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American Pride: Blessings we take for granted.

This 4th of July 2022, Let’s celebrate American Pride.

     I don’t know about you, but I never take for granted the incredible luck of being an American and living in the US. Lately, the news talks a lot about American dissatisfaction. But take it from someone who lived  over two decades in a much developing country with much less social justice: We have so much to be grateful for—and yes, proud of. And my favorite reasons pertain not to finances, but to mentality

     Yes, there’s  much that needs to be improved. But as I continue my mission to heal the Imposter syndrome, perfectionist self-flagellation and the syndrome of “nothing is ever good enough,” this is my proposal:” Let’s cut the US some slack and acknowledge it for some of its good things, shall we? 

From a perspective you may not have considered before, in this post I present ten amazing things about being an American and living in the US we take for granted. And It’s a countdown!

 

American Pride Fact# 10- Mind-blowing consumer protection:

     I will never forget that day, shortly after moving to the US, when I read that magazine announcement. Some lawyers were inviting people to join a class lawsuit against a certain brand of frozen dinners. The brand falsely claimed that their burritos contained only six grams of fat—when in fact, they contained eight. I couldn’t close my mouth for an entire day. Let alone that here people actually expected merchants to tell the truth. Let alone that people here could find a judge willing to listen to a complaint like that. This had to be the definition of a rich country. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs anyone? People who are starving or fighting parasites don’t have the energy to verify the fat grams in their food.

American Pride Fact #9- A huge variety of weather options to choose from

     Can you believe it? This country is so huge you can choose to live in cold Alaska or steamy Florida. In rainy Seattle or the dry Nevada desert. Trust me, that’s a privilege! In the tiny Caribbean Island where I was born, if you don’t like the sauna-like climate, you’re in deep trouble. Did you say something about running the AC? I’m afraid not. That’s a very expensive, rare privilege that requires the luxury of working electricity. (See item #6)

American Pride Fact #8-  A holiday almost every month

     My next big surprise after moving to the US was the abundance of holidays. Stores are barely removing the Christmas decorations when Valentine’s day décor makes an appearance. And then it’s time for St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter, then Memorial Day… Growing up, the only holiday I had to look forward to was Christmas; and it took forever to come around. What a genius idea it is to break the year in manageable chunks.
     Yes, most of the time these American holidays are an excuse to justify shopping, eating and drinking. But hey! Whatever it takes to make work more manageable by having something to look forward to! Here in the US people work extra hard. Which takes me to the next point.

 

American Pride Fact#7- Here people actually work! (And show up on time!)

(Warning: I can make fun of Dominican laziness because I am Dominican 🙂 But don’t try this at home)

Don’t take me wrong, I don’t support workaholic behavior, and I praise the more relaxed work pace of European and Latin American countries. But living in a country where work ethics is a strong value, has its advantages.

     Have you ever complained about the slow pace of a public office? Have you ever had a slow-as-molasses cashier who seems to have fallen asleep ? Multiply that frustration by a million and you’ll have an idea about the average day  in a developing country. Business working hours are just a suggestion. Doctors show up hours late to their clinics. Public office errands take whole days.  And the view of a receptionist ignoring a mile-long line of customers to talk on the phone or check her social media is completely normal.

     I never take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a place where everyone is expected to do their job and respect other people’s time.  Accountability is one of my favorite words in the world—and I still haven’t found its exact equivalent in Spanish.

American Pride Fact#6-Having electric power almost all the time

     My Florida peeps know what it is to lose power during a hurricane. No AC, no TV, no Wi-Fi… Can you imagine living in a country where having electric power is never guaranteed? Where I was born, unless you make your own arrangements for a generator you can never rely on the electric services. Ouch! No telenovela tonight either? 

     Not having electricity is an annoyance—but at least it doesn’t compromise your survival (keep reading).

 

American Pride Fact #5- Having running water coming from your faucet. (Even better: drinkable water!)

     Where I was born, drinking for the faucet is a guaranteed way to catch some rabid, lethal bacteria that makes brain-eating-zombies look gentle in comparison. But that is when/if water is available. How would you like walking a mile to the nearest river in order to wash your clothes? By the way, when you buy your bottled water make sure it’s a reputable brand. It’s not below some merchants to sell you faucet water in a dirty, reused bottle. (See #10).

 

American Pride Fact #4- The US Postal Services

(Yes! I’m putting it above running water because, in the DR,  plumbing at least worked sometimes).

     My husband finds it hilarious, but it’s true: I am fascinated by the efficiency of US Postal Services. I still don’t take for granted how wonderful it is that you stick some stamps on a letter and drop it in the mail (even in your mailbox!) and more often than not, like magic, it gets delivered. 

     In the DR (I’ve heard it’s the same in Italy) you better say a little prayer every time you drop mail: your letter or package may or may not ever reach its destination. And it’s not only about post office inefficiency or lack of honesty (which are often an issue). But also, any random person passing by your front porch may decide to steal your packages just because. (Hey, making stealing mail a federal offense here was a great idea).

And here they are: My Top Three Reasons to remember how blessed I am for living in this country (Drumroll, please!)

3-The freedom that comes with an American passport

     I bet you’ve never stopped and think how lucky you are for having the option of getting an American passport: It entitles you to travel to 182 countries (including all of Europe) without a visa. And trust me, getting a visa for someone from a small country like the DR is a big pain in the neck.

     In developing countries, consulates always assume that you’re applying for a visa with the intention of immigrating illegally. The lengthy application process is specifically designed to discourage you, and to weed out anybody who’s not a fortune heir.

     I sensed the power of an American passport even as a little girl in the DR. Whenever someone carried one, the subtext was “Don’t mess with this one, Uncle Sam has his back.” I lived that from the other side during my honeymoon trip to Croatia. While traveling from Dubrovnik to Split, our bus had to cross the Serbian border and guards armed with assault rifles boarded the bus to check every passenger’s passport, including my husband’s and mine. The moment the young guard glimpsed at our navy blue passports with the golden eagle on the cover, he jumped back, and waved us away without even touching them—almost as if scared of getting in trouble. It hit me perhaps for the first time that I was no longer powerless and defenseless—the US had my back.

2-You still can ask a policeman for help

   When I was growing up in the DR my parents taught me to be terrified of the police. Their main role was demanding bribes from citizens, but they were not below engaging in gratuitous violence. Policemen were often the first suspects when a crime had occurred. Especially the murder of someone speaking against the government (see #1). Yes, we’ve seen terrible cases and bad apples here too. But can you imagine a country where unnecessary police force was not the shameful exception to the rule but the norm?

     I am deeply grateful for American police officers, fire departments, emergency services,  911 operators and paramedics. I hope you take a moment to realize that, as imperfect as they may be, they’re an amazing privilege very few countries enjoy.

1-The first amendment is an awesome little thing

     Latin American dictators are not a joke. During my childhood, we didn’t sit around the fire (or the kerosene lamp when we lost power) to tell make-believe horror stories. The horror stories grownups shared were real. Everyone had an older relative who had been tortured and murdered by Trujillo or Balaguer. Back when my parents were young, expressing a complaint against the government was equivalent to committing suicide—and choosing to do so in a slow, extremely painful way. 

     Fortunately, the liberty of expression has improved quite a bit in the DR since I was a child—but we all know many other countries in the world don’t have that luck. The next time you feel annoyed by hearing people speaking nonsense (whether that is a politician on TV, or your uncle on Facebook) stop and think what a privilege that is.  Here you can actually say anything you want—no matter how outrageous— and stay alive.

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So yes, I absolutely love being an American. I will never—ever, ever—take for granted the amazing blessings that come with it.

How about you? What’s your favorite part of being an American? Take a moment today to feel that gratitude.

 

Love,

 

Diely

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