It was this post of Lisa's that inspired some of my thoughts here:
I’ve been disenchanted with my country for some time. When I first moved to Chicago five years ago, I lived in a temporary apartment in the Gold Coast area. Never had I lived among such wealth. I felt terribly intimidated if I were to leave my home without having my nails done, hair done and clothes polished. Me, in my stretchy pants and t-shirt had to push my stroller past the outdoor cafes on Rush Street filled with rich, beautiful people as they dined for lunch. Then I’d return from the park and they were still there, having no place they had to be, I guess. Along the way I’d pass several stores that sold nothing for less than $100 and nothing larger than a size 10. As if being rich kept one immune from calories. I often wondered if I would ever grow wealthy enough to not care about a price tag and have nothing to do but be seen drinking chardonnay all afternoon.
I admit that I am a cynic. I used to think that what our country needs is a serious war – one that would limit our resources and people would actually have to give up a few things. Or we needed an economic depression. Our Grandparents had both war and depression. They knew the value of frugal living, of reusing materials, of saving instead of spending. Perhaps it would improve our spirit as a nation to actually have to sacrifice a little, to go without.
Then terrorists drove planes into the World Trade Center. I didn’t wish for that. My thoughts grew darker, more melancholy. Bush told us to get out, shop, go on vacation. By God, we’ve got to keep the economy moving. I didn’t get the sense that too many people had to sacrifice much. Of course there were those people who lost loved ones, jobs tightened, fear gripped us. Soldiers were sent to Afghanistan, then later to Iraq. Yes, there were people who had to sacrifice much. But to the majority, I don’t think we felt it.
The Iraq war began, and for every small protest or peace vigil, there were throngs of flag-waving, Bush zealots chanting U S A, U S A. I grew to despise the flag. It came to represent mob-mentality, the ugly-American.
In time I have mellowed. I generally feel so powerless and alienated over the politics of my country, I hardly feel I am a citizen. Instead, I just live here, enjoying the good life I have, raising a beautiful daughter and loving my family.
One day in May, I came upon this march as I was headed to the L-train. United States flags floated enmasse through the streets, held by proud, peaceful immigrants, demonstrating their passion for our country. Their numbers only reminded me of the many people seeking citizenship who have touched my life, directly and indirectly. Having mostly lived in a major city, how could you live without the benefit of their work ethic, familial strength, art and music, friendship, and food?
I held back my tears as the American flag had never looked so beautiful to me. It is when I see our nation through the eyes of people who dream of becoming a part of it, that I see it for all the beauty that it is.
Happy birthday, America.