Psst. I’m an American Too
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Feminism
I’m tired. It’s 11 on a Monday night. I’m still getting over a cold, and I should really be in bed with my book, getting in one last chapter before drifting off. But I can’t sleep until I get this off of my chest. I could probably say this more eloquently, but for now, here it is.
I’m tired of the claim that I am not a real American. I’m tired of turning on the TV to hear someone, in front of a crowd of (white) people in a (small) town that THEY are the true, real Americans.
Because guess what? I am an American, too. I am a ‘real’ American. I am also “pro-America” (so long, of course, as that doesn’t mean I have to be “anti-everyone else”). That’s right. Even if we don’t agree with you, Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Michelle Bachmann, we are still American, and we are still rooting for things in this country to turn around.
Some of us are straight. Some of us are gay. But our sexuality doesn’t make us Pro-America or Anti-America. Me being attracted to members of the opposite sex doesn’t make me more of an American, or a better American, than the fact that one of my best friend’s is attracted to members of the same sex.
Some of us are Catholic. Some are Jewish. Some are Muslim, and some are Quaker. Some are agnostic. Some are Protestant. But our religion doesn’t make us Pro-America or Anti-America, or less of an American than you. You don’t get a larger claim on the right to call yourself American just because you make a big show of sitting in a pew on Sundays.
Some of us live in small towns. Some of us live in big cities. Some of us live in neighborhoods that feel like small towns in the middle of big cities. But our zip codes don’t make us Pro-America or Anti-America. You don’t get to call yourself more of a citizen because you live in a zip code with fewer than 6,000 residents and I live in a zip code with over 62,000.
I own a passport. I’d love to spend more time exploring the world. Never wanting to leave America is fine if that’s your choice. But it is ridiculous to suggest that people who want to see the world, or who go and talk to other people in the world, or who care about the other 5.7 BILLION people who share the earth with us are less American than you. What we do in this country has a direct impact on the rest of the world, and it is preposterous to suggest that we should ignore them all.
I like knowing that if I call 911, police, fire and EMS will show up. I like knowing that I can get to my job without having to pay for a car, because I take the subway. I like knowing that if something happens to me and, for awhile, I can’t find another job, I might be able to ask the government for some assistance. So yeah, I do think it is patriotic to pay taxes, because even if I don’t ever need those emergency services, I accept that because you and I pay those taxes, someone else’s life might be saved. It’s not “Pro-America” to suggest that paying taxes is a bad thing, and it’s not “Anti-America” to be able to see the bigger picture on this issue.
I’m tired of hearing about how the real Americans come from the states between the coasts. How, because my path in life involved getting a master’s degree, and not going straight to work in a factory, I’m less of an American. It’s ridiculous to suggest that working hard to educated yourself and move up in life is somehow not American. And it’s bull to suggest that because I have a degree I someone look down upon people who don’t.
I’m tired of the hypocrisy of those who claim to treasure the “American Dream” and with their next breath tear down those who not only fulfilled that dream but want to make it available to others.
I love small towns and big cities. I love mountains and the ocean and snow and sun and rain. I love that in America in February you can fly from a blizzard in NYC to the beach in Miami and still be in the same country. I love that on the train to work I can hear different languages and see people who don’t look like me all living and working and loving together.
One reason this is a place so many people want to come to is BECAUSE there are so many different people here. Not everyone is white, works at the local diner and has three or four kids. Not everyone goes to a Baptist church. Not everyone thinks that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the greatest movie of the year. But if they do? That doesn’t make them less of an American either.
You know what? I think it is patriotic to have the courage and the strength and the honesty to recognize that there are some areas at which America ISN’T the greatest. The fact that we even have to discuss the possibility that there could be a ‘Bradley Effect’ on the election disgusts me. There are still plenty of racists and bigots in this country, and that does not make me proud. The fact that the one thing that the candidates seem to agree on is their dislike of gay marriage – that does not make me proud.
If, as a parent, you point out that your child could improve in an area, maybe work a little harder, does that mean you don’t love your child? OF COURSE NOT. It means you care enough about your child to try to correct him or her so that he or she can grow and be even better than he or she already is. Criticizing the government, asking for change, and pointing out the problems we have in this country doesn’t mean we love it any less than you do – it just means that we care enough to be honest so that maybe, just maybe, it will become a better place.
Protesting the government and seeking change? THAT is American, damn it.
And so am I.