It took me a bit to figure out “what being an American means.” In my day to day life, my heart is in the American Indian (Indigenous American) community. That does not take away from my heart belonging to Korea and the Korean diaspora as well. When I think about my work and love in the Indigenous American community, I can feel the meaning in my core. It is not something I question… However, when asked what does being an American mean I am almost baffled by it… I have a very strong belief in social justice and seeing all of us, Indigenous American or not, making healthier decisions for ourselves. That strong belief and desire for social justice is what being an American is today. America has flexed its military and economic strength, but now there needs to be another strength we can show the rest of the world and that’s our persistence in social justice.
But in that we are divided. What does social justice mean for everyone? My cousin calls abortion a holocaust while I call it a woman’s right to choose. She cannot be moved on this because of her religious convictions. If you are not against abortion you are for it… so even Joe Biden saying his Catholic faith cannot condone abortion but he will not limit a woman’s right to choose, is not enough for her. I could say it is religion that is dividing us, but I am a spiritual person myself. The problem seems to be when religion is NOT separated from our government. Our personal opinions and beliefs are thrown into a mess of other opinions and beliefs that someone is pandering to in order to get elected. Those pandering play on the emotions of the people, be they religious zealots or trolling liberals, the people’s emotions are invoked to get elected. Drawing up my cousin’s deep Catholic faith in a debate is going to wind her in. I have even done this… when I heard Barack Obama mention American Indians momentarily during his recent acceptance speech my heart fluttered and I beamed with pride that “my people” were acknowledged.
What does equality mean? It seems so easy for me, especially when we are talking about same sex marriage… everyone has a right to love and marry who they choose. Again, my cousin does not see this as an equality issue but rather one of heaven or hell. Same sex couples, to her, are going to hell and if we do not stop them we will join them in hell. Well, my response to her is God can judge us when we get to the gate but in this realm we all have the same rights and freedoms until then. Where I see this in “this world” what is right or wrong, my cousin is fixated on the next life and her chances of getting in.
This is not just an issue of Catholicism, religious zealots, or what have you, but her, and others like her, not separating religion convictions with public policy/government… So there we stand divided by our boundaries. How much of our religious beliefs do we allow to make the laws? Myself, and others like me, would say religion is out completely… but those like my cousin do not know how society can function without a book telling her how to be good.
My cousin and I are united as Americans though. We are united in that we both are very free to express our demands and challenges to authority. We both want to see people healthy and free. We both are anti-censorship, though for very different reason, but we both are given the right to express that. In my cousin’s heart and mine’s we both mean well. We want to see our country live up to the dream she says we all have (the American Dream). We both are struggling financially even though we are on different economic levels. We share the struggle but our beliefs in why there is a struggle right now varies… greatly.
The 2008 Financial Crisis impacted my family hard. My dad’s business went under and my parents lost their beautiful 5 bedroom 4 bathroom home. They moved a few miles down the road to a 3 bedroom apartment that at one point had 5 children and 4 adults living in it, (my mother’s friend and her 4 children were left homeless). I was still in school and had to take out more loans that I still have not been able to make a payment on. I am horribly in debt and have a poor credit rating because of how much I had to borrow from different resources to make it through school. Right now, I am in a job that I do enjoy, but am living pay check to pay check, and barely that. My family and I have gone months borrowing each other twenty dollars back and forth just to put enough gas in our tanks to get to work. Right now I’m living in a very unfurnished apartment and sleep on an air mattress bed until I can afford a “real mattress.” My car, my family members’ cars too, are always breaking down or fumbling somehow. It really is a “get by” lifestyle/mentality.
My greatest fear not finding a solution to this financial instability many of us are living on. My mother’s health is declining and has been since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 — she is cancer free now but has a lot of health complications. Her debt is astronomical because of her health on top of trying to raise her 4 year old granddaughter who has emotional behavior problems due to her parents abandoning and leaving her. This past election I had never been so scared about a presidential election. If Romney had won I do not know what would have happened to my mom and niece. The thought alone gets me anxious.
With Obama being reelected and seeing people support same sex marriage gave me hope that more people are opening their eyes or speaking up. I am still hoping we can progress as a people to do good for each other and ourselves. I do not know what the solutions are to what is going on as a nation. When something like Violence Against Women Act is threatened because “our politicians” cannot agree on the most basic concerns, there is something wrong with them. It appears that our politicians act more like gang members than they are leaders. Nothing can be agreed on or passed because one has to sabotage the other. Until bipartisan actually exists I do not know how a solution can happen. I hope “our leaders” can do a better job from here on out — past even 4 years. As an American I deserve better from my leaders. They owe it to our country to come together and work like they are voted to do. I do not want to worry about my mom’s debt and health, or keep putting my plans for having a family on hold because I cannot even afford a mattress for myself…
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