Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What It Means to be an American.

This weeks was Cumheriyet Bayram. This means republic holiday, a national holiday to celebrate the forming of the Republic of Turkey. To celebrate we went to a parade. At the parade I was outstanded with the sprit of nationalism that Turkey has. They all share the same extreme love for their nation. You could sense their pride as you walked down the street and almost every single house had a huge flag hung from their balcony. At the parade most people had miniature flags in hand and a sea of flags was in the stadium below us. The rich red of the blood of soldiers and the white moon and star reflected from the sky displayed on the numerous flags made even me, the American, feel pride for a nation that isn't my own. But,at the same time, I couldn't help wish it were a red white and blue flag swaying instead, and the Turkish flags presence, in actuality just made me love my flag even more. At that moment I wanted to wrap my arms around our glorious star spangled banner. It makes me sad that to love America usually also labels you as a conservitive Republican. I thought back to when, before I left, Steph told me upon my return to America I would kiss the ground out of firey passion for the USA. I scoffed at that then. But as I watched the Turkish parade, I truly loved my country. The United States of America.
As soldiers marched past us, A car full of old men also drove by. Gizem explained to me that those men were the soldiers who had in fact actually seen war. That hit home. It hadn't even occurred to me that Turkey was not currently at war, and that the young men standing in front of me never have and probably never will go to battle. I cant actually personally remember a time when America was NOT at war somewhere.
Later, It was an Interesting experience celebrating an American holiday abroad. I was my first, and as I stepped out of the door dressed in all orange and black (including underwear) and felt so proud. So proud to be different, to be an American, and to flaunt that fact. What a better country to belong to than the one that liberates us by granting us freedoms and equality.
Of course, I could not stay on this Uncle sam hugging, apple pie eating, baseball watching streak for long. That night we seemed to have an interesting selection of movies at Gizems sleepover party. All of them ended up in some way showing the terrible things, the reasons why previous to coming on this exchange made me hate America, that our country has done. Scenes of cruelty from Vietnam war, to beating of homosexuals by police in San Fran. filled me with anger and hate. How could something built on such good standards as the declaration of Independence, act in such unjustly ways!? Sitting in a room full of Turks, I could not help but feel ashamed for my heritage,lost, and confused. I love my country. Just that morning I could have been caught singing the star spangled banner. But fact is fact, and history is inerasable. I simply could not deny or excuse its actions. I could not even say that things are different now, because still, we have soldiers killing over seas.
Music videos here continue to disgust me. American videos are played everywhere here. No wonder people think so badly of America. All they see of us in the media is half naked women botty dropping and films such as the ones I watched with Gizem and her friends. Come on guys, seriously? Not the best images we could convey. Sadie and I discussed how we wished America could control what music videos went out to other countries. Then we realized that would violate exactly what makes us so proud to be Americans.
So what exactly does it mean to be an American? I still don't know. I find myself at a cross roads between loving this nation, and loathing it. Maybe that's what its all about. Being an American means loving our nation because our nation allows us to hate it. Loving it for the freedoms it grants us, but hating it because sometimes these freedoms are misused and abused.

culture note- At the parade I noticed there was no woman soliders. I asked Gizem about it and she told me women never serve in the military in Turkey.


  1. You said it, Amber. "Being an American means loving our nation because our nation allows us to hate it. Loving it for the freedoms it grants us, but hating it because sometimes these freedoms are misused and abused." That was a great post. :)
    Maria is SO going to be right.

  2. I like a lot of what you've posted. I know that we've done some terrible things (and are doing a lot right now) but you should know that every country's citizens feels that to a certain extent. Whether it's children being forced into war and killing eachother (see invisible children if you already haven't) or being to idiotic to convert to the metric system, everyone makes mistakes (cliche, yet true). I mean, think of all of the kids in Germany who are stereotyped as the bad guys and don't even know what to believe themselves? Think about the kids whose grandparents they loved were really sucky leaders? If anything, this should encourage us to pay more attention to history and not make the same freaking mistakes over and over again, and to not embarass or confuse our future generations.

    Yeah, I know we're screwy, but don't beat too harshly on us. We still are the most powerful country in the world. Be proud for what we have; what we've done! How we were the first colony to EVER defy the most powerful country there has ever been -- England -- after a few first years of inhabitation of North America. We still are the free patriates.

    And of course have fun in lovely Turkey. Ah, jealous--that must be such a blast!

    Miss you.

  3. hahahah!! funny funny . oh how i loved this post and the comments that went with it. hahah! oh however hannah: america most powerful country in the world. not for long. I think china is about to kick our asses.

  4. amber-
    i miss you. i love this post. i listened to across the universe the other day and cried. sounds like you're doing well... do they have itunes in turkey? i love youuuuuuuuuuu.