I’m here to get WAASTED
June 21, 2008
Editor’s Note: Yesterday’s Salad is happy to welcome our newest contributor Dora Weatherbottom/Elsie Hartpence. As with all contributors, we will no doubt grow to love her only to see her disappear into the internet ether and wonder whither has she gone.
It was 2am. I couldn’t sleep. I was flipping between Cops and a Sex and the City rerun and suddenly I asked myself (in an SJP voice, obviously): what makes me an American?
And then I pondered…
On a recent semester in the south of Spain, I was forced to think about what it is exactly that defines me as an American. There was something that caused me to not want to set the record straight when I was labeled as an “Inglessa” or a “Sueca” by some unknowing Spaniard. During my time in Europe, I wasn’t particularly proud to be an American- it was tragic. I found myself looking the other way when I saw a group of particularly obnoxious (inebriated) Americanos stumbling out of a discotec, and immediately being on the defensive when others discussed the Iraq War in my international relations seminar. I constantly felt the need to justify myself, to show that I’m not a “dumb American” the second my nationality slipped out of my mouth. Although, I do admit, I did stare in fascination at the female compatriot I saw lurching about outside a bar, yelling into her cell phone, “DAAAAD, I’m not here to study, I’m here to get WAASTED.” It was a classy moment for our nation indeed.
There is so much that infuriates me about this country. I observe everything, from eating habits to traffic patterns, and find fault. I’m not proud of the United States right now, but I want to be. What makes me American is my belief in the United States, my belief not in the government, but in the people. I believe with all my heart that this country is ours for the taking.
As an American, I think I owe it to my country to work toward its betterment. We all do. Everyone here, everyone that believes Yesterday’s Salad to be completely accessible, has been greatly privileged- I’m willing to bet- in their education and place in society. We live in a country of incredible opportunity and incredible inequalities. Money, opportunity, education, and social status are so interconnected. We can’t deny that the families that we are born into greatly effect our paths in life and the opportunities we pursue. If my father didn’t have a post-graduate education, I probably wouldn’t think of getting a master’s degree as a logical step in my education.
We are all products of circumstance and our socio-economic classes have been ingrained in us since birth. As I think about it, what has really made me ashamed of my country is that I know that I have not received everything I’ve been given in life because of sheer intelligence or merit, but because of privilege. It’s an impossible cycle to break, I’m not looking for a perfect society, but I will try for a better one. We all must try. We all must make breaking the structured inequality in our privileged society our mission. If we don’t, what do we have? If we live our lives in isolation from the larger portion of our nation, what does our citizenship mean?
As a citizen of the United States, I own this problem. As a citizen of the United States, I feel shame because my country is not the true land of opportunity that we all blindly believe it to be. I believe in change and I believe in progress. I also believe in work: giving everything I have to something I care about. Citizenship begets feelings of responsibility. We own our country’s problems, and we have the resources to solve them.