My best friend immigrated to America nine years ago. She left a poor region of a communist Asian country to pursue an education in London, and then a new life in America. She is feisty, opinionated, and far from the submissive type. She came to America in pursuit life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Her husband also immigrated to America nine years ago. He shared his tiny childhood home with over a dozen family members, and spent his days reading science and math books so that he could escape from the lowest rung of his country’s caste system. He focused on his studies, achieved his PhD, and secured a successful career as an engineer.
Their young daughter is a second-generation American. She is growing up today with opportunities she would not have had in her parents’ home countries. One of these opportunities–a gift agreed upon by her parents before birth–will be the removal of the pressure to spend every free moment studying in pursuit of a better life. She was born in America. She was born into a better life.
I don’t have social media, and I deleted all my accounts about nine years ago. However, around the 4th of July, I heard many rumblings about how the image of and symbolism behind the American flag has been tarnished. In the year 2022, a segment of our population views the American flag as a symbol of hate, political extremist, and a cruel past. I understand and respect that position, as does the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
One of the individuals that I heard was making disparaging remarks about our country was my own little sister. That has made me profoundly sad. As children, we loved world history, particularly American history. We would quiz each other on the Bill of Rights, memorize and recite the Gettysburg address, sing The Star Spangled Banner (interjecting with Francis Scott Key trivia), and envy our friends that got to visit Paul Revere’s house in Boston. Every summer, we proudly wore our red, white, and blue Old Navy outfits, as we watched fireworks over Pacific Ocean and celebrated our great country.
What changed? Over the last two weeks, I’ve been thinking about it and I think I know the answer. News sources and social media seem to be a hivemind. This year, that collective opinion is the America is racist and the American flag is a symbol of hate.
As a reminder, Fellow Americans, You Should Know About the Smith-Mundt Act. As of 2012, the American government is allowed to propagandize its own citizens, and they do. I have spent hundreds of hours over the last decade thoroughly researching news claims, and can assure you many facts are misconstrued, left out, or flatly lied about. Don’t take my word for it–do your own research. I personally do not trust the the news or the experts until I’ve thoroughly vetted them. I take every story or “fact” with a block of salt, and go directly to the source if I am truly interested.
In 1636, my ancestors immigrated to the coastal town of Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of British Colonial America, leaving behind their life in Tutbury, Staffordshire, England. In the centuries to follow, my ancestors came to America from Scotland, Germany, Austria, Prussia, Slovenia, Ireland, and England. They came to America seeking a better life not only for themselves, but their children, and their descendants. And I have reaped the benefits.
Nine generations ago, one of my ancestors fought in the American Revolutionary War against Britain. He was a patriot, fighting for freedom. Along with his colonial comrades, Ebenezer Allen helped the Thirteen Colonies gain independence from the British Crown, establishing the constitution that created the United States of America.
The life that I live today was never guaranteed. My inalienable rights were hard-won. Every day of my life, I have reaped the benefits of my ancestor’s belief and perseverance. I don’t have wealth, affluence, or power. But I don’t need those things. I have my freedom, liberty, and the opportunity to make effortful strides toward a better life.
Whether you are a first-generation American, twelfth-generation American, or the descendant of Native American peoples, we all share one of the greatest constitutions in the world (though, technically, the latter are offered tribal sovereignty, exempting them from federal laws). If you don’t believe me, go read the national constitutions of a dozen other countries at random. We shouldn’t take what we have for granted. The flag is not inherently racist or evil, and should not be “triggering” for these reasons. The flag is a symbol, and we choose our vantage point–it can be a symbol of freedom, of racism, or whatever else we choose to make of it. We don’t need to allow others to dictate our beliefs and our feelings.
We are fast-approaching the 250th Birthday of the United States of America. I hope in my heart that the Semiquincentennial commemoration is truly a celebration, an opportunity to share American history in ways that fully explore the diverse people and complex events of our country’s past. I hope that the current controversy passes. I hope that 2026 sparks a nation-wide initiative to foster dreams for the future of our country and nurture them to fruition.
America is, and has always been, the world’s melting pot. We live in the land of opportunity. We are surrounded by a diversity of cultures and experiences. We can can share, we can learn, we can devise ways to enhance a federal government that, in my personal opinion, has gotten a bit too big for it’s britches. It’s not too late to change course, to revisit the original constitution, or to make amendments for our modern world.
At the end of the day, I want my best friend’s daughter and my future children to grow up in an America that continues to offer the promise of liberty and equality. I want the America that the British American colonists fought so hard to achieve, and I want that for Americans of every political leaning, faith, skin color, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and ability.
This may be a different America than our ancestors immigrated to, but, fundamentally, it’s the same. Every year, thousands of people come to America and build a better life for themselves and their families. Even with it’s faults and flaws, our country is viewed as a beacon of hope around the world. Though many Americans cannot see the forest for the trees, we are living in the land of opportunity.