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[July 4th] -- Happy 4th of July.

What a special day this is. It is a spectacular reminder of the freedom and independence that we Americans take for granted. I grew up in the Middle East, a place where words like freedom and independence have no meaning. Hate. Now, there's a word that everyone understood there. I was told to hate Jews, but no one told me why. I was told to hate Sunni's, but no one told me why. Some Jews hated me, but I had never done anything to them. Or to the Sunni's, but they hated me too. Some said my neighbors were too Muslim, some said they weren't Muslim enough. To be liked, we had to dress in a certain way, talk in a certain way, and profess to views publicly that we eschewed privately.

Although I will never forget were I came from, I consider myself an American. Not an Arab-American, just a plain old American. I have had the opportunity to live in more than two dozen countries over the years, and have visited another thirty. Each country has it's own uniqueness that makes it special, but I saw no country as great as America. Certainly, we disagree, we fight, we yell, we scream, we even tell on each other. Just like brothers and sisters. In America, Democrats and Republicans argue. In some countries where I have lived, the opposing parties killed each other. I am a conservative, and a religious conservative at that. I giggle at those on the left who call me a "Neanderthal," because thirty years ago, I was on their side; I was one of them. In America, you end up being many different people during you life, you change and adapt, you discard things about you that you dislike and incorporate things that make you feel more comfortable. Americans believe that this ability to change yourself at any time is part of what makes us so great. Where I grew up, you died the person you were born as, your beliefs, your pocket book, your home all remained stagnant and unchanging. America doesn't understand words like "caste," words that force human beings to live a life that was preordained for them. In America, your success, or failure, is entirely up to you.

To appreciate this great country, you have to experience the rest of the world. I have had that opportunity multiple times over the years. One of my most prized possessions is my Naturalization Certificate. That little piece of paper changed my life. I was no longer scared, I was no longer hungry, and I was no longer unimportant to my government.

Happy 4th of July.

Thank you for your wonderful commentary about being an American, as opposed to being a "hyphenated" American, and your appreciation of the freedoms and civility that we enjoy and which too many of us take for granted here in the U.S. I could not agree with you more on these points. It's great that we have this day set aside every year to remind ourselves of how fortunate we all are to live here. Happy 4th of July!


P.S. I also grew up in Falls Church (near the intersection of Lee Highway and West Street, by the King David Memorial Garden cemetary, if you remember where that is).
Well said! That's truly what America is and ought to be about.
Good for you, Farid, although I can't understand why you became conservative. You sound like you have an open mind about things. My experience is that open minded people tend to be liberal and progressive. Think about it - and thanks for the interesting blog! I wish more U.S. citizens would take an active interest in their country and politics. A huge number don't even bother to vote. Dana
Dana, we see what we want to see. My experience is that open minded people tend to be conservative and religious. Am I right? Are you right? Is anyone right? I don't know. But it's great that we can respect each other's views without shooting at one another. :)
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