American Privilege

Traveling around the world has given perspective on what it is like to be American and how fortunate we are to be an American citizen.

When I was younger, I really did not know about the world around me. I thought the United States was the only place that existed. If I knew about another country it really was not something I cared about. Maybe this was because, I was in the 1st grade or maybe it is because we are not taught much about the world. My Dad said, “It wasn't until I traveled among the world that I saw how different it was. Traveling around the world opened up my eyes to the world around me.” When I was going into the 2nd grade my family moved to Moscow, Russia. When in Russia, I spent my first year in a British school. The next three years I went to an Anglo American National School. In those four years, I traveled all over the world and nothing was like the United States. Living overseas opened my eyes to all the unique places around me.

When I traveled the world, I saw and was taught new things through what I experienced and learned in school. I also learned from the kids I went to school with and the people we interacted with. The first place I traveled was Dubia Arabic Nations. Preparing for the trip was interesting because my father was not traveling with us. My mom had to secure a legal letter in advance, from my Dad, to bring me and my sisters into the country. When we got to Dubia, I remember my taxi driver saying it was not safe to be there without a man. We stayed at our hotel for most of our trip. One night we decided to go to a world market in Dubai. My Mom dressed us in shorts and tank tops, it was hot right. When we got there all women were dressed from head to toe in black long gowns with a hijab that only allowed the eyes to show. A lot of the women and girls came up to us to feel our hair, they had never seen anything like it. My sisters are blondes and I am a redhead. The way women are treated in Dubai is very different than in the United States. Men can have more than one wife.

When I was in Russia, it took a lot to get use to the differences. I am not sure I ever really adjusted. An example is when you are walking down the street, Russians will not make eye contact with you. They don’t care to greet or have trust in people they do not know. Our driver Alexi, once said “Russians are like onions, the more you peel the sweeter they get. They don’t just trust people till they know them.” Most Russian’s are like this because of the miss treatment they received throughout their history. It wasn’t till the Soviet Union demise (falling of the wall) that Russians were free (so the government said) to leave their country.

When my Mom first arrived she ran into street kids who were begging for money. She gave a young girl Russian money. Alexi said, “You should never provide money to these children. They are part of large gangs and if they do not bring home the same amount of money the next day they will be punished severely.” One of my Mom’s employees was traveling home to St Petersburg on a train and was killed by a suicide bomber. She had to have a call tree to account for her employees given the terrorist bombings in the subway and airports that happened regularly. Russian’s were always looking over their back and did not know who to trust.

In Russia the government has control over the people and the banks. Sometimes when we would say something about the government over technology we would be censored and our communication would be disconnected. When living in our gated expat community our houses were bugged because we lived in a community of foreign diplomats, company executives and wealthy Russians. Many Russians were not like Americans, my Dad’s workout partner was a former KGB and head of the communities security. He told my Dad that if he ever had any problems he would eliminate the issue. Once you built trust with Russians they meant well and would look out for you.

As you can tell by these examples I have first hand experience of what it is like living and traveling outside of America. Being an American is a privilege that many Americans do not understand or feel. Americans have the right to free speech, in Russia they do not,as they are always being listened to by the government. We have the freedom of religion, in Dubai the only religion that was practiced was Islam. Americans have rights to protect equality, women are not as far advanced in equal rights in many places of the world. In our country men cannot legally take on more than one wife while in Dubai it is the norm. In America we have the amendments to protect our rights and the freedom to practice them. All Americans have a basic right to foundation needs including healthcare, food and shelter. It is truly a privilege to be apart of the American Creed and have the right to liberty, equality and individualism! 

Royal Oak High School

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