Monday, July 6, 2009

4th of July for an American that didn't grow up in America


Independence Day is always a little bit uncomfortable to me. As a child when we were in the US on the 4th my heart would swell with pride during the patriotic songs and I would of course agree with what everyone around me was either bluntly saying or at least hinting at: we live in the best country in the world, and we should be proud.

Overseas, the 4th of July meant a picnic for the expatriate community, non-Americans included (who came with only a little grumbling to enjoy the feast and fellowship). It was mostly fun and there was very little patriotism presented (that could be uncomfortable with guests from elsewhere around the world). I suppose it just reinforced the fact that our cultural identity was different from the people we lived among.

When I came back to the U.S. as an 18-year-old technically coming "home", the 4th of July immediately made me angry. The culture shock of hearing and seeing the near-worshipful singing of songs like "God bless the USA" or "America, the Beautiful" were shocking to me, because I most certainly no longer thought that America was the best country in the world. I'd grown to love another country and appreciate a good many others and was quite uncertain about a good many things about America. For a while I was hard-pressed to identify much I liked at all about the good 'ol USA, so the patriotism that bleeds out on the 4th was very.... very hard for me to accept. I mostly avoided it with discussions about whether or not the American Revolution was actually a legit cause to be proud of.

Nowadays I take part in a cultural celebration, even if I still can't relate to the emotional patriotism of American Independence Day. I love the fireworks and the hilarious Americana everywhere, I enjoy the barbecue and hot summer evenings. It's fun. I ironically especially appreciated the totally adorable Indian family that we sat next to to watch the fireworks. This particular 4th of July we spent hours playing Risk and discussing history and politics and how the US fits into the grand scheme of history. Good times.

4th of July Parade in Burien, WA


Alice said...

I have never lived in another country, yet I have a very difficult time with 4th of July. It's sad how much people believe propaganda that a certain country or nationality is "best" and claim it as part of their identity. I become more and more anationalistic the older I get. I'm a citizen of heaven. That's enough for me. (But I watched the national hotdog eating contest on ESPN and went to a baseball game on the 4th. Good times.) :-)

Jaimie said...

I get bothered when people dedicate a whole Sunday at church to it. I don't go to church to worship America.

Other than that, sure, our country is pretty swell... because it's our country. Celebrate it up.