With the world drifting apart, especially in America, what it it means to be an American is being asked more than ever. When you ask anyone in this country what it means to be an American, the answer will vary depending on who it is you’re asking. For my mother, who was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, she would say being here in America saved her life.
Immigrating to America at just 13 years old, my mother Maulene, had no idea that her life would be completely different than what she had known in Jamaica. As the eldest child in the rural area where she lived, she had to help take care of her younger siblings as well as help my grandmother cook and clean. Some of her daily tasks consisted of taking care of animals on a farm so she and her family could eat, as well as, washing everyone’s clothes in a nearby river. When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe that that was her way of living. I thought that there would have at least been some type of technology advancement before her departure; however she assured me that there wasn’t.
Recently, I have started to have these conversations with my mom about her life before she immigrated to America more frequently. Out of all the answers she gave to my many questions, there were a couple that stood out to me the most. When I asked her is if she would ever return to Jamaica her answer was no. She stated that she would never go back because the way of life here in America has forever changed her. When elaborating, she said that she is used to having freedoms that she never had in Jamaica, along with simple things like washing machines and a car. However, when asked the question “Do you think Jamaica is better than America?” her response was “in some ways”. She felt that life was much simpler there but way more limited. She went on to say, “All you had to worry about was what your next meal would be, unlike here where a majority of us worry about things with no real importance”.
On another note, when asking an individual that has lived in America their entire life those same questions, your answer will differ significantly depending on their age. For example, a younger person who grew up here may feel as though the state of this nation is declining with all of the current political tension, debates about gun control and planned parenthood in conjunction with nuclear war. As young Americans we have to constantly fight and demand our voices be heard on these types of topics when in reality we should be included because we are usually those affected the most. For instance, in March there was a rally led by young people called “March For Our Lives” that gained attention and support nationwide, to bring attention to our current gun control laws and how it’s hurting us more than protecting us. Those opinions, however, would change when asking someone apart of an older generation. Oftentimes they feel as though being an American is very prideful and that it’s the highest honor that one can have. This may be because at the time of them growing up violence and war crimes were not as frequent and “close to home” the way they are today. Along with older generations seeing what their lives could have been like if they weren’t an American citizen.
For America to live up to it’s creed, all of the generations would have to realize that the older generations have lived in situations that they might not be able to understand. However, the younger generation will have to be able to sympathize with and understand that times were very different back then. The younger generations have to learn that they have not lived in the other ones shoes to know why they have a undenyable pride towards America. Many of the older generation moved here for a better life, which is why they have such great pride in America. However, the older generations have to realize that the world is progressing and advancing, which leads to reasons why the younger generations do not have the same pride as they do.