Celebrating red, white, and blue with a green card

By Sujay Kumar

Happy 232nd Birthday America! Today is July 11th, and words cannot express how proud I am to be an American.

This may be because I’m not American in the traditional sense of having citizenship. Coincidentally, this lack of “red-white-and-blue” in my blood is what stopped me from writing what would have been a more relevant article one week ago on Independence Day.

Apparently a Green Card does not protect you from extensive background checks by the CIA, FBI and DI on what is one of the most patriotic days in the world.

Now that I haven’t been deported or tried for treason, everything’s clear.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of patriotism, freedom, acceptance and opportunity (to strike fear in those who unlike us, hate everything that the Star-Spangled Banner stands for and will do anything to see America burn). No, not the Canadians.

To an outsider looking in on the superpower that is the United States, it can be a daunting place. As a sixth-grader in Saskatchewan, I was terrified to learn that I was moving to Chicago. I remember having a nightmare that I was in a school lobby in Minnesota, dodging bullets from guns wielded by punks with chains connecting their noses to their ears.

But ten years and a few fireworks later, I feel like I’m beginning to finally fit in and understand what it means to be an American.

Last week, I sat on a grassy field peppered by happy revelers decked in red, white and blue. For many, the potent mix of patriotism, a day off work and alcohol conjured up a celebratory dance that was reminiscent of the clap-bounce seen on Family Feud.

Before any sparks hit the sky, the lights turned-off and everyone sat anxiously with their eyes glued above. You could sense the tension mounting as we waited for something spectacular to wake us up.

Then the fireworks lit up the dark night. Instead of staying focused on the explosions, I usually spend some time during the show watching the expressions of those around me. Everyone sat smiling and staring at the sky, in awe of the colors blowing up above.

It happens every year, but for some reason I never expect it. There’s a strange, palpable feeling of unity and a quiet dignity in the audience during the 15 minutes of pyrotechnics. Even when the finale rained a potentially dangerous blanket of fireballs down on the revelers, they erupted in celebration.

I’m not quite sure what it is, but there’s something there in that celebration on the Fourth of July that seems so powerful that if we were to channel it into something else, it may lead to something greater.

This is what makes America beautiful.

Unfortunately when the song “America the Beautiful” was played, many sang along and swayed in happiness. I didn’t know any of the words.

There are only a few moments in my life when I feel like a terrorist, but that was one of them.

Sujay is a senior in biochemistry who is not a terrorist, but a Green Card holder now eligible for citizenship.