Thursday, August 19, 2004

Why I love the United States

I have lived in the US for about five years and am very critical about the government and this country's foreign policies. Some people wonder why I live here and tell me to "go back where I came from." My response: I criticize the government because America is not fulfilling its promises to its people and the world. It hurts me to see the ideals of this country & the hard work & sacrifice of many Americans go in the drain. I wear my patriotism in my heart, not on my sleeve.

In the United Arab Emirates (where I was born), political activism was not an avenue one could pursue. Unlike in the United States, I could not be critical of the government’s actions or the biased press coverage: you just accepted the status quo. This country opened up doors to me that had been previously closed for me. Through my grassroots work this summer, I have met several of Minnesota's elected leaders on our plan about Iraq: both Democrat & Republican & it continues to amaze me that these politicians set aside time to listen to constituents. They may disagree, but they devote that time to their citizens.

I met Congresswoman Betty McCollum on Monday - she has recently arrived from Iraq & talked about her experiences & perspective on the situation. She was exhausted from her trip, yet patiently listened to all those who raised their hands and asked her questions & made comments. She urged us to hold our elected officials & our President accountable because that's what a democracy is about. In the US & other Western democracies, people may take all this for granted. I have never lived in a dictatorship, but I know what it feels like not being able to freely express your opinion. I may not be a citizen yet, but I pay taxes and have the right to demand it be used appropriately. And I will.