Today is the Fourth of July.
I spent last night preparing a giant pasta salad for a BBQ and will soon start loading up the car with sunscreen, towels and pool floats to enjoy the day with friends.
But it’s hard for me to truly feel proud of my country.
Immigrant children living in cages. Families dying at the border. Black kids being shot to death by police with no justice. School children across the country practicing shooter safety drills, just in case. A resurgence of white supremacy that operates under the now acceptable identity of white nationalism.
They said it, not me.
Because unfortunately, as a minority growing up in the Midwest, ultra-Patriotism is something that has always made me a little uneasy. A stereotype I use not to judge or belittle. But to protect myself in situations that might potentially be confrontational or dangerous. To carry myself with more caution if needed. And be on guard.
Just in case.
And it’s been like that my whole life.
What you see today with the radical Conservatives is nothing new.
It’s just been hidden in ways only perceptible enough to make the minorities feel anywhere from unwelcome to a little afraid. Too stigmatized to really be done openly.
And that’s my America.
Never really being allowed to feel like one or identify as one on the same level as a white person. It’s okay though. I don’t need it. I’ve found my own place in life and it has nothing to do with the country in which I was raised. Not born. Because that means something significant to people. Especially in this day and age. And more to do with what I’ve learned from that experience and how it shapes my global perspective on life.
So yes, we celebrate. But not because I think the United States has a right to celebrate freedom.
It’s kind of like Thanksgiving, a holiday that is based on a lie about an idyllic relationship between European settlers and the Native Americans, sharing a table of food together in peace. Instead of the tragic truth in which the indigenous people were mercilessly slaughtered and then placed on reservations where they still live today. Stripped of their land, their rights and their dignity.
We celebrate these holidays today even in their un-deservedness, because it is a time when people gather to enjoy each other’s company. Because regardless of what I have learned as an adult, it remains a part of who I was as a child. And I’m not quite ready to give it up yet.
But maybe someday I will be.
And the moments come rushing back to me. Walking with my son in San Diego as a Trump convention let out. American and Confederate flags slung casually around shoulders. Red, white and blue everywhere. Signs about building walls and Muslim terrorists. I huddle a little bit closer to the stroller and tighten my grip. Scanning the pack, but not making eye contact. My heart beating faster as the crowd thickened.
Ready for anything.
Not because I’m traitorous bitch.
Because my experience is different than yours.
And those symbols mean something else to me because of that.
Symbols that have been maligned and used for hate creating more disrespect for them than bending a knee will ever do.
Because yes, I support the troops.
Maybe not their agenda. But for the vast majority of people, it’s not their call. I support them as men and women, who care about their families and believe they are doing the best they can for them with what they do. Just like I support the immigrants in the detention centers. And people all over the world, who at their core are just like me.
Loving the hell out of the people they love.
And until everyone can truly be free in the same way. Equal across the board. I will continue to speak out about injustice and not blindly celebrate ideals that do not truly exist on our home soil.
Because I am an American.
And I know we can do better.