I need to apologize to you the way an adult with kids of their own has to apologize to their parents for rebellious teen age years. I never appreciated you until I left home.
Last year when I “finally” packed my bags and left the country for half a year I threw you the deuces and hopped on a plane. I knew there would be things I would miss, certainly there would be people, but you? America? Unlikely. I had always felt disdain towards your flapping, bright colored flag and enthusiastic “God bless America” speeches. Any show of patriotism always seemed to me pompous, arrogant, and above all, ignorant to what was going on in the world outside of our meager four percent of the population. But I was no exception to that ignorance, and I learned something in these other countries I visited that made me strangely defensive of you. I learned that I was not the only one with this particular sentiment.
No, apparently, you are the country everyone loves to hate. Apparently I’ve been rolling my eyes at you for all these years with most of the rest of the world. Everywhere that I went people made jokes about America or Americans, somehow overlooking that I was one. The jibes about your portion sizes and ignorance of geography were just too much sometimes. The only thing more frustrating was the way that all of us, Americans, reacted to it – joking a long or staying silent – apologizing for you when we should have been apologizing to you. You don’t deserve this, and I’m so afraid that you’ve started to believe you do.
I don’t want to tell you this, but I think just beneath your enthusiastic pride, you already know; most of the world thinks that you are a highly superficial nation that never has to do anything dangerous or uncomfortable. I’m sorry that I believed that too. And I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t stick up for who you really are. If it’s not to late, listen to another perspective.
You are passionate. You are sensitive. Your heart is huge and generous and you are so much fun.
When I heard accusations for you being otherwise, I felt a defensiveness for you, but it wasn’t until I got back home that I realized how misunderstood you have been. It wasn’t until the after party for a 5k I ran for orphans in India that I realized who you are so eager to be.
The run was put on by a few college age kids that decided to single handedly take on the task of building an orphanage. Local businesses joined in to cover all the run’s expenses. Over three hundred people showed up to race. Ten thousand dollars were raised.
This might be just the kind of thing that people would mock you for. That “Americans will pull some money out of their pockets but aren’t willing to get their hands dirty.” But these are just the kind of accusations that are making you insecure and helpless and that are simply not true.
It’s not true about the young adults that did all of the work to make this run happen and who are bringing every cent of the money they raised back to India with them. And they are Americans. It’s not true about myself who literally thanked God for this opportunity to do something for a country I had visited and fallen in love with earlier in the year. And I am American. So it can not be true about you either.
Here’s what I think: I think that we are extremely aware of how sheltered and privileged we are and I think it scares us. I think we know that there is a world out their that faces things we know nothing about, and I think that this intimidates us and roots us further into our security, and our comforts and our large portion sizes. But I think that just below all of that is the heart of a nation that is aching to give, to love and to serve. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. I know that it is there. We just have to stop believing the lies that are projected on us by people who have only seen our comedy TV Shows and fashion magazines. It’s not anyone’s fault. We haven’t made a very impressive show of being anything else. But that’s put us in a cycle that I want to apologize for being a part of. It’s put us into a cycle that I want to break. I want to be brave for you America. To show you that you can be. To show the world that we are.
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