Being an American and Being Abroad
Happy 4th of July from Sarajevo! Or at least I feel like that's what I should be saying. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday as I sit here at work. Although I did wear blue and white to celebrate (me, wear red any time other than a Johnnie football game? Ha funny joke). But as I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed during breakfast this morning, it was clear that everyone back home was having a blast celebrating our great nation (Joetown Rocks looks like it was awesome, jealous of all of you). This got me thinking about past 4th of Julys, like the one I celebrated in the Toronto airport flying home from Ireland or the one I spent packing for my ridiculously early morning flight to Costa Rica. I realized that for me, the 4th of Julys that I remember are not the ones where we had big family barbeques and set off fireworks and I ran through the lawn (or beach, I vaguely remember a 4th of July from when I was like 5 celebrated on Redondo Beach with all the cousins. See Mom, I do remember some things from my ˝coma years˝) with sparklers trying to spell my name before it went out. Don't get me wrong, I had 4th of Julys like that and they were wonderful and great. But they're not the first ones that come to mind for me. So this subconscious focus on celebrating the awesomeness of America while abroad, and the realization that the chances are very high that over the next 20 years the majority of my 4th of Julys will be spent abroad (assuming things turn out as I currently foresee, but who knows maybe Truman camp’s commitment to ˝constructive confusion˝ will lead to something else), made me start thinking more.
- If you can’t already tell, this has been a very reflective morning.
Why is it that I want to work as a representative of the US, a country that I need to (and do) love in order to do my job effectively, yet I jump at any chance I am given to get out of it? On the surface, it doesn’t really seem to make sense. You are constantly finding ways to leave a place that you want to someday work for and spend your time convince the rest of the world is great and really cares about the international community? Heck, as a Truman I already am somewhat bound in how I represent the Foundation and by extension the Federal Government. If it’s so great, why don’t you actually want to spend time there? Confusing? I think yes.
Yet it’s an important question to reflect on and what I’ve spent this morning thinking about. Not really sure what I’ve come up with, but I’m using this blog as a stream of consciousness session hoping that I can glean a few useful reflections by the time I am done (so you have been warned, don’t keep reading if you’re looking for fluidity or logical connections).
In my heart of hearts, I really love the US. I may not agree with all of our decisions both domestically and especially on foreign policy issues (no need to go into specifics though, I don’t want this post being used against me during my Senate hearing for Secretary of State 30 years from now – hey, a girl can dream, right?) but it is an amazing place.
As a US citizen I have opportunities that much of the world can only dream about. I benefitted from an amazing education (yes I went to private school, but I’ve heard public school kids still turn out pretty great), access to things like public libraries (despite what you say Mom about me having to buy every single book I’ve ever read), parks (Connor, you will particularly agree with this one), community programming, a healthcare system that while expensive at least was well supplied, knowledgeable and cared about its patients, and a feeling of security. We can trust in our government and know that while they sometimes can’t get anything done to save their lives (*cough House of Representatives *cough), we know there’s not going to be a military coup and the system will continue to function (seen the news on Egypt yet?). We have a say in our government and can make our voices heard (here’s my plug for voting - people around the world would and sometimes do kill in order to secure that right, as Americans we take it for granted, don’t). We are extremely fortunate.
Most importantly though, growing up in the US I had the opportunity to dream. From a young age we’re asked, ˝what do you want to be when you grow up? ˝. We’re given options and encouraged to try them. We’re taught to think critically and question, not just how to memorize and pass a test. We’re given the skills and experiences to aim high and shoot for the stars. People here in Bosnia aren’t, many of them aren’t taught to dream big or shoot for the stars. And even sadder, those that do, often times fall flat because the economy or society isn’t ready for them (a blog post on that will be coming as soon as I can figure out a way to articulate the situation here).
These are the things that at the end of the day make me love being an America and make me proud of my country. But again, okay if it’s so great, why do you want so badly to leave?
I think (and this can and undoubtedly will with time change) that I spend so much time being abroad and want to pursue a career abroad as my way of giving back for how amazingly fortunate I have been. In multiple political science classes I have taken we have explored the idea of the ˝ovarian lottery˝ or the fact that the chances of being lucky enough to be born in the US are incredibly small (Google is failing to tell me exactly how small, but take my word for it, we’re lucky). With this being said, it would be incredibly easy to just take all the advantages that I have been given by simply due to the fact that I had the lucky coincidence to be born in the States for granted and never give it a second thought.
But you all know me (and if you don’t I’m a little confused why are reading this blog, but thanks for your support) and you all know that I over think just about everything and spend a ridiculous amount of time pondering things (maybe I should have been a philosophy major). So when I examine all of the benefits I have, I realize I want to be able to use them to help those who we not as fortunate.
For me, that’s through working for the government. I want to use the resources available to the most powerful country in the world (say what you want about the rise of BRIC and everyone else, the US still remains the major hegemonic power currently) to help the rest of the world experience some of the many blessings that I have enjoyed as an American. I know lots of people disagree with this route and that’s fine. Government employment is not for everyone nor should it be. There are millions of ways to take the advantages we have been given and use them to give back. I see my amazing friends doing it all the time. But the point is that it is important to give back, in whatever way you deem fit.
So as you celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks, barbeques, family, and friends, I wish you a wonderful day. But I also ask that you remember the millions of individuals around the world that do not have the same opportunities and chances in life and ways that in your own life you might be able to help them. Remember the amazing things that the US stands for and take the day to enjoy being American. It’s a pretty awesome thing