Happy Birthday to the Land of My People
As my family is preparing to leave for our trip to visit Bosnia and since today was America’s birthday, I reflected on the things that make a person love one’s country. Many refugees and immigrants are torn between loving their new home and wanting their old life (which no longer exists) in their birth country back. There are some who never knew peaceful living, and their new home gives them comfort and security, and they fiercely love their new country, never wanting to go back to where they were born, as they have no happy memories connecting them to their birthplace.
Leaving one’s country is something that throughout the human history occurred as tribes faced with drought, earthquakes, other natural disasters and wars left their native lands in search for a better life elsewhere. History calls it migration, now we call it immigration, as we develop borders that are closed for most and harder to cross. Immigration itself is closely related to our innate instinct for survival. As we evolved and our higher-selves started to focus on needs other than survival skills, we stayed connected with the lands that still own our childhoods and memories (happy ones). Our survival instinct comes first, and as we take care of our basic needs and as we start searching for the meaning of our existence, we look upon our new homelands and ask if we are happy and if we feel that we belong.
America has given me so much. I went to college here, I started my first job here, made friends here and grew as a person here. America gave me opportunities that I did not have; it allowed me to explore and learn and make a life for myself. I had my children here. I’ve lived for the past 18 years of my life here, which is to say, I spent half of my life in America. I am about to become an American citizen, this final step of adopting my new country. I also love Bosnia, the country that gave me my happy childhood, my character and culture that I carry with me. It is always a part of me, regardless of how much time I spend away. I have a family there; it tethers me to itself with its beauty and resilience. It also saddens me, as the corrupt minority is exploiting the country, as the system remains deeply divided through nationalistic boundary lines. It angers me that one of the biggest European genocides since the Holocaust is being denied by the half of the population, that victims of the bloody war from the nineties are being marginalized and pushed aside and that the veterans who fought to keep the country whole are being impoverished and humiliated.
America, this past year was difficult to love, but I do love it. I am torn between my allegiance to the great country of immigrants and freedom, to being outspoken against the part of it that showed hatred. I am saddened by the marginalization of religions other than Christianity, and I hope my children keep growing up in the country that has long prided itself on having religious freedoms for all and where generations of prosecuted and sidelined immigrants found their safe-haven.
This year I wish upon America some sense and some strength, to overcome the divisions that have been planted in its heart. I wish it resilience, to keep fighting for justice, to do what is right, and to always protect freedom for everyone.
As an immigrant my birth culture lives inside of me, it will always be my grounding place, my struggle and my peace of mind and I am fortunate that I will always know where I came from. Being American for me is to be different and outspoken and loud and free to do what I want to do, to love whom I choose and to believe in what I want. This is the America I know, and this is what I will always fight for. I will teach my children to fight for it too. American culture is not one thing. It is not only to be Christian; it is not only about flying flags and barbecuing on the Fourth of July. America for me is everything, the land, its people, a mixture of textures and sounds and colors; it is my ability to call the community of different people my own. That is my church, so to speak.
Happy birthday America, the land of the free and the home of my people!