I don’t think someone can truly understand how much the culture they’re from impacts them unless they leave it. While I’ve been gone from the US for seven years now, still so much of who I am, how I think, wish, dream and steer my way through life is partly a product of where I came from. I’m not from it, so much as I am of it.
Right now, that home appears to be a bit of mess. It’s fractured, angry and bone tired. It appears divided instead of inclusive and welcoming. A friend of mine told me that when she saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time, she was surprised at how small it was. But the reason it’s iconic is because of what it symbolizes; it’s the poem from Emma Lazarus we all learned at the base of it:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
And the part most people don’t remember:
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door”
We’ve all seen that this is not the whole story; while millions were able to come and build better lives for themselves; countless others were enslaved, or pushed off their land. The Founders, by refusing to address slavery, have left indelible scars on our country that may never heal. They knew it:
“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Maybe there’s never been a place on Earth that is truly inclusive. But what an incredible thing to aspire to. The difference between us and other countries is that as Americans, we’re bound by ideals, not blood. That someone whose ancestors came over in 1770 and someone whose parents immigrated to the US in 1970 are both equally Americans regardless their country of origin.
At our best, we’re a welcoming, open-minded group of folks. Take Thanksgiving: I have not come back to see my family for Thanksgiving for years, but we’ve always been adopted somewhere on that day whether we’ve been in Austin, TX, Rotterdam, or Barcelona. I’ve seen my family welcome those outside of it for Thanksgiving, and our friends set a place at the table for someone that they’ve never met before, because it’s Thanksgiving, and that’s just what you do.
The reason I’m voting, and I’m encouraging others to vote, is because I want that warm, big-hearted America that I’ve seen in my friends and family. To quote a country song from The Highwomen, I want us to be “a crowded table” where “everyone’s a little broken, and everyone belongs”.
To my friends and family in the US, who have been bombarded with a zillion negative ads, and are soon to hear a gazillion more, please don’t let that negativity dissuade you from exercising your rights. Voting is your right. And to my American friends outside the US, don’t grow despondent. Participate. Vote. Something tells me it’s still home for you too.
Donald Trump requested his ballot on August 11th. American friends, if you haven’t already, request yours here:
https://www.votefromabroad.org/ (For us overseas folks. Bonus: works for both fellas and broads!)