I remember when I met you America. It was July 4th, 1976. I was 8 years old and perched on my father’s shoulder. It was your 200th birthday and they were having a parade just for you. I remember the pride I felt as I waved your flag and watched the marching band go by. My father proudly placed his hand on his heart and tears welled up in his eyes as the flag, carried by a man in uniform, marched by. The crowd grew silent as a young girl sang your song for the brave men who fought for freedom. In that crowd, in a small town in Illinois, I felt the love, I felt the pride, I became an American.
I heard stories about you America. I sat in my classroom listening as my teacher told us the stories of you and the brave men who fought for you. They fought for what was right and what was true. You fought for the weak and the captured. I listened as my father, a veteran, told me stories of heroism that occurred in your name. He told me of the men and woman who gave up everything; their lives, their limbs, their futures, for you. You were always the good guy, the hero, the rescuer. You were honest, you were strong, and you always stood for what was right.
And I saw you America. I saw you in my neighbors as they helped those that needed it without a thought to their ethnicity. I saw you in my church as the plate was passed to help a family who could not feed their children. I saw you when the 9 people sworn to uphold your constitution gave rights to a group of people who just wanted to love who they wanted. I saw you over and over in history, fight for the unrepresented, the poor, the powerless. You were not perfect and you made mistakes. Even in those moments, you always would correct and end up on the right side of wrong. You apologized and mourned your mistakes.
Today America, I don’t recognize you at all. I watch you today and I cry. I cry for the families that you are ripping apart. I cry for the defenseless children that you are scaring. I cry for you my beloved America, for you are divided, you are misguided, you are wrong. And I cry for me, because today I am ashamed to be an American.