The United States has now existed for more than 200 years. A world power, it is no wonder that people from all over the world have come to the United States to escape from the hardships of living in their own country. With that comes an affinity to the United States, yet at the same time keeping one for the home country.
That’s a convoluted statement, isn’t it? I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina some 15 years ago (yes, I have trouble remembering how old I am. Personally, I’d like to be 5). I lived there for about 6 years, so in a sense, the majority of my early childhood was spent there. I say early childhood because it was a time in my life when I didn’t pay attention to things that I pay attention to now. All I have to do is tell you that I had no idea there were countries, and an entire world, beyond the confines of the city I was in, and that serves as enough of an explanation for why I call it my early childhood.
I came to the United States in March of 2000, and being the age I was, I was nothing but excited. Riding in a plane for 8 hours, coming to a brand-new place – a roller coaster ride all in its own. And now, I’ve spent about 8 to 9 years here. And I’ve come to realize something, that has been evidenced every 4th of July.
In most countries, the celebration of the day of independence is a very patriotic occasion, and of course, those who celebrate it with passion and furor are those who love their country. In Argentina, it was Argentineans that cried that their country was the greatest in the world. In England, it’ll likely be the same. Peru, Brazil, Germany – anywhere in the world, those cheering their country will belong to that country, both in heart and in birthplace.
The United States is a different case. When I attended a July 4th celebration at the local community park, right next to the local middle school, I could almost tell you that no two people were in the least bit alike. It was easy to tell that one man, by the baseball field, was an upstanding, middle aged American who’d been born here and had lived his whole life here. His son, in an American fashion, was enjoying the day and playing catch with his friend – a Latin American child, being helped out by his also upstanding, middle-aged Latin American father when he failed to catch the ball. These two kids came from completely different nationalities, as did their families, but when the fireworks were up in the sky, and the anthem was sounding through the concert stage speakers, both of those families were cheering and waving the American flag.
It’s obvious that the United States is not united in culture. Yes, there are cultural elements, easy to appreciate in fact, that are decidedly American: from cuisine (BBQs, hamburgers), to pop culture (Mickey Mouse, Superman) to sports (football, basketball). But the growing number of people that have come from other countries and have chosen to live their lives here have influenced America, and united it in something beyond culture or ethnicity – and that, is the love for a country. A country that strives to allow everyone to make something of themselves, one that strives to ensure human rights, education, opportunity.
The Fourth of July, this year in particular, was truly an eye-opening experience. I’ve noticed that many things that used to amaze me when I was a child don’t surprise me anymore – from video games with supposedly “3D” effects to how amazing it was that the weatherman had a map behind him. But there’s one thing that will never cease to amaze me, and that I know will only continue to get better: fireworks. Beautiful lights of all colors lighting up the sky, with earth-trembling sounds that excite you and amaze you. It truly was a beautiful Fourth of July.