This I Believe

Hemlata - Mt. Vernon, Washington
Entered on May 2, 2006

THIS I BELIEVE

Thirty-eight years ago, when I came to the United States with my husband and daughter, I was asked whether my loyalty belonged to my native or adopted country. I wondered, was one exclusive of the other? I have fond memories of growing up in India, and my experiences in the United States have enriched my life.

I believe patriotic citizens should follow the laws of the land, and vote for issues based upon what is good for our community, our town, and our country. And I believe patriotic elected officials should consider the benefits or risks of their decisions on the electorate instead of bowing to special interests.

I also believe “hyphenated Americans” shouldn’t use their votes to coerce their representatives into supplying arms to the country of their origin–whether it is in Europe, Middle East, Asia, or Africa–or for furthering their financial or religious agenda.

My husband and I often join Indian-Americans in fund raising for Indian charities. We provide individual donations, or urge the U.S. Government to give humanitarian aid, but we don’t dangle our votes to pressure our representatives into doling out American taxpayers’ money for armaments to any country.

After the horrendous attacks of 9/11, some people probably doubted our patriotism. However, our friends (of European descent) knew that we grieved the deaths and devastation just as they did. Our friends like us neither because, nor in spite of, our Indian heritage. Years of sharing car-pools, baby-sitting, Fourth-of-July picnics and Thanksgiving dinners have created a bond among us. In the aftermath of 9/11, we shared moving articles and lit candles together. We also donated to the Red Cross and displayed Old Glory.

A few days after the attacks, I watched the television and saw Indian families searching for their sons, daughters, husbands or wives in the rubble. Then came the news that some Indian-Americans, especially Sikhs, were attacked because they looked like the enemy. While some immigrants became the victims of terrorists, others had been beaten or murdered by their fellow citizens.

South-Asian Americans represent a cross-section of America. They teach, serve in the armed forces, work in defense industries and heal the wounded. And some (including me) show their patriotism by protesting the war.

This I believe: Patriotism means appreciating the land and its people, while respecting the citizens and sovereignty of other nations. My fondness for one country doesn’t conflict with my loyalty to the other.

Although I left India, I love Hindi songs, Indian food, getting together with Indian-Americans to reminisce about old times, and I get a lump in my throat when I hear “Jan Gan Man,” the national anthem.

Although I wasn’t born in the U.S., I’m a law-abiding citizen. I conserve energy, recycle, and volunteer in local organizations. I love to share not-so-old times with our American-born friends and I get a lump in my throat when I hear the “Star Spangled Banner.”

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