Asking an incoming freshman what their dorm theme is, is like asking someone what their favorite ice cream flavor is. You are guaranteed at least a combination of different answers depending on the individual. Some use their favorite colors, others showcase their creative talents with their inspiration coming from Pinterest or Tumblr. But for someone with barely any artistic abilities, I chose an American theme.
Why? I love the United States. When I told a few friends before leaving for school about my USA theme, their responses were that I was "generic" and that my stars and bars were offensive. I not only wondered why, but more importantly, I wondered, "How?" I thought to myself, "Am I not allowed to love my own country? Is it truly offensive to display American flag memorabilia? And if it is, how would you be able to distinguish that between patriotism and arrogance?"
To set a few things straight, this country is the farthest thing from perfection. I cannot ignore the many injustices and atrocities that Americans and our citizens have encountered throughout our history--from Columbus' brutal treatment of the Native Americans all the way up to the recent attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia. I know that the flag I choose to hang on my wall has history of brutal bloodshed, battle victories, and civil injustices. And trust me, America never will be perfect. That isn't the goal; hanging my flag is not obnoxiously reminding people of these daily horrors. Rather, the goal for a better America is not to be perfect but rather to be a "land of the free"-- to work together with all people from diverse religions, ethnicities, socio-economic status, and cultures, to rid the world of evident racism, white supremacy, and bigotry, and to unite as one to combat acts of terror and violence.
America is NOT Donald Trump. We wear freedom, not blonde toupees. America is NOT Charlottesville. American is NOT the Ku Klux Klan. We do not wear white hoods of racism and bigotry.
America IS Walt Disney. America is creators. America IS Albert Einstein. America is innovators. America is soldiers. America IS Alexander Hamilton. America is immigrants. America IS Eleanor Roosevelt. America is powerful women and men working together.
Whenever I think about what the United States represented to people in the past, I think of my Italian ancestors who immigrated to the United States a couple of generations ago. Their eyes awed at the sight of Ellis Island as they finally completed their strenuous journey across the Atlantic, and their hearts yearned for a new life according to the mirage of the "American dream". To them, America was more than the Red Scare which immersed their new culture in fear.
I think of the families who suffer civil injustices in Syria, who distract themselves from the bomb sirens with the thought of being saved or for a better life in America. My flag is a symbol of hope--not hate--for you.
I think of the armed men and women who sacrifice themselves every single day for the sole purpose of service. To them, I owe the utmost respect and honor; because without them, I could not imagine what kind of life I would have. To all those who serve or have served, and to my friends who will one day serve in the Navy and Merchant Marines, my American flag hangs high in my dorm because of you.
I think of the admirable efforts women have made within the past century. Women like Susan B. Anthony all the way up to Malala continue to fight for women's rights all across the globe. Together, we have truly made progress in a world that was once shut off to our opinions; a world where we were considered second class citizens. Now, we know what equality is like in this country when we marry the person we want, receive our college diploma at the university we chose, and plan the career we have always dreamed of.
However, these rights are not found throughout our global community. Women cannot drive in various parts of the Middle East, women are gang raped in sections of Africa and Asia, women are mercilessly mutilated, and women continue to be sold to much older men against their will. These acts of injustice should not be tolerated, regardless of whatever oppressive culture extols them. And I hope and pray that this generation, including myself, recognizes these injustices and helps to modify these outdated and brutal societies. My Rosie the Riveter "We Can Do It" poster is in my room because of you and the struggles we still face today.
I chose an American dorm theme not because I am intolerant or unaccepting of other nations and their cultures. My dorm is a land of the free, not a place to brag. I am not selfish because I love my country. I am not obnoxious if I hang an American flag. I am simply passionate about the values that my country was founded upon, the values Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson-as imperfect as they were as normal human beings-built this country on. From there, I can only hope we, as a country, work towards a greater community amidst the hate, terror, and injustice of our time.