America: The Land of the Ungrateful and Entitled
One of the many blessings that I've been afforded has been meeting people from other countries that are less fortunate than America. One person, in particular, is a woman by the name of Sahara, whose family escaped Somalia during their civil war in the 1980s and settled in a Kenyan refugee camp. Through certain circumstances, she was able to make her way to the United States and is now a U.S. citizen.
Since being introduced to her, she would send me messages filled with positivity and happiness. Unprovoked, she will send me messages exclaiming her happiness to be in America. Her messages are full of joy as she takes a hike down a local trail or just appreciates how beautiful the weather is outside.
It is almost like her being able to come to America was like being reborn and she could finally live. She is the most appreciative person I've ever met and fortunate enough we were able to meet in person recently. Even when we would talk about U.S. issues, she still has a smile on her face.
Sahara is not alone in her appreciation for this country after escaping constant danger. I recently met a woman who is a Christian Armenian that grew up in Iran and had to escape the country during the revolution with barely any resources. She came to America with a couple of hundred dollars in her pocket but found a way to succeed. Now she has a son that is attending a prestigious university and he doesn't have to experience the turmoil that his mother endured.
Although they were not born in this country, they exemplify the appreciation that every American should have but we are far too comfortable to realize how fortunate we actually are. We don't have to walk for miles to get clean water like Sahara did because we can lazily take a couple of steps and turn our faucet on. We have so much luxury that we don't even know how the water becomes clean, it just is and we always expect it to be this way. Our bare essentials for the most part are secure and we don't even appreciate it.
We fail to understand how challenging life was for humans throughout history and many of those challenges are now gone for us in America, yet we don't care because we selfishly want more conveniences without marveling at what we already have. We take for granted that our currency doesn't fluctuate drastically every week with fear that one day it will become worthless. This is a real concern for many people throughout the world yet we moan and groan when a sale ends for a product we don't even need.
We spent an entire year of protests surrounding the idea that the police are never held accountable for their actions and that they are brutalizing citizens on a massive scale, which is a complete exaggeration. Are there situations where the police overstep or are responsible for the death of someone? Of course. Do they get punished?
Many times they do but the expectation of perfection with any system is a utopian vision, meaning, it's unrealistic. We lack the world perspective to see that our police are far more accountable than many across the globe and when you throw around hyperbolic rhetoric, it only displays your lack of perspective.
Even the concept of protesting the police, see how that would fly in Brazil. Do you think the police in Brazil will just stand there as you scream in their face? How about even the concept of protesting anything, try that in North Korea where they will not only lock you up for being a troublemaker but also the rest of your family. This is not to say that you can't protest, you should when you find it necessary but the problem is that many have zero worldviews when they exclaim words like "brutality" when real brutality is a plane ride away.
We are amongst the most privileged people to exist in the world or shall I say, in human history. Do you have any idea how lucky we are that we can openly criticize our government and not suffer any consequences for it? We have television shows that mock politicians and they profit off it as well. We don't have to hide our disdain, nor should we, but many of us refuse to understand how incredibly lucky we are to be able to do so. Today, in Malaysia, you can go to prison for criticizing or insulting their monarchy. Imagine how many people would be incarcerated for speaking negatively about Trump or Biden? We can't imagine it and that's our privilege.
Recently there was controversy about Gwen Berry not facing the flag when the Star-Spangled Banner was playing and based on her statement, she states that it was a mistiming of when the anthem is supposed to play and that it wasn't done purposely. Even if we are to grant her this, her statement after the fact about the anthem is what I find more troubling:
The anthem doesn't speak for me. It never has.
The anthem is a song but it is symbolic and singing or even acknowledging it playing is a way to show pride in our country. What people like Gwen fail to realize is that even during times of overt racism, which was backed by the government, thousands of black people died for the opportunity that she is now afforded. They died with the belief that America, despite its faults, would become a more fair nation.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. endured death threats, imprisonment, and risked assassination with the understanding that he had to be willing to sacrifice his life for people to realize that we as Americans were not living up to Thomas Jefferson's words: "all men are created equal." That statement had no racial qualifiers and everyone, regardless of race, had to fight for the government to first abide by this statement.
The point is that you should be appreciative of our recognized failures as a country because it will only highlight our future successes. The fact that we were able to change course on slavery when other nations were still practicing it (and some are still today) is something to be proud of. The fact that an ethnic minority was able to convince the government to change course on Jim Crow laws is something to be proud of. These massive steps were done on our own and without outside interference, meaning, we are imperfect but we are constantly striving to live up to Jefferson's words.
We are a far fairer nation than many others around this world but we refuse to see this because we are essentially entitled. We live in our American bubble as we care about American issues, watching our American trash television while complaining that we can't find the remote control.
We talk frequently about the "1%" but we are essentially that in the world and we don't even realize it. We are the world's spoiled Beverly Hills teenagers who are whining about running out of caviar. That's what we sound like when we constantly flaunt to the world our trivial complaints of micro-aggressions.
I'm not absolving myself as I have to sometimes catch myself before going down that rabbit hole of sounding absolutely ungrateful. I am constantly trying to humble myself and be appreciative of what I have.
I sometimes think about Sahara's story and remember how lucky I am to have won the birthright lottery by being an American citizen. I remember being homeless and wondering what would happen next, now I live comfortably. I remember having my car repossessed, now I can pay my loan off early. I appreciate the times that I failed because I can now relish in my current successes and you should appreciate America's failures so you can relish in your American privilege.
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Amazing perspective--thanks for the reminder that I, too, need to be more grateful for what America, despite her flaws, has provided to me, to my family, and beyond.