While it may not be The Fourth for several more hours back home, it’s already a hot and humid fourth in Japan. Today I am very conflicted by a plethora of emotions. Of course, it is easy (when thinking about the US) to fall into a pit of despair and focus solely on the maladies which beset our nation: gun violence, hate speech, terrorism, the resurgence of Cold War-esque fear mongering politics, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Kanye West… to name a few. The common jokes about moving to Canada (or never moving home for some of us) have a painful sting as the truth behind them comes closer to a reality. The world is watching in anticipation as our Great Experiment is tested, yet again. It is almost a daily occurrence that I am asked questions about Trump or violence, and to be honest, I’m rather tired of defending my country’s recent folly.
But I will never stop defending it. I have been and always will be proud to be an American. I am deeply aware how lucky I was to be born in the USA and that I have benefitted from being a citizen my entire life. ‘The land of opportunity’ is still alive and well, and I could never turn my back on her. The multitude of problems in our nation make it easy to forget just how amazing that same country can be. Japanese people love to say that America is dangerous because everyone owns guns. I can’t argue that guns aren’t a problem, but this generalization of an entire country based on highly publicized yet localized events is a problem that I think the entire world needs to take into consideration (particularly thinking about the dangers of Islam and refugees). Of course there is danger in America; there is danger throughout the world (yes, even in Japan). But it is insane to think that that danger makes up a majority (or even a significant minority) of the experiences to be had.
My country is not a bigoted, hate-strewn, gun-filled hell of mass shootings and racism. It is a one floor house surrounded by a sea of green and the smell of fresh cut grass on a humid Michigan afternoon. It’s a bonfire in the backyard with my friends and family as my father stands in the distance, smoking a cigar, and launching fireworks into the night sky. It’s a cup of coffee at my favorite run down café where they serve free snacks to the homeless. It’s a lecture hall in which a professor has the freedom to question our political and social institutions without fear of overt censorship or imprisonment. It’s that same lecture hall where any and every student (regardless of gender, race, age, ideology, etc…) has a right to be educated. Sure, bad things happen, and we don’t always live up to the ideals set before us as a nation, but through and through we keep fighting for what we believe is right and the “American Way”.
My nation is all of this; the good and the bad. It is a splendidly imperfect amalgamation of people and ideas that has given the world some of its greatest and worst memories. My nation is my home, and I love my home with a passion. I implore you to take some time today and think about what makes America home for you; and once you’ve found that thing, hold on to it and fight for it! I hope that everyone has some delicious barbecue, watches beautiful fireworks, and drinks some good beer. But most of all, have a good Fourth of July.