The Huffington Post Bus that is currently touring the country collecting stories, was here on Tuesday. I thought about going, but got too busy with work to really sneak out for an hour. They were asking people what they think it means to be an American. I thought about this question all day. It rolled around like a marble in my head and every time it would land in one spot, I would think that I had an answer. Though, really, I don't know what it means to be an American any more. The Cabbage was reading one of her science readers on the way home from our camping trip. I looked over at it to see she was on a page illustrated with underwater pod systems for living under water. I said "Oh, is that how you think we're going to live when the sea levels rise." The Cabbage replied "I was just reading about rising sea levels on the page before this one!"
This is when I looked at her and said "I am so sorry." I went on to explain that I have done my best, but that I was sorry that it wasn't enough. We're leaving her with a mess of a planet. This conversation all took place before I had read about Pruitt's repeal of a major carbon emissions rule and more tweets from a president encouraging a nuclear war with North Korea. While he's distracting most with outrage over peaceful protests, this president is pushing a tax plan that will hurt the middle and lower class, pushing health care reform that will make it so that employers heath coverage will no longer cover birth control and poking nuclear weapons with a stick. He continues to fuel the fire that divides this country.
The word 'American' conjures up some pretty unflattering and negative thoughts. This is a country of people who owned other people. This is a country that stole land and resources from native people. This is a country where we have suppressed the rights of others. At the same time the word 'American', for me, also conjures up feelings of perseverance. We are hard workers. We are innovators. We all come from or are immigrants who came to a country for a better life and in the process managed to help build a better nation. We've let ourselves forget about the amazing things we can do in this country when we work together. We salute a flag and say a pledge more out of habit than true devotion. The Pledge of Allegiance is something we learn early. We say it so many times, I wonder if over time the words have just lost value. You know how you can say a word over and over until it no longer sounds right? 'Hot in Topeka' suddenly becomes 'I'm a hot toe picker.' I think that's what's become of our pledge. We've forgotten the part about liberty and justice for all.
Being an American means truly meaning that part about liberty and justice for ALL and doing what is needed to make that happen. It means having strength and not just sitting around, hoping for a better future for our children, but actually getting my hands dirty to make it a better future. It means calling my senators daily, being truly informed on ballot issues and voting. It means doing what I can to ease the burden we have put on this planet and it's resources. It means using my voice to speak out against injustice and racism. It means setting a good example as a smart and talented woman, showing little girls that they can do anything. ANYTHING!
Being an American is hard.