My Parents May Not Be American Born, But News Flash, I Am An American

My Parents May Not Be American-Born, But News Flash, I Am An American

I am just as American as all of you.

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I am an American. I am just as American as all of you.

I was born on July 8th, 1996 in New York City, to a mother and father of Pakistani origins. From an early age, I was immersed in the culture of what it meant to be a citizen of the U.S. My parents, both witness to the atrocities committed during the 1971 war between Pakistan and Bangladesh, moved to the United States in 1994 to pursue a better life as practicing physicians (mom as a pediatrician and eventual neonatologist at North Shore- LIJ Medical Center, dad as an Anesthesiologist at Stony Brook University Hospital). When they first arrived here, they struggled to learn the nuances of English and navigate the cultural landscape that was New York. As time wore on, however, they secured their places as respected doctors who served a higher purpose, and I looked to them (and still do) as the role models I aspired to surpass in my future.

I was happy enough to grow under the care of a wonderful family and played with children from a multitude of backgrounds without regard for where they came from. In our naivete, we believed that we were all equal as any other Americans and that nothing could change that. I learned about the values of Islam at the behest of my mother and father and revealed in the kindness and respect for all humanity that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) preached to all people, which I thought was exemplified by the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. I loved (and still do love) the idea of a nation of immigrants coming together to pursue a better life for themselves and their families, and I took great pride in being a citizen of a country that was founded upon the basis of religious freedom and liberty for all, regardless of race, class or creed.

That fanciful vision came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. I was 5 years old when the Twin Towers fell, on a day that would forever alter the lives of Muslim Americans throughout the country. Suddenly I was scrutinized as a potential threat, subtly watched as if to ascertain whether or not I was one of the "good ones"–a euphemism reeking with disrespect towards my culture and heritage as a Pakistani American, as if my background was considered undesirable by American society. I still remember my parents sitting me down one day and telling me to be careful when walking down the street, to make sure that my phone had decent battery life at all times so that I could call when necessary, to come home as soon as possible before dark. I didn't know back then that these were warnings of a time to come; I had no concept of being anything less than an authentic American. Why then, I wondered, were my parents so concerned for me?

It didn't take long for me notice the changes-- where parents of kids I played with once opened me with open arms and made conversation with me as much as any other adolescent, they now picked up their kids from the park without deigning to acknowledge me, and even kids I used to play with originally now avoided me. As I grew older, I learned to accept this loneliness with indifference-- I had to learn how to be comfortable with myself. So many times throughout my teenage years, I felt torn between two worlds, between my identity as the son of Pakistani immigrants and my American citizenship. As images of Muslims and Islam pervaded Fox News and CNN as nothing but harbingers of death and destruction, I felt the tension in my chest tightening as I struggled with what I was and who I was meant to be–was I truly a Muslim-American, or an entity without an identity?

Could such a thing exist?

I was fortunate enough to have those thoughts quelled when I moved to Suffolk County on Long Island, NY, and interact with other Muslim kids at the famed Selden Masjid, the site of my spiritual reawakening. Interacting with others who knew my story and felt my pain as we worked together to bring good to our local community through acts of charity helped me to remember that Islam and America were intertwined in value–that the same love and compassion that my faith preached to all peoples was the same right guaranteed to all under the U.S. flag.

I learned to love my identity as a Muslim-American again, and my experiences at Stony Brook University as a member (and eventual E-Board member as Co-Head of Community Service) of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) showed me how important diversity within a body of people was-- the efforts consistently being made by interfaith leaders throughout campus to support the Seawolf community (inclusive of all backgrounds and faiths) and the wider Long Island/NY area through community service such as the MSA's annual Midnight Run demonstrated the power of working together for a common cause for all people.

As I consider the present era, with a President who now feels that the concept of birthright citizenship should not apply to all Americans, I cannot help but feel anger coursing through my veins that a man whose responsibility it is to stand for the rights for Americans worldwide would deem it prudent to strip citizens of his own country from their birthright. I cannot help but feel rage that an American administration led by a would-be tyrant could even begin to consider the idea that some of us are not as American as we seem, based on the color of our skin, the faith we practice, or the background that we possess. This is not what I stand for-- this is not what the Founding Fathers of this great nation fought and died for, and this is an insult to the memory of every man, woman, and child who gave their lives efforts in the service of this country, no matter their origins.

This is a clarion call to the down-trodden, to minorities of all distinctions, to those who have had their identities questioned in the spirit of this country–I stand alongside you. I stand for you. I stand for all citizens of this country.

I am an American. We are all Americans. And we will not let you take that from us.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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American Or Christian?

Can you really be both?

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This is a thought that has lingered in my mind for a very long time.

Personally, I hate news and politics. It's depressing and it seems like both parties (and people in general) just don't get it. Political conversation gets on my ever-loving nerves and literally gets me down in the dumps for the day.

I just simply don't watch it anymore. There is too much negativity.

That doesn't mean that I am uniformed. I am not advocating for ignorance or anything like that. I prefer to read and figure out my information from sites "in the middle."

As I was eating dinner with my wife the other day we started talking about the new Abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia. As a Christ-follower and a staunch defender of Biblical inerrant, I detest abortion.

Before you read any farther, you must understand something: This article is not about my defense of my beliefs regarding hot topics like abortion or homosexuality. I do not have the time to write about said topics now. I am just asking you to accept what I believe for the sake of the article.

But, anyway, these abortion bills. I can make a pretty good case that they are Constitutional because they are protecting the Life (one of the Rights given to American Citizens) from others. Yes, I know the arguments against said point but continue with me please.

This led our conversation to talk about Homosexual marriage, something that I am against as well. And not just because of Leviticus but because of the New Testament as well.

But, shaking my head, I said something that my wife seemed to agree with:

"As a Christian, I know it's wrong and I cannot agree with it. As an American, I see no reason why it should be illegal. Unless your choices infringe someone's Rights, you should be free to do what you wish (technically speaking)."

This is my dilemma. Well, actually it's not a dilemma. I know that I am a Christian before I am an American. I love this country greatly, and I know how blessed I am to be born here. For all the hate this country gets (and some of it is deserved) and all the problems we have (and we have a lot), we are shoulders above other countries in many ways. I am so thankful for all the men and women who have served to protect me and keep me safe. I'm thankful for a lot of things. And I am proud to be an American.

But my identity in Christ comes first. This is why I do not get into politics much. I don't really care at the end of the day. Because while America has been blessed, we still have work to do here. And this is not my forever home. This is not where I will spend eternity.

I try and respect everyone's opinions, and I earnestly try to love everyone, even when they trash and disrespect my beliefs and convictions. But I must put my call to Christ about anything that has to do with this nation. I will pray for ALL our leaders because I was told to do so (I prayed for President Obama when he was in office). And I will be here to support this nation. But I cannot put it above Christ's commands.

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