This Land was Made for You and Me

by: Blaine Skrainka

July 4, 2012

Fourth of July photo, the Wild Mag

Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave. The American Dream. These are ideas that are committed to heart as a kid growing up in the States, and tossed around with patriotic impunity — treacherous it is to dissent from the sentiment. With increasing income inequality and declining social mobility, is it so disingenuous to question whether these ideals are fading? With lack of comprehensive health care and access to a quality education, how can one really be free to be a dynamic citizen in the so-called meritocratic society?

No matter. That is an ongoing question to be explored and debated. Today, we celebrate what is truly great about this nation. For me, the freedom of speech to ask that very question, and call-out the authorities for their shortcomings should never be taken for granted. It is difficult to really grasp, as an American, that people today in 2012 are still locked up — even tortured and murdered — for speaking out against their own government; but, it happens, every day, all around the world. Democratic social movements and protests here in the U.S., whether you agree with their political stance or not, should be celebrated, not decried.  

On the Fourth of July, there will be an unavoidable influx of cheers that Freedom Isn’t Free, and, to Support Our Troops. These words need to mean something beyond a social media status update or a toast over cold Budweisers. Supporting our troops means carefully respecting their sacrifice, not patronizing their uniform. Supporting our troops means understanding that according to the BLS, the unemployment rate for veterans who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, or both, was 11.6 percent in 2011. For young male veterans in the same category, the numbers are even worse: 29.1 percent. Supporting our troops means recognizing the ugly reality that 1 percent of men in the military, and a staggering 20 percent of active-duty female soldiers were sexually assaulted within their own ranks in 2011. Supporting our troops means facing the fact the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has led to more troop deaths last year by way of suicide than were killed on the battlefield. Supporting our troops means finding solutions to these unacceptable circumstances, and electing politicians who are both willing to do so, and who are judicious about sending our men and women in uniform off to the other-side-of-the-world in the first place. 

Today, especially as the immigration debate heats up, there is an increasing sense of tribalism. Groups are too often becoming closed-off and ideas homogenized. The United States of America was built through adversity and diversity. I live in New York City, the most eclectic place one could possibly imagine. Millions of people from different ethnic and religious groups, coexisting side-by-side in a bustling metropolis. I write for The WILD Magazine, where nearly our entire editorial team is foreign-born, but came to the States chasing a dream. To me, nothing could be more quintessentially American. Nationalism is not patriotism. Remember what made this nation great in the first place, and never stop asking it to be a better place tomorrow. Happy Fourth of July.

Ellis Island, The WILD Magazine

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