Many thoughts circle my head during this 4th of July. I was called an American on national radio just last week and I can’t help but to ponder on the irony. This reminds me of the Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas, who recently came out as undocumented, asking the world “how do you define American?”
Last year I went to celebrate 4th of July at the world’s oldest rodeo in Prescott, Arizona. I wore a cowboy hat, danced to country music, disguised myself as another American, watched the rodeo show, and stood up to sing the National Anthem. My chin up high, my right hand above my heart, my eyes fixed on the beautiful waving flag. Singing the Anthem gave me a thrilling sensation of colliding excitement, pride, inhibition, and shame. I felt like an American, I was proud to be there, but I wasn’t one by law. Instead, I lived in the shadows of fear and uncertainty that accompany you when you are undocumented.
About a year before that, I was disguised in another crowd singing the National Anthem, wearing a cap and gown instead of a cowboy hat as I graduated from Arizona State University. On the stage in front of me, President Barack Obama. Conflicting emotions overtaking me. Feeling the excitement and pride of being there, finishing my degrees, graduating in the best country of the world. I was ready to take on new challenges and give my best to the land of opportunity. My heart was filled with hope by Obama’s inspiring speech. Yet, I was also saddened and ashamed, because in truth I knew I would not have the same opportunities as most other graduates in that stadium. I was not an American by law, although I felt proud to sing the Anthem, proud to be in this great country, proud to listen to the President’s speech.
So, as Jose Antonio Vargas posed the question,”How do you define American?” – to me, an American is someone who is not afraid to take risks in order to follow dreams and seek a better life. To me, an American is someone who is just, fair, and enables others to reach the best of their potential. So, I ask my self: Am I an American?. Does my heart raise to a patriotic beat? Isn’t my home the land of the brave and the free? Have I taken risks? Don’t I want to complete my education in order to help and enable others, to make this an even better place to live?
I am oppressed by laws that prevent me from accepting my doctoral program’s offer to be fully funded my first year. Instead, I have to raise funds on my own. On This month of July I am inspired by the courage Americans have always displayed in order to chase their dreams and become free of oppression. I challenge myself to double the funds raised so far for school in the fall. As I celebrate Independence Day, I become free. Free of doubts and fears as I know achieving my dream of an education is possible, despite of my legal status. I become free because Americans don’t doubt.
Can you help me double my fundraising effort to chase my dream by making a donation here http://www.gofundme.com/germansdream and sharing this with others?
Happy 4th of July to all, even those who are only American at heart!