I spent the third of July taking an architectural tour down the Chicago River. It was full of beautiful sights and among these sights was a huge America flag draped down one of the buildings. It hung there proudly declaring Chicago’s love for America, but in that moment I couldn’t help but notice a huge gap between the two Americas.
There is a significant difference between the America I was raised in, the America that I love, and the America that Chicago has contorted to love through the recent years.
I was in first grade when America was attacked. Every week a small group in my class would go to do crafts in the library. This was my group’s day, so I walked in my single-file line through the halls of Barkley Bridge Elementary School, and we all piled in a room where crafting supplies were scattered across the table, but all eyes were drawn to a TV in horror. There were planes crashing into buildings, and people crying, and news men talking in a panic, and then there was me all the way in northern Alabama. I was confused, and uncomfortable about seeing teachers cry, and a little scared, and I just wanted to do crafts.
I was too young to understand what happened then. In my mind the driver of the airplane just wasn’t a very good pilot. I actually lost hours of sleep the next few nights convinced that one of those unskilled pilots would crash into my house next. My young mind couldn’t understand terrorism, or war, or even hate to that dimension, especially hate toward this country that I have grown up singing prideful songs about.
Though I was too young to understand, I was plenty old to notice. I noticed that the Star-Spangle Banner sung at football games had more meaning after that day. People were more engaged, proud. My mom bought me an American flag t-shirt and a twin tower necklace that I wore proudly, because I realized that to be an American meant more in this time than it ever did.
It was in first grade that I fell in love with America, and it never stopped.
I have never forgotten the words to a single patriotic song I learned in elementary school. And when I think back on those songs one seems especially relevant to me today, because it has become irrelevant to too many of my fellow Americans.
“God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.”
And now the mountains and the prairies and all of the oceans feel superior to the one another, because now the blacks and whites separate from one another in riots, and the homosexuals and heterosexuals don’t get along, because for some reason now to disagree is to despise, and each religion tears down other religions, and there is hate. So much hate.
But let me tell you about my America.
My heart weeps over the fact that my nieces, my nephews, and, lord willing, my own children, will not get the privilege of being raised in my America.
I grew up witnessing the hard work of farmers in the Alabama heat, and the pride one man can have for success in result of his hours of labor. Not this hobby centered, narcissistic culture of just doing what you can as long as you get a picture that makes you look like you’re working hard. I grew up admiring hard work and respecting my peers, because that’s just what you did in my America.
I watched half of my friends leave for college August of 2013, and I watched the other half proudly join the United States Military to fight for the same country that many like to live in, but also like to hate, for the freedom that many like to exert but remove from others, for a unity that many like to force apart. I watched my dear friends join the military, risking their lives because they love the same America that they have helped me to love, and they want to keep it as safe as they can. Because somebody has to do it, and none who have the power to send these guys into a war zone are stepping up to the task.
My America didn’t really expect me to choose sides. The two sides were us against terrorism. When did terrorist stop being the bad guys? When did the wars become a another civil war? When did we break away from the unity that I saw develop when I was a quiet, but observant, six year old? Why I am expected to choose sides in a country that was built on such unity. A country built to be “one nation?”
I was raised in the south where I was told to be conservative. I befriended many kind people who would declare themselves liberal, and I am now to the age where I am supposed to classify myself. But who I am is a girl who loves the farmer, who loved the history in DC, who loves “one nation under god,” who loves America. Show me a political party that respects what I love about this country. Show me someone who will bring back the values of my America so that we may share it with future generations.