Like many other families across the country, my family gathers together for a weekend of going to the beach, barbecuing in the back yard and watching fireworks in honor of our nation's Independence Day. Unlike many other families, traditional Middle Eastern fare such as pita bread and stuffed grape leaves join the tables full of watermelon and hamburgers. Furthermore, the conversation that flows beneath the American fall hanging above on the porch switches back and forth between clearly accented English and Arabic.
Like so many other families in America, mine is made up of immigrants. Particularly as we gather together on a day created especially to celebrate our independence, I am reminded of the struggles my family overcame to come to America and how truly privileged we are to experience the freedom that we have. My mother came to America totally alone to pursue a higher education at an American university. She left behind everything she had ever known and everyone she lived in search of a better life. Not many years after she moved to the United States, her family began to experience religious persecution. In fear of their safety and the quality of their lives, my family fled their home for various countries, many of them seeking freedom in America.
Despite the concept that immigrants are somehow not true Americans, it is obvious to me that my family embodies and embraces the values that we hold true and celebrate as our own on the 4th of July. My family is filled with hardworking individuals. Many of my cousins, aunts and uncles were respected professionals in Egypt and had to restart their careers when they moved to America. They are incredibly patriotic; despite the fact that America is not their first home, they love it and respect it as their home now. Most importantly, my family truly values total freedom — not just freedom that allows them to live as they please, but freedom that is equal for everyone, including people who come from different races, socioeconomic backgrounds and religions.
Despite experiencing prejudice in their own country which could cause my family members to fear and hate another group of people, their hearts are filled with openness and love. They see America as a country that should stop all people from experiencing the trauma that they did. They see America cleanly and purely, without prejudice or selfish motives. Their brand of freedom is the freedom that our founding fathers imagined when they penned the Constitution. It is an all-encompassing freedom that includes people from all walks of life. A freedom that is equal and whole, a freedom that is worth being patriotic for.