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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

I'm Proud to be an American, but...

The Fourth of July holiday is upon us.

It may seem strange that I, a Mennonite, am talking about this. After all, Mennonites are not well known for being particularly patriotic. We think of ourselves as citizens in God's Kingdom first, and don't share much of the standard patriotic flag-waving as many others in our country. Additionally, I now live in another country that obviously doesn’t celebrate our national holiday. There are some reflections I would like to share, however.

First of all, I am thankful that I was born in the United States. I hate when people say they were blessed to be American, because that signifies that people in other countries were not blessed or are somehow less favored by God. I can’t understand the reason, but I happened to be born in a place where I have relatively little to fear in terms of violence or political unrest. I had an impoverished childhood, but my parents were never forced to flee for their lives, and I always had enough food to eat. I recognize that this can’t necessarily be said for every American family, but on the whole, we are a fortunate and prosperous people.

But when it comes to topics such as immigration, we forget. For example, how many Americans realize that it was our foreign policy in Latin America during the 1980s and up until the present that are largely responsible for the conditions that have caused so many thousands of Central Americans to flee their home countries and seek refuge in the land that is responsible for their suffering? This part of the story isn’t often told in the news or by politicians. Rather, we focus on a symptom of a problem, rather than investigating its root causes. Consider for example the following articles:

And then we complain when the people we helped displace seek refuge at our border. I love my country for its freedom and prosperity, but that same freedom ought to be extended to everyone.

In Europe we experience many of the same issues, with people fleeing former French colonies being unwelcome by the very country that is responsible for many of their problems. My friends, we need to accept responsibility for our actions.

We have blood on our hands, America. No amount of patriotic flag-waving can wash it away. We’re faced with a choice: Welcome those that we harmed or pretend we have no responsibility for their suffering. There is no middle ground.

I’ll leave you with the poem that appears on the statue of liberty, a beacon of welcome and freedom for immigrants for more than a century:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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