In April of 1986, at only 20 years old, my mother left Galway for Boston, Massachusetts. She fit her belongings into a suitcase, said her farewells, and left behind the only home she had ever known. Boston was only meant to be a pitstop, until she learned how expensive a plane ticket to Australia was. The pitstop turned into a home, where she met my father, made her career, and started a family. Where she started a new chapter in her life. Illegally, at first.
Before Trump gets ahold of this, relax. She’s now a proud Green Card holder and a permanent resident of the United States. My mother’s story is not unique. Moving to the United States has been a dream for countless generations of people from all over the globe. This promised land is painted with visions of economic opportunities, where one can start from the bottom and climb to the top. Visions of equality, portrayed as a melting pot where different cultures, languages, traditions, races, religions, and ethnicities coalesced into something beautiful: the United State of America.
Times have changed. President Trump is almost two years into his crusade of “Making America Great Again.” Which often leaves me wondering, which wonderful era of American history was so… great? Slavery, Native American genocide, Japanese internment camps, countless wars, segregation, police brutality, mass incarceration, and so on, and so forth. Quite frankly, I don’t believe that a country’s economic success defines how great it once was, or how great it could be once again. The United States is more than the stock market, more than trade, more than money. Yes, yes— I understand that it is important to have a strong economy. I just also understand that other things are equally, if not more, important.
Small children and babies being ripped from their parents and locked in cages. School shootings so frequently it has become normalised. The largest prison population in the world. A Supreme Court justice with several sexual assault allegations. Unarmed black men and women beaten and killed by the police. Exorbitant college tuition prices. The United States is a far cry from united right now.
With a country so chock-full of problems, it poses the question: is it possible, or even morally correct, to be “Proud to be American”? In short, yes. I am certainly not proud of the United States’ deep-rooted ties to racism, sexism, violence, and isolationism. I’m not proud of our current president, or a majority of the politicians in office. I’m not proud to be from a country that turns away refugees, blinded by their absurd islamophobia. There’s a lot to be ashamed of as an American, yet I still find a lot to be proud of.
I’m proud to be from a country built by hard working immigrants, and even more proud to be the daughter of one. I’m proud to see grass-root organisations continuing to resist the ignorance, intolerance, and inequalities that are imbedded into our society. I’m proud to see school children demanding gun control, when most grown politicians are afraid to do that themselves. I’m proud to see my generation grow increasingly passionate about not just politics, but in building a much more progressive country for ourselves, and for our posterity. Presidents come and go, policies change each day. The one constant throughout the United States’ history is its people. And those people, the ones demanding change and reform, are the reason I am proud to be an American.