By Haika Mrema | Guest Contributor
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
In mercy more than life!
(America the Beautiful – Katharine Lee Bates)
A student and I got into a conflict on social media. She was disgusted at the fact that I proclaimed my patriotism to America before acknowledging my African roots. That I was claiming to be a part of a country that I supposedly didn’t belong to. She believed that I was trying to be someone I’m not. Except that’s exactly who I am: an American first and foremost. Why would I devote myself to a country that I never lived in over one that I was born and raised in?
Because she believed so strongly in proclaiming her ethnic background and denying any association to America, I asked her if she ever plans to move and reside in the country she claimed, and leave her current American nationality behind. Let’s just say the conversation ended shortly after, when a simple answer to the question was replaced with a hurl of insults in my direction.
Was it something I said?
Who knew there would come a time where many would be appalled at the display of the American flag on one’s vehicle? Or the letters “USA” worn on a T-shirt? Or simply at the sight of patriots coming together, to sing the National Anthem and pledge allegiance to the flag? It has become a trend to magnify the flaws and past mistakes of this nation, to hate this country because of what it once was (as if we have stayed stagnant or have even regressed back in time) and disregard the blessings, freedom and progression we have gained since this country’s birth. We tend to take America for granted and forget that there are many from all over the world who pray to be in our position and are thankful that a country like ours exists due to the despair they had to experience back home. My parents are an example.
My parents immigrated to the United States from Tanzania, Africa, a third world country. Both grew up poor or with very little. My father, for example, would walk miles to school without shoes, sleep in a tiny room with four of his brothers and go hungry for long periods of time. Through faith and opportunity, they both received the chance to study in the United States, and through hard work they were able to build a better life for themselves and their family. They left a country with little to their name to seek refuge in a place that they could previously only dream about.
When reflecting on their life, they always express how grateful they are to be here today and that they will forever be in debt to the country that blessed them with more than they could ever ask for. Coming from a country that continues to oppress and impoverish its citizens through the increase of corruption and socialistic policy, leaving many without a way out, they hope that everyone can see the abundant opportunity and chance for prosperity that America has to offer for all walks of life. So while Tanzania will forever hold a place in their hearts, they will always be proud Americans for as long as they live.
Only in America can we see a melting pot of people from all walks of life expressing themselves and their opinions in a place that gives them the freedom to do so. That we can protect ourselves, family and property through our individual right to bear arms. Where the government works for the people and not the other way around. Where we have soldiers who fight and give up their lives every day so that we may continue to live our lives in liberty.
It is not wrong to love a country that provides upward mobility to success, no matter where you start in life. You can start a small online bookstore and have it eventually grow into the world’s largest online retailer. You can grow up in poverty, fail in school and still become one of the most successful neurosurgeons in the world. You can suffer a painful childhood, drop out of high school and become so broke trying to make your dreams happen that you sleep in your car, but eventually rise to success and build your own 330-acre film production studio.
And even though I am supposedly oppressed due to my gender, race and lack of resources (along with people telling me that I won’t make it past a certain point due to these factors), I was still able to rise to the top of my class as a Highest Honor, attend a remarkable university where I can receive a quality education and secure priceless opportunities including entering the east wing of the White House to hear the former President of the United States speak about the advancements and successes of Black America. Words can never express the eternal gratitude I have to live in such a place where all of this is made possible. And the story will not end there, as I plan to retain control of my destiny and achieve success in a country that allows me to do so.
I will forever stand for the flag, pledge my allegiance and give all the glory to the Divine. God Bless the United States of America.