This past weekend was the “Fourth” - meaning "Fourth of July", meaning the Independence Day of the United States of America. And once again, parades, barbecues and fireworks dominated the “sea-to-shining sea” landscape. Our family had our own fun and games during the long weekend. The “Fourth Barbecue” of course is now an established tradition and is the hub (typical Samoan "hub", aye?) of everything else that we plan for the July holiday.
While individual families, cities, communities have their own programs and events to commemorate the Fourth, some events remain the same throughout the land. One of these is the swearing-in ceremonies for the newest citizens; each state has its own. The new citizens have successfully gone through the naturalization process. These are people from all over the globe representing most, if not all, countries. There were people from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., who - safe to say - were perhaps the most grateful and the most enthusiastic of all - understandably so.
Amazingly, even in these post “September 11" years, people still flock to America. Most say it’s the opportunities; others say it’s freedom (the two of course are intertwined) - every human being yearns and deserves to be free. And speaking of freedom, America is indisputably the last - and only - hope for freedom in the world.
What I have found out is that, generally speaking, everyone wants to be an American, or at least wants to come to America. The feeling is universal, even to the most ardent of patriots and nationalists of their own respective nation/country. In a television clip of one swearing-in, an Iraqi woman, clad in her native head-to-toe dark attire - minus the veil/burqa - rises from the crowd waving the stars and stripes. In a local paper (Utah), a picture of a Samoan taking the oath and pledge of citizenship is printed.
And here’s a stimulating statement/fact: In a particular profound sense, everyone CAN be an American, but not, say, Chinese, Japanese or German - or Samoan for that matter. That’s because America is a nation, not a race.
And so in the words of Yakov Smirnoff - a Russian actor/comedian who became a naturalized US citizen - “Vat a kahntry!” (What a country!) Despite her flaws, America is still great and good.
“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
(Note: The above quote is/has been attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, though it is presently impugnable.)