July 4th – America’s independence from Britain. Damn those Brits, btw, they’ve literally colonized half of the world. How many countries are celebrating their, “independence from Britain?”
Somali Americans, is this our true holiday?
Wait. Hear me out.
Many of us have been in this country for a long time. Some of us were born here. The Somali state collapsed in 1991. We’ve spent our most formative years here. We went to school here, and some of us have moved on to have children here. Our lives here are cemented, our connection to Somalia minimal. Many of us are citizens and have promised to renounce any other citizenry. Did we lie?
I am also one of those people who are nostalgic for Somalia, but most times reality sets in. What is there for me in Somalia? Myself, a self-proclaimed loud mouth heathen who has so much to say about culture, religion, and society? What would I do there? What would I do in a country whose President and officials have to be guarded by AMISOM, soldiers sent from other African nations, and life is cheap? You could say the wrong thing, or look defiantly at a police officer, and there goes your precious life. Gone in a flash. Where many of the things we take for granted here, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association to name a few, are nonexistent.
A land where your only protection is your clan, and your genitals; if you have the right ones.
But America is testing my patience and love for it right now. This is supposed to be the greatest country in the world. Many flock to this country from all over the world. The land of the free. But how free am I when I’m worried about my black son being gunned down by those who have sworn an oath to protect and serve? How free am I when Donald Trump is the POTUS making us officially the laughing stock of the world? How free am I when I’m worried about my visibly Muslim sisters and cousins? How free am I when immigrant children are separated from their parents and locked up in cages?
Both seem pretty bleak, right?
Personally, I don’t know MY connection to July 4th. None of my ancestors were here then, and people who looked like me, black people, were enslaved. There was no independence for them. However, my experience as an immigrant is different from African Americans whose history in this country goes back generations, and it’s not a good history. But I do know that it can be worse.
As I ruminate on these things, I think of how do we move forward?
Can I recognize that yes this country has a sordid history when it comes to minorities, and even currently with Trump’s immigration policy, AND still love this country as it has given me, an immigrant, a chance at life? Is it tone deaf to say,”I love this flawed nation. It has given a chance at life. God bless these United States?” I cannot just flatly say this is a terrible country. Period. It isn’t for me, because I wouldn’t trade America for my homeland, and neither would many other Somali Americans, if they’re 100% honest. Even those deported to Somalia say they feel they are in a foreign country in Somalia than when they were in America.