I'm an American by choice. I was born in Karachi and took an oath to become a citizen when I was only a high school freshman. So when Independence Day rolls around, I'm more than a little excited. Sure, between some admittedly not-so-great imperialist moves; politicians arguing about "legitimate rape;" and a culture that incubates increasingly violent misogyny; I can see how it might be a little challenging for some to feel the patriotic vigor this 4th of July.
But for me, being critical of America doesn't make me love my country any less. Lest we forget, dissent and discussion are patriotic — they make up the very building blocks of our nation, after all. From the the sons and daughters of the Revolution to the first settlers out West, American history is filled with people who just said Screw it, we're going to carve our own path.
We're lucky enough to live in a land that not only supports change, but encourages it. Hell — it was even our president's main campaign platform.
Here's why, in my humble opinion, you should be proud to be American this July 4th. (Besides the fact that apathy sucks.)
AMERICAN LITERATURE HAS ALWAYS HAD A FEMINIST BENT
It's true. While their British counterparts were still panting and preening under parasols trying to land a rich husband, American literary heroines were waging their own revolutions, (and being created by men and women alike). Compare Hester Prynne's morality struggle in The Scarlet Letter (1850) or Milcah Martha Monroe's poem The Female Patriots. Address'd to the Daughters of Liberty in America, 1768 to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813). Of course we can't fault you for geeking out on Austen and Mr. Darcy, but American heroines were downright punk rock for their time.
Short stories like The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour spoke out about the ways society stifled and controlled women. And let's not forget American narratives of color are as old as the nation itself. The fact that Phillis Wheatley, a slave, could reach national notoriety for her poetic talents (and a nod from George Washington himself) speaks to America's love and appreciation for literary arts and talents.
Bonus fact: America's first best-selling novel was written by a woman: Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple tells the tale of vice and a young woman's downfall. It maintained the best-seller title until it was knocked out of the category by Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin , another example of trailblazing U.S. literature written by a woman.
There isn't an American around who doesn't love a good old BBQ. Whether you're just grilling some veggies or slow smoking delectable meats, it's hard not to appreciate this style of soulful cooking indigenous to the American South and loved the country over. The earliest mention of grilling goodness dates as far back as the late 1690s, when George Washington referenced attending a barbecue. Now if that isn't as American as apple pie or baseball, I don't know what is.
That's right — the adorable canning trend taking the world's Pinterest boards by storm originated in Philadelphia in 1858, invented by local tinsmith John Landis Mason. Really, no matter how much you dislike America, it's hard to dislike mason jars.
What's a mason jar if you don't have some bourbon sweet tea to put in it? While many parts of the world have their own takes on whiskey, the big B is purely American. The primarily corn-based spirit hails from Kentucky, and is aged in new barrels, (versus something like scotch where the barrels themselves have a few years on them). Fun fact: many scotch distilleries use the old bourbon barrels to age their whiskey; so even when you're sipping on a foreign spirit, you may just be sipping on a little bit of Kentucky, too.
OUr POP CULTURE influence
I remember being at an airport in Dubai a couple of years ago: The 20-something Emirati official behind the immigration counter was in full Arab cultural garb, (white gown and headdress), but when he glanced at my American passport, he busted out a How you doin' with perfect Joey Tribbiani swagger. Now that is the magic of American entertainment.
I've spent months at a time in a lot of weird and wonderful places — Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan — and I can tell you that a love of all things American showbiz prevails. (Friends really does come up a whole lot). People even risk their lives to express their love for American entertainments; like when Afghani barbers and clients were being arrested by the Taliban for copying Jack's 'do from Titanic.
WE Elected Obama
Despite our fraught racial history, Americans elected a black president with a Muslim name during the height of Islamophobia fervor. Americans may be a lot of things, but as a whole, we're way more inclusive than people give us credit for.
It's not uncommon to hear foreigners say that Americans have no culture. I think that's the point. Most of us are too busy disrupting conventions and constantly investing in the new to rigidly push back against change. Haters and traditionalists to the left.
Celebrate independence the next time you scoot around your office in your swivel chair (invented here), then raise a glass at happy hour to Thomas Jefferson, who invented the first excuse to drink before work ends in 1776.
Maybe that's why we love Shark Tank so much — it speaks to American innovation. So next time you hop in your car, (thanks Ford!) and speed through a drive through, (thanks 1948 In-N-Out!), or enjoy some cotton candy at the fair, (thanks 1897 Tennessee candy makers!), or wax nostalgic over a Delia*s catalog, (thanks Ben Franklin!), don't forget to salute the great nation that made it possible.
As Americans, we sort of have a lock on the whole kickass-empowered-lady-trailblazer thing. The phrase "girl power" can trace its origins back to an early '90s zine by Riot Grrrl band Bikini Kill, who hail from Olympia, Washington. While girl power quickly spread across the pond, going mainstream through the likes of the Spice Girls, the movement's roots are, in fact, wholly American. So go on and embrace your inner Pawnee Goddess, or don your best Hillary Clinton pantsuit, because it's totally the American way.
Happy Birthday, America. I think you're doing pretty alright.