americans before us have done to help us all have the opportunity for a great life are things we have done. What have we done with the opportunities we have been given? What have I done with these opportunities?
About the most I’ve done to fight for what I believe in is throw emotional posts up on Facebook with no thought, and in the heat of the moment, no care given to how my angry words will impact the larger situation. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am positively certain angry words don’t help. But maybe there is something I can do here and now. I wrote above that Americans before us have given us the opportunity to have a great life, but actually some people here in the United States have greater opportunities than others, simply because of where and to whom they were born. I am happy for those people, I don’t want to change a thing for them. But I would like to do something that creates opportunity where opportunity is lacking. I’m not sure how to do this or what that looks like, but my ancestors did that for me, and that is something I could be proud of as an American, and as a human being.