The founding principles of the U.S. are lost in political rhetoric

Dyala Kasim

I was born on July fourth, 1996, the 220nd birthday of American independence. And though no one ever believed me when I told them that, I was always happy to share this birthday with my country. I remember looking up at the fireworks and feeling proud of my country, proud of everything that it stood for, proud to call myself an American.

But today, every time I turn on the news or read an article, I can’t help but cringe. We are in the middle of an election that I am desperately praying is a bad dream. People are being shot and being killed like it’s nothing. Others are the subject of so much hate and animosity simply because of the way they look, the people they love, the language they speak and the religion they practice. And I have to ask myself, time and time again, “Is this really America? Is this the true ‘land of the free?’”

When I think of America, I think of freedom. And yes, this may be the expected answer but take a moment to really think about it. In America, we can be whoever we want to, practice any religion we want to, love whomever we want to, dress and speak however we want to. And we value that freedom, so much so that we fought for, and died for it, time and time again.

So why the judgement? Why so much hate? Is this really what America is all about? And more importantly, is this what we want our country to be known for?

Freedom comes into play in all different kinds of settings, but the one that we value above all others in this country is freedom of speech. We pride ourselves on being able to say what we want and how we feel about certain issues, even if others may not agree with us. This is our right as American people, yet there is a cap on this freedom, one that often goes overlooked. For though we have this right, we cannot abuse it to the point where it infringes upon the lives of other individuals. 

These days, words are simply flung around as though they were nothing, no matter what the consequences of their usage may be. People are demeaned for who they are, simply because “It’s freedom of speech!” But that isn’t what freedom of speech really is. Americans have fought for this right so that they themselves would not be persecuted for who the people they wanted to be. And that does not give anybody the right to abuse it, no matter what position they are in and how much power they have.

Kneeling for the national anthem should not be considered “un-American.” It is people standing up for what they believe in—something that we as Americans pride above anything else. Having a certain belief system should not be considered “un-American.” This country was founded on the ability to practice any religion you wished to without having to face hate for it. Being a different color should not be seen as better or worse. We are all different, we have all come from different places, and each and every one of us has different experiences to offer.  

That is the true beauty of our country: that we can be so different, and yet we are all Americans. For there is no one, single “American experience.” People come from all different walks of life, and this is something we should be proud of, not devalue with our words and actions. We should never fear our differences. Rather, we should celebrate them, for they are what make our country free.