Updated: Mar 26
Dear Asian Youth,
All of us have a story of America, here’s mine:
I grew up proud to be an American. A strange sentiment in this day in age. I seem to stand alone in that—at least with those whom I share my ideals. It’s not that my family is overly
nationalistic—or really nationalistic at all. Rather, we chose to be grateful; which to me, is the most patriotic thing you can do.
I grew up hearing stories of before. Before the fateful day when American soldiers arrived on Philippine shores. Before a poor Filipino boy with nothing more than $3 to his name was
recruited into the U.S. Navy. Before the boy was absent from his own son’s birth, fighting for a country he wasn’t even born into. Before the boy had his U.S. citizenship.
This led me to believe that America was Heaven. I was inspired by the chance of opportunity. The circumstances you were born with were not the ones you had to die with. Here you could make a name and a life for yourself. Here an immigrant boy could turn $3 into 3 children, all of whom would graduate from college. And only in America, could that so readily happen.
But I grew up, and the stories lost the magic that children hold. I saw America for what it was at the tangible level and the palpable beauty of freedom faded. I saw fellow citizens serving as bulwarks to liberty. I saw the influential turning a blind eye to injustice. I saw neighbors choosing opportunities for some but not for all. And I don’t care who you are, you see it too.
Because of this so many of my peers outwardly say, “I hate it here.” But to me, I find that just as ignorant as those who denied my statement previous. The grass is always greener on the other side.
But what do I know? I’m the product of the American dream. I’m not the one who worked hard and sacrificed everything. I’m simply the one who eats the fruit. The whole narrative of someone working hard and sacrificing everything so that their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren could have a better life—it’s true. Here I am living the better life. And for that—I am grateful.
The American dream is fresh in the minds of my family. I was raised with the mindset to work hard and be thankful for the sacrifices my family made before me. So, it’s easy for me to say I don’t hate it here. In fact, I really like it here.
But just like the stories of before lost the magic as I grew up, the feeling my family had when they reached the American dream will die as time goes on. How do I explain to my
grandchildren that their great great grandparents once lived halfway across the globe dirt poor?
At what point do we simply no longer understand history? How long does a bee sting hurt when you’re not allergic?
When history loses its relevance with Americans, America loses its relevance in American lives. As hard as we try, Americans will never understand freedom the way their immigrant and BIPOC brothers and sisters will. It’s why so many of my peers say they hate it here. Explaining freedom to an American feels hopeless. But, that isn’t America. Because the difference between America and Americans is that America has hope—hope that promises liberty and justice for all.
And while this certainly isn’t the America I grew up believing in, today we have hope in ways we didn’t yesterday. So I beg of you, don’t give up the fight. It may not be as poetic as what makes the headlines, but remember the power of the mundane. Because your children notice the food on the table and your third job. But if nothing else, may you remember me as a testimony—the American dream has a beating heart.
Because here I am, living in the after, writing my own stories and actively calling for change, so to bring back the America I so dearly loved as a child.
And I’ve changed my mind. To be grateful is the second most patriotic thing you can do. To
create an America your children are proud to grow up in, would be the first.
Hello! So I am terribly nervous to share this because I understand that I come from a place of privilege and hold views very different from my peers. However, I felt that it was important for me to help my peers better understand why it is we call for change. Because despite adversity, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Cover Photo Source: Overlook Graphics