The 4th of July Holiday sits within my favorite season. Summer has arrived, school is out and gatherings with friends and family are plenty. (Well, normally.) The holiday that marks our freedom in the United States coincides with a time of year where the weather allows Americans to do just that. Travel, visit with loved ones, and celebrate with the type of careless spirit one looks forward to all year. This year feels different. In talking with a few other women this week I heard expressions around feeling uncomfortable celebrating being American given what is going on in our country right now. Being a U.S. citizen. The outward sharing of this sentiment gave me pause and brought up my own reflections on what it means and feels like to live in this country, right now.
During travels to different parts of the world during my 44 years on this earth I have always prided myself on proclaiming I am an American when asked where I hail from. I still do. The responses and questions from others in my travels to Africa or even South America, especially, opened my eyes to the privilege that is bestowed upon myself simply by being born here and it made me proud. One of my most favorite conversations was in Africa with a taxi driver who wanted to talk about 9/11 with us on our long drive to the hotel. I had never been in a Muslim country and quite frankly, he wanted our perspective just as much as we wanted his. He had never visited America but yet even 6 years after the attacks wanted to share his sadness for what our country went through on that awful day. He also said the collective American spirit was felt through watching how we handled ourselves and each other, after that day. It makes me proud as well, even 19 years later.
Patriotism is one of the commonalities of my husband and I. An American flag hangs outside of our house every single day. I am from a multi-branch military family. My parents’ reverence for the flag was taught to me at an early age and events and holidays celebrating our country were a focus point when growing up. I am not the historian between my husband and I. That is his role. I sometimes am embarrassed how many times I have to ask him to reconfirm dates or events within our history when having discussions. But I am always interested and how he retains these facts is always impressive. Now as an adult, there is no shame in revisiting the classroom of our country. Having an open mind is even more important than ever.
I truly believe that being in a state of discomfort or “icky-ness” as one person described it to me, is where the growth can finally start. That nagging feeling that something simply isn’t right is unsettling. If we are angry about it, regardless of why or what your or my belief system is, isn’t it worth taking a look at the source of that anger? The discomfort? My immediate and broader family is racially diverse. Unless you have a larger relationship with me beyond social media, you might not know. Lately I’ve wondered if I have had enough conversations to explore that “icky-ness” and do my part. Even just within my own family. Truthfully, I have not. It is time.
This 4th or July I’ve decided my gift on America’s birthday is that I’m going to have more conversations. Easy ones, hard ones, emotional ones. It may be very uncomfortable at times, but it is the only way I can grow.