As a child of first-generation immigrants, I don’t have a long personal history of American culture to offer me roots. My family hasn’t served in the US military and we still have strong ties to family in other countries. So why do I celebrate Independence Day?
When I think about what it would mean not to be an American, I think about what circumstances might have affected my parents’ decision to settle here.
India won its own independence from the British within my father’s lifetime. It’s not a far stretch to imagine how that event may never have occurred without the American colonies winning their independence first.
Imagine a Different World
So if neither independence event occurred, my author’s mind can invent new events within the realm of possibility. First, our family would have never migrated from modern-day Pakistan (Hyderabad), where they owned successful businesses and lived in fine mansions.
It stands to logic that we would have stayed there. You don’t go looking for new opportunities when life is great where you are, right? I probably would have gotten married young, and likely without much of an education, as is the tradition there. Even now in my family, my parents and their siblings don’t place a particularly high value on education. After all, many of my older female cousins didn’t finish college—if they attended at all—or didn’t get degrees under their parents’ watch. How different would the circumstances have been in a no-Partition Indian subcontinent?
Who am I?
Raised in such an environment, I wonder what kind of person I would have been. What would that woman’s dreams and wishes be? What would her family have looked like? Would she speak English fluently? Worse, imagine if she didn’t love to read? Would she ever write a book? Or would her dreams have been limited? Imagine never reading great American literature: suddenly there’s no Mark Twain or Louisa May Alcott. No Ray Bradbury or Maya Angelou, no Hemingway or Emily Dickinson … Imagine not ever knowing the American dream or the long American fight for equality?
In fact, in the world I’ve described, where American independence never occurred, would there have been an American fight for equality at all? Would Martin Luther King have ever had a dream? Could we have gone to the moon? Would a true republic or democracy exist anywhere in the world without the great American experiment?
It’s scary to envision a world so different from the one we know. I feel so blessed to live in the United States, in a country where I have a voice, an education, and dreams of my own, all framed by the circumstances of where I was born and where I grew up.
So that, my friends, is why I celebrate Independence Day! Have a safe and happy 4th of July!