In the middle of all the summer time fun, I witnessed something I had never seen before. As my family celebrated the birth of America along side many others, I couldn't help put feel pride in being an American. But, there was a moment where time seemed to stop briefly and I felt something quite different than pride in my country.
My boys were standing in line with my husband and I. It was a hot day but everyone around the amusement park seemed upbeat and happy. Finally after waiting in the sun for what seemed like forever, we were moved into the painted area to wait for the next turn on the spinning contraption. Everyone was laughing and talking. My husband was talking to our sons about some video game so I kind of tuned out and watched the passengers who were about finished taking their turn. Slowly the ride began to stop turning. Little by little the spinning wheel lowered itself to the ground and I got my first glimpse of the happy riders.
This time, although they were laughing and obviously exhilarated, I didn't understand a word any of them were saying. I didn't understand because I didn't speak Arabic. It was a group of about 12 young men probably in their late teens or early twenties. One of the boys who were laughing the hardest reminded me of an exchange student we had come and stay with us so I turned to tell my husband. That is when I realised that things had gotten much quieter. Men in line who were laughing just moments earlier were now glaring at those young men. A few teenage girls were pointing and whispering. It wasn't everyone, but there were enough people acting this way that is was making me uncomfortable. And then, just as I was telling myself that I must be wrong, I heard a boy yell out the word OSAMA.
I have never felt the way I felt as that word rang out. I felt that warm rush that comes over a person right before they begin to cry. I know it sound silly but I felt sick. I glanced back at the happy group now exiting the ride. If they heard or felt any of what I had, they didn't show it. I wonder if they are used to being treated this way or if maybe they didn't understand or notice the mood of the glaring crowd. All I know for sure is that when they passed by me, a few of them smiled at us. The one who looked familiar smiled at my boys. These guys smiled while the older man with the snake tattoo spit on the ground. It was appalling and horrifying. It was sad and inspiring. It was many things but do you know what it wasn't? It wasn't American. At least not the kind of Americans we all claim to be.
For all I know those young men were from Denver and were on a field trip where they could only speak Arabic all day. Maybe they were a group of exchange students. Perhaps those guys were laughing because they were talking about how dumb the guy with the snake tattoo was. Maybe they were everything our stereotype suggests. Maybe they were here illegally and maybe they were not but who the hell are any of us to determine that and then treat them according to our own negative stereotypes?! If I had to spend the day with that group of boys or the group of glaring people on my right, I would chose the happy fellows who don't speak any English. I would chose them every single time.
I am an American by birthright. I have a good man that loves me without question. I fail every single day but then I get up and try again. I am proud to be a work in progress. I believe I have a greater purpose in this life than I can even understand. I am also a Mormon woman who truly believes she is a daughter of God. I am a Mother and a sister, a daughter and a friend. I am all that and more; and even if I accomplish everything in this life that I have set out to accomplish, I will still have no right to judge or look down on anyone. Not a single person, most of all those whom I do not know. It is NOT my birthright to look down on others.
I have had a great summer so far. I have had an awesome 4th of July. Wearing a red, white and blue flag on my shirt doesn't automatically make me a good example of an American. Our founding fathers were inspired by our newly formed country and it's possibilities. They believed America was not only the home of the free and the brave, but a place where the free and the brave could become strong and good. So what has happen? When did we stop letting our founding fathers inspire us right back?
This last week I have seen and learned a few new things and I have reminded myself of a few things I already knew.
We are American by birthright. The kind of American we become is not automatic. It's our choice, so choose wisely.
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