My daughter has been hit with Olympic fever and she has graciously passed a smaller dose of the bug to me. We are therefore sleep deprived and popcorn filled but tracking the progress of team USA in London. Since the USA is now my home, I want them to win all the gold possible! While I am thrilled the US team is brilliant, I must admit, I have been dismayed that we – the US, are battling China and are at this point trailing them in the Gold count. To be honest, it grates on my nerves! I think the uniforms and our debt are factors here as well.
I believe I speak for many immigrants when I say that I came here many moons ago, with great expectation because I saw the US as a place where dreams could actually become reality. It has been almost twenty eight years since I first stepped on American soil, and I still feel overwhelmed and get misty eyed when I hear or sing the “Star Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America” or “America the Beautiful”. To those of you who don’t know why, let me explain that the USA was something people in the rest of the world aspired to. We thought of it as a superior way of life. A place that was unashamed to put “In God we Trust” on their money, a place that knew that God had blessed America, a place that was the “home of the brave”. From afar we watched with relief and gratitude, as Americans came to the aid of places stricken with hunger and disease or those unfairly attacked or those struggling with natural disasters. We watched in amazement as America’s athletes celebrated Olympic victories or its citizens danced to a new musical sensation or rejoiced at landing on the moon. It seemed America pushed and reached for excellence and achieved it. The rest of us wanted to be a part of that celebration; part of that excellence. It seemed natural that good would beget good – and it did.
Four years ago at the start of the school year my daughter brought home a parent assignment. In order for the teacher to learn a bit about her students, she asked each parent to write a list of five to ten personality traits that would give her an idea of who our kids were. An excellent idea I thought. I listed several attributes; among them – “competitive”. My daughter saw this and said “Mummy, you’re supposed to write something nice”. Surprised, I asked what was “not nice” on the list and she said – “teachers say competitive is not good”. Thankfully at the time the Beijing Olympics had just concluded and Michael Phelps was a household name. I argued “Competition is a good thing. I can assure you Michael Phelps didn’t go to the Olympics saying he was going to “try his best” – he went there to compete and WIN and that’s one of the reasons he WON.” In other words – I kept my list intact. Fast forward to her most recent eighth grade graduation. At the “awards” ceremony, everyone received an “award”. Even those who were undeserving received one for “attending eighth grade”. By definition an award is “something granted as merited”. I therefore don’t understand the logic or lack thereof.
I have never regretted coming to American shores; in fact I am so glad to now call this beautiful land my home. However, recently I have wondered if I would be as attracted to the USA of today as I had been back in the day. See the USA I had gravitated to before seemed eager to show the world that their people and land were blessed. They were eager to show the world what they could achieve with those blessings. The USA didn’t promise its people a free ride or an easy ride, it encouraged and allowed its people the FREEDOM to dream and work hard to fulfill those dreams. When the rest of the world saw those dreams being manifested, they wanted the FREEDOM to dream too. I was one small part of the world that flocked these shores. I wanted the opportunity to work hard and fulfill my dreams no matter my family’s name or means or past or lack thereof. I didn’t expect anything to be handed to me. I just wanted the opportunity to be all that I could be.
Today in the US, we have “evolved” into a country that is so eager to treat everyone “equally” – we are inadvertently depriving our children of that FREEDOM to dream and “prove themselves” by fulfilling their dreams; depriving them of the opportunity to be proud of what they’ve accomplished and therefore have self esteem. We seem to be content to rest on our laurels and perhaps talk about “our great country”. China and its people meanwhile have seen their lack of progress when everyone was “equal”. They are now in the mode of proving themselves and therefore they are (not that I agree with all the ways they go about it).
Our American forefathers have believed and fought and toiled for everything America was and is today. I pray we allow our children the privilege of continuing that legacy of dreaming and competing for gold; the privilege of keeping this THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE.