I did not grow up in a household that revered the American flag or touted the great American experiment as the gold standard for any civilized society. Certainly my family taught me to value respect, civility, inclusion, and freedom – in every sense of the word; but I did not cultivate a sense of western superiority. The primary result of my upbringing was a immense curiosity about the rest of the world. My dad, who immigrated to America from Nigeria, has always reminded us of the privilege packed inside that blue passport with the shiny seal of the United States stamped across it bearing the Latin words, E Pluribus Unum…Out of many, one.
I am not ungrateful. I am not unaware of the fact that who I am, and the opportunities afforded to me throughout my life, have been influenced by being born in the United States. For more than a decade I stood each morning with my classmates and recited the pledge of allegiance.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I said it so many times I can still recite it by heart. But now, this pledge evokes no pride; only anger, resentment, and disappointment. I am collapsing under the weight of all the shame I carry for the country I call home.
Today is our nations 241st birthday.
Out of many, one.
One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I am literally on the other side of the world. From over 8,000 miles away I can feel the division. I can see the injustice. Out of many, we are very far from being one. Our nation provides liberty and justice for only a few.
So, this Fourth of July, I miss my family and my friends. I miss grilling cheeseburgers and hot dogs, and sitting on lawn chairs in a friend’s backyard on a warm summer night. I miss twinkle lights, beer pong tables, and classic American tunes. I miss bonfires, hard cider, and s’mores. But most of all, I miss the feelings of optimism and hope. I miss being able to defend and understand my country’s actions.
I miss civility.
One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Black, Brown, White, Muslim, Atheist, Christian, Disabled, LGBTQ+, Female, Male, etc, etc, etc. All. Out of many, one.
Happy birthday, America. Do better.