What It Means To Be An American: Compassion

The words on the base of the Statue of Liberty Say it all

When I was in college, I traveled a little across Europe and at that time, we were not well loved over there. For some reason I was never mistaken for an American — people always think I’m Swedish. I didn’t care, in fact I was happy to be mistaken for anything but American. I was not fond of my country- rather, I was confused about it, in part because we had recently gone through Watergate. But also we had not too long before that experienced the shooting of student activists at Ohio State, race riots after the MLK assasination, the Stonewall revolt, a post second-wave feminist backlash — -you name it. Granted, my perspective was as a young person with limited experience, but I wasn’t sure what it meant to be an American.

Now, I am more sure than I was in my youth, but I certainly do not feel on the same page with many of my fellow Americans. We are divided politically, racially, feministically (is that a word?); many still do not believe in a women’s right to choose, and many do not believe in gender difference. Many do not believe people of color have the same rights as white people.

We also cannot agree on immigration policy. It is repeated often that America is a melting pot, a country of immigrants. It is what makes us who we are. I just returned from visiting San Diego and loved seeing the diversity of that city; and I love the mixed bag of people that is my hometown of New York City.

We are welcoming to those in trouble, those who seek asylum. And I believe we should treat even those who cross illegally with compassion.

The president’s decision to call for mass raids by ICE of undocumented immigrants across our country is wrong. We are not about mass raids. We are about figuring out a solution to helping immigrants assimilate, helping those here illegally find solutions to becoming legal.

I hope and believe that we Americans are a people who treat others with kindness. At least we should try.

Perhaps some would call me naive; what I think I am is idealistic. And I am an American.

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Visual journalist/writer for New Yorker, New York Times, CBS News, CNN. TED, SXSW speaker. Looking to change world w humor. lizadonnelly.com

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