I’m American, but America Is Not My Home

“Where are you from?”

It’s a question we get asked frequently in American Samoa, and really, anywhere we’ve traveled outside of the US. Over the past few years, I’ve felt less pride in claiming the United States of America as my home. I feel some guilt. I also feel justified by the repugnant, hateful, and combative culture which seems to have overtaken Mainstream America.

We’ve come across terms such as “citizen of the world” and “third culture kids” to replace the need to claim a certain country or region. Instead, we find ourselves claiming Planet Earth as our home.

American Flag in Shambles

Disgusted and Done

One year ago, the kids and I boarded a plane that would take us across the Pacific Ocean, to join Nate in a place far from our home. Don’t get me wrong, I love our country. I love all that it stands for. But I was sick of being surrounded by hateful and hypocritical rhetoric being spewed by everyone from age nine to ninety-nine. I was tired of the box that had been constructed to hold everyone in, trying to force us all to follow the crowd. And I was desperate to ensure that our kids would know the world, not just Almighty America. And so we said good-bye to land of our birth, without any intention of returning within the foreseeable future.

Kids enjoying the slow pace of island life

Away from It All

I have loved our year in American Samoa, even though it’s a US territory, people rarely talk about DC politics and there is a general sense of autonomy here. While life here isn’t perfect, it’s the escape we were looking for. People ask us where we plan to move next,after our two-year contract is over. “Anywhere, there’s a whole, big world out there! Anywhere, except where we’ve been.”

Fireworks over the harbor in American Samoa

Still Proud to Be an American

A few days ago, on July 4th, we attended the Independence Day Celebration. Hadley performed the hula with her dance group (which was awesome, in case you were wondering, so proud of my island girl!). After which, there was a musical guest, Tenelle, and plenty of island vibe. It was like no 4th of July celebration I had ever been to.  It did end with a fireworks show. Of course, you say? These were the first fireworks on the island in 5-10 years (depending on who you ask).

Young Girls Dancing the Hula
Hadley’s the blondie in the back, on the left

As I sat there, surrounded by my kids, watching fireworks exploding over the water, listening to the most authentic responses from this crowd of Samoans, who were genuinely in awe of the display, the song by Lee Greenwood, “Proud to Be an American”, came in to my head. In that moment, I saw past the dishonest and dishonorable politicians, the fear-mongering, the cold, loveless indifference, and the superficial priorities of our country.

I thought about the American people who lift each other up; the ones who cooperate to bring innovation and love to the world. I remembered the quality teachers who work to guide the youth, the doctors and nurses who save lives and restore quality of life, the service men and women who promise to give their all, the ordinary people who care about their neighbors and work hard to build up their communities. Suddenly, I felt more patriotic pride than I have in a long time. The line, “that flag still stands for freedom and they cant take that away” somehow meant more.

Pinnable America Is Not My Home Image

I’m American, but America Is Not My Home

My mind is still set upon taking my family to explore and discover what else this world has to offer. I still have no desire to get in the middle of any of the myriad of political debates. And I’m still totally open to the idea that our family might, one day, find a place where we feel completely at home, where we want to settle down long-term, that just might be outside the Good Ole’ US of A. But I also feel a renewed determination to stand up, alongside the kind, conscientious, and purposeful citizens of our country. If the world only sees the corrupt, pompous, or mean-hearted, that’s all they’ll associate us with. But if more of us can work hard to be unprejudiced, open-minded, welcoming, and interested in the greater good, then we might still have a chance of showing what our country still stands for.

So next time someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I’m going to swallow that feeling of embarrassment down and prove to myself, and to the world, being an American can still be a good thing.

13 thoughts on “I’m American, but America Is Not My Home”

  1. Thank you. Our year away did much the same for me. It was a time of much introspection, and a time, when challenged by one of the dissatisfied, to speak up and say I am proud to be an American. Beautiful expressed. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks Jeannie! I think spending an extended amount of time out of the American Bubble can definitely make it easier to see the contrast. I’m inspired by people like you who can see the other side and bring the mindset back home to share with others. Thank-you for being a shining light to people abroad and at home!

  2. i love this raw and honest article. Things here in the US are FAR from perfect no matter what side of the political coin you fall on. What kind of news do you get in AS? American? International? I think the media spews or skews things alot depending on who is reporting (Even here in the US). BUT with that said, you have the freedom to move abroad and travel in part because you are an American. I bet someone in North Korea (sorry extreme example but you know what I mean) would love to see those beautiful Samoan beaches and have the luxury of deciding they can next move to “somewhere they have never been”

  3. It is interesting the mixed reactions people give to “Americans” even in less turbulent times. To also have your own inner turmoil about how you feel about your home country must be a struggle. I remember a trip to Europe where I met three different people from South Africa. Every one of them (separately) approached my friend and I saying we’d changed their mind about Americans. The ones they had encountered/seen on TV were privileged and materialistic. We assured them that there were way more good people like us than there were of the Americans that give everyone a bad name. Your behavior can help America’s reputation abroad! 🙂

    1. I love that! Thanks for sharing! I hate that Ugly American stereotype, that sadly, is too often lived up to. I’m so glad there are people like you and your friends who are showing a more humble and friendly view of what an American is. Keep on!

  4. I understand your feeling of disconnect. I think a lot of us can relate. I know my husband I get frustrated and think about escaping too, but this crazy politics is kind of taking over everywhere. It is important to travel and expose the kids to the world, because it is the fear of the unknown that breeds hate.

    1. Yes, I couldn’t agree more! All throughout history, people have been killed and mistreated because they were misunderstood. We never know what the future will hold, all I know is that I want to give my kids every opportunity I can, while I can. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Thanks for taking me on that journey with you. I, too, often struggle with “being American” when traveling, even prior to this recent bout of political issues. There’s always been judgement, but, like you, I think it’s important (even more so now) to show up as American and redefine what and who that is in other people’s minds. To show that we’re not a lump sum people that others expect us to be, whether it be as loud and crass tourists or as close-minded and overly nationalistic bullies. Thanks for reminding me that it is possible and even necessary.

    1. You’re right. The Ugly American stereotype has been going on for quite a while. I think it’s only recently that it’s been getting more notice. But hopefully, it’s not too late to turn the tide and change the way Americans are viewed. I’m sure there are always going to be the ones who give the rest of us a bad name, but we can certainly do our part by showing another way. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment! It’s people like you who surely make a difference.

  6. What a beautiful and honest piece about something that many of us think about. Living outside the of the US has given you new lenses to see the best of who we are. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    1. Thanks Dah! I know we’ve talked about this same sort of thing. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one 💙

  7. Although I agree things are far from perfect on the “mainland,” I am still an American at heart, but I appreciate the honesty and sincerity of your article. That’s one of the reasons I open my eyes to other countries so that I can appreciate what I have at home. Yes, work needs to be done to the core of American values, but there are many of us with families (including a new generation of grandchildren) that believe the majority still stand for the good things. 🙂

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