I woke this morning, with plans to spend the day at the beach. This was going to include a picnic lunch, the building of sand castles, the chasing of and running away from waves, gently lapping or otherwise. It would be done amidst hundreds or thousands of other people, out enjoying a rare mid-week holiday, with their families.
These plans were thwarted by a gray overcast sky and cool temperatures - temperatures that would be sure to skirt "uncomfortably chilly" on the coast. We decided to stay home; maybe catch a movie.
Both the weather and the unexpected "free time," contrived to provide me with an opportunity to actually think about the holiday - the Fourth of July, or Independence Day - in a way that I don't usually. What does it mean to me, to be an American? How has it shaped who I am and how I live my life?
It's a pretty complex question, and not one to be answered in one blog post. But I think I can get a start on answering it here.
Being an American means that as a woman, I can have extraordinary expectations of myself, and strive to fulfill them. I am only limited by my own choices. This doesn't mean there aren't social pressures from family, community, and beyond to follow certain standards and toe pre-existing lines, but if I really want something, I have the right to chase after it. Whatever that looks like.
Being an American means that I have a voice and am encouraged to use it. I can have opinions as can my fellow countrymen and women, and we can all disagree vehemently - but despite that, we agree to respect each other's rights to those opinions.
I'm privileged to be a member of pluralistic society. This means, that despite what pandering politicians may say and polarizing public figures may crow across media outlets, I live in a nation that has no official creed, language, or race. We are different colors, belong to different faiths, speak different languages, profess different political beliefs, and we live side by side and work together and it makes us stronger and better and brighter.
Being an American means that I have hope that my children will grow up and live healthy, fulfilling lives, pursuing meaningful work. That they will continue to benefit from the freedoms and protections offered them by this great land and its body of citizens. It means that I have a responsibility to do my part and do what I can to support the development of active, participatory, productive, creative, critical, and compassionate people through our systems of education, and elsewhere.
I have the responsibility to be those things, myself.
The United States has been and continues to be one of humanity's greatest social experiments - one that's had its challenges and that's no surprise - but that has and continues to succeed against many odds and beyond many expectations. It means a lot to me to know that I and my family have and will continue to contribute towards that success.
Being an American means that I continue to live and uphold these ideals every day of the year and not just on Independence Day. All the same, I wish my country a happy birthday and express my gratitude to it and all the people in it that comprise it. Hoping everyone had a happy 4th of July and that your 5th of July is equally happy.