Thursday, November 11, 2010
Veteran's Day Inspired Thoughts
I got choked up this morning as I wrote my Facebook status, thanking those who have served and are serving our country. I always get teary when I think about how much I love my country. Whenever I hear "God Bless the USA" on the radio, I turn it up and sing at the top of my lungs, with my voice cracking toward the end. I love hearing our national anthem at races and ball games, and I always get choked up then too.
I think it started back when I spent some time in China. On my first trip home, I looked out the window as my plane descended over my hometown and I sang a few words of "God Bless the USA" to myself. I had never been outside of the US until then and going to China...well, it was an eye-opener. I read several books and blogs about it before I went, but nothing really prepared me for how different it was than anything I'd ever known.
When my friend Emily joined me there the following semester, we had a saying that kept us...sane. "It's not bad, it's just different." This was always the comic relief when things made no sense or when we'd simply had enough.
I loved my time spent in China, but when I returned to the US to stay, I was glad to be home. Ever since, I have been extremely grateful to live in this country. Sure, our government is a complicated mess and I don't always agree with decisions that are made. But all it takes is pulling up the latest news on other countries to show me that our government isn't half bad.
I value peace and I value freedom. A lot. I love that I can wear what I want, buy what I want, work outside the home, own property. There was a time in this country when women could not, and it is still that way in others around the world. I can marry who I want, I can choose my major in college. I can go from having nothing to having much, and there are laws in place to protect my property from others. Education is readily available, and I may not like what goes on in all school systems, and I may think our teachers should be paid a lot more, but my children can still go to school and get a good education. And if public education is not to my liking, I can choose to pay for a different one or homeschool.
Options. Do Americans even realize the options we have that so many other countries do not? My students in China did not even get to pick their college majors. They were assigned a major whether they liked it or not. Some of my students could hardly communicate with me in English and yet...that was their college major.
Freedom to choose. Freedom to decide. It is so easily taken for granted.
After spending almost a year in China, and even as I take my current National Security Policy course, I am often left with a feeling of overwhelming gratefulness that I, Jane, was born in this country. I am grateful that I can go about my daily life unafraid. I am grateful that as a woman, I am as free as a man. I can pursue athletics. It wasn't that long ago that women were not allowed to enter marathons because it was believed our uterus would fall out. I am grateful that I can run down the road, baring my ankles for all to see. In some countries women must cover themselves head to toe. I can vote. I can run for office, if I choose. I have a voice.
I know this is sort of stream-of-consciousness, but this is how this gratefulness comes to me. Bits and pieces at different times throughout each day. Driving to work on a clean, litter-free street. Wearing shorts. Voting at the polls. Making out a Christmas shopping list. Walking into a grocery store. Drinking clean water from the tap. Making travel plans. Owning a home. As I live out my freedoms each and every day, I recognize them for what they are.
My father-in-law and most of my grandparents served in the military. My grandparents are all gone now, but when they were alive, they had stories. Most were in the Air Force, with crazy stories from WWII. My father-in-law served in Vietnam. I also have several friends who serve now.
I am not a proponent of war, but I am a proponent of freedom. My thoughts on our current war situation are mixed, but I do know that freedom is worth fighting for, and I am so very grateful for the men and women who did the fighting, and for this great country in which we live.
God bless America, land that I LOVE!