Ukulele of Unity

Posted by Dan B. & Amanda J. Michigan

What does it mean to be American? Well, it takes more than one string to play a note, more than one fret to build a neck, and more than one person to be a band...

The United States of America was built on the idea of unity. Since the country was founded in 1776, Americans have helped each other to build the nation we stand on today. Different communities came together in order to secure victory for their ambition of creating an independent country which we now call America. We all celebrate this achievement every year on July 4th. Everyone, regardless of color or origin, go out and celebrate Independence Day by having picnics, barbecues and watching fireworks. On this special day, every American becomes one with their country to commemorate and remember the triumph of the Founding Fathers. The idea of independence soon grew and America became known as “The Land of the Free.” The United States, over the years, obtained an known identity throughout the world. For this very reason, millions of immigrants came to the States in order to live their own versions of the American Dream. In the 1800s, boats upon boats unloaded thousands of immigrants who later assimilated into American Society. In the beginning, all the different cultures stuck together because people love being around what is familiar. Eventually, however, these people started changing and adapting the world around them. Though their differences should have made their lives harder, they all had ambitions and they worked toward achieving them. That is the essence of being American. Despite the fact that different backgrounds might separate us from one another, similar values and beliefs will bring together a population in order to create a community. Even polar opposites, in one way or another, can be connected to some degree.

Music, in a way, is parallel to America. Music connects people regardless of the different backgrounds each person has. In addition to being a method of unifying people, music is also a way to showcase individuality. The American Dream encourages individuals to be different. Our ukulele represents this analogy effectively. The frets contain different images and symbols that symbolize various identities placed next to each other in order to emphasize the uniqueness of everyone. The body of the ukulele brings together two different individuals and connects them using various imagery. In America, especially today, the value of community is still alive but it is slowly being forgotten. People often focus on the divisions that separate each person from another and that leads to malice. Being different is something that has attracted controversial attention. Depending on the situation, it can either harm or benefit you. Cultural diversity is an issue that many people have different stances on. Due to disparities, people fail to see the reality: we are all connected. We all feel and experience the same things. During previous tragic events such as 9/11, everyone, both men and women, adults and children, felt fear and sorrow in their hearts. Everyone felt vulnerable but, in spite of that, several people volunteered to help those who were affected. They all helped and contributed in order to provide service to society. They came together as one in order to achieve a common goal.

Some might not be able to see it directly but that is completely normal. Why? Because we have lived our lives with it surrounding us. There are millions of communities in America, thousands of them in every state, and even hundreds of them surrounding you right now in your own city. Royal Oak is a perfect example. In various parts of the city, you can see the cultural influences of the people on everything around them. In downtown Royal Oak, one can enjoy a variety of spicy Mexican food. After eating their share of tacos and burritos, they could walk a few blocks to find a Mongolian place where they can get savory grilled food. There are several situations like this, not just in Royal Oak, but everywhere. We already live in a culturally diverse society that consists of dozens of cultures. Notwithstanding all the things that make us unique, we are all American. We breathe the same air and we walk on the same land. We also share the same name: American.

I feel like being American can mean many things, and I haven’t necessarily figured out what it means to myself yet. I believe that “being American” means that you have the freedom to decide what you want “being American” to mean. Maybe I’m not as patriotic as my neighbor down the street - so am I not fulfilling my role as an American? I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not the case. “American” is a vague term. Really, anything can be American. Sushi isn’t American, but I’m not less of an American if I eat it. America is where I call my home. It’s where I dwell, where I’ve made my friends, where I choose to learn, work and explore my hobbies. That makes me American, and anyone who dwells here or has friends here or works here or explores here is just as American as I am. Working with people like Dan Bercasio, people who weren’t born and raised here, isn’t so different from working with any other American, despite what some people may think. Despite his origins resting outside America’s borders, I can relate to Dan more than I can relate to half of the other white, American girls in my class. Working with Dan offers a new outlook on the same vague topic, and I think that’s important for trying to capture the nature of what “being an American” means. We’ve decided that being American most commonly means having the freedom to express and create a life around what you want to do and who you want to be. Not only that, but it means that, despite your differences, you can come from anywhere and connect to other people who live here who came from anywhere, no matter how different or similar you may be.

I personally don’t have a strong grasp of the meaning of being an American. As a result, I want to collaborate with Amanda Jones because we found a topic that connects both of our ideas. Our topic revolves around the idea that being American lies in community amidst diversity. We believe that, despite differing backgrounds, if people have similar values and beliefs, it is possible to be unified. Focusing on the things that unify us will enable us to avoid disagreements which often lead to malice. We aim to embody the idea that America can be parallel to music by painting various images that show that, regardless of disparities, people can find common ground.

America is a melting pot of races, sexes, morals, interests, ideas, sexualities, and so much more. No matter how different you may be from that kid who sits next to you in Math or the neighbor down the street, you all share the freedom to be whoever you want to be, and you all share the opportunity to connect and interact with each other as equals. Focusing on the differences that separate us and letting that stop us from connecting is like choosing to wear pot lids over your eyes instead of prescription lenses. Let us remind ourselves that being American means that we can all coexist peacefully and fulfill our own agendas alongside our neighbors for a thriving, productive, and just society. As the say, "Always remember that you are absolutely unique - just like everybody else." -Margaret Mead

Published on Jul 12, 2019
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