Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

4th of July Paintings by Kyle and Owen, painted this morning
Owen's, on left, titled: "Fireworks, 4th of July Concert, and Moon" (important notes from the artist: yellow moon at top left, green grass at bottom, big and little fireworks all around)
Kyle's, on right, titled: "Fireworks All The Way To God" (important notes from the artist: big fireworks shooting right off the top of the paper, dark green grass along bottom, instruments -- violin, trumpet, and trombone -- just above grass on left side)


A lot of what I'm thinking about this 4th of July are the same things I was thinking about last 4th of July (click here for a post of mine from a year ago). The big difference this year is that Meera Grace is with us. As a tiny 5 week old baby, she is already so incredibly extravagantly privileged in so many, many ways. Just one of those ways is that she was born with automatic U.S. citizenship. Braydon and I both just had to laugh when, as easy as pie (American Pie; pun intended) Meera's Social Security card, with brand new Social Security number printed right on it in fresh ink under her name, arrived in the mail a couple of weeks after she was born. It just arrived in the mail. Do you know how hard we had to work (how many hours and hours and hours were spent; how much frustration we experienced; how many phone calls we made; how many visits to the Social Security office we made; etc...) to get Social Security cards for Kyle and Owen??? Any adoptive parent knows how hard that process was (especially if you adopted from a place like Haiti where immigration has its... let's just say... 'issues'). Meera, like most of us born to privilege, doesn't have a clue how very fortunate she is. She is unaware of the privileges she is cloaked with. She has no idea what a privilege it is to be a U.S. citizen, what a privilege it is to simply receive her Social Security card in the mailbox. The privilege -- the unearned advantage -- is invisible to her. As it is to most all of us who have it. Over the years, as we teach her --as best we can-- to recognize her privileges, including the privilege of having been born here, our hope is that she'll navigate privilege's slippery slope with compassion and grace. We are living a life of plenty. What a slippery slope it is. Over the next few days, as we indulge in some of the luxuries that our life as we know it affords us, we will be remembering what a privilege it all is. Yes, that's right, as we picnic and swim and barbecue and watch the fireworks we'll be remembering just how unearned most of our advantages really are.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Except for the poor and disenfranchised in this country. You make it sound like everyone born in the US has an unearned advantage just by being born here. I only wish that were true for the thousands of Americans who were born here and can barely eak out a survival because of a variety of circumstances they have not been able to control.

Heather said...

Anonymous:
Please read the post I mentioned from a year ago--
http://johnson-mccormickfamily.blogspot.com/2007/06/love-thursday-love-of-life-in-usa.html

Believe me, I am fully conscientious of the poor and disenfranchised in this country. As a sociologist who specializes in race & class inequality in the contemporary U.S., I can assure you that I know much on the subject. However... anyone who has spent time immersed a place like Haiti (or some parts of Africa, etc.) has a different perspective on life in the U.S.A. Our poverty and disenfranchisement in the U.S. is horrific. But still, to be an American citizen -- that alone -- comes with certain privileges that the poor and disenfranchised in other parts of the world simply don't have. I'm not "comparing" or trying to say people here don't have it bad... just saying -- that we're grateful for our privileges that come with being in the U.S. (i.e., social security benefits for citizens, medicare/medicaid, homeless shelters, relatively clean water, public education available/mandated for all, social services, community outreach programs, etc., etc., etc...).

Heather

Rebekah Hubley said...

I totally agree with you Heather! Unless you have traveled to places like Haiti, Africa, etc., you don't understand how "good" even the poorest of the poor in America have it! Seeing these places in "real life", and not on your local news, really puts the world and its' riches into perspective. Knowing that the water in my toilet is cleaner to drink, than the water available to Jonas's birth family in Haiti, says it all!!! How good we have it! May we never take this for granted.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are appreciated for their clarification. I , too, have a doctorate of some 25 years and am an educational researcher and wince every time I go to different parts of the country to collect data or think about what I have seen in this country. I agree, this is not Haiti or parts of Africa, but I am anguished with the inequities in the US and take nothing for granted because not everyone can. When this changes I will applaud this as the land of opportunity and advantage.

I think your 3 children are indeed very, very lucky, but that has to do with the opportunities you and your husband provide for them.

Ruth said...

You're right that US citizenship carries many privileges. It's something many around the world are willing to risk their lives to try to obtain. I've been enjoying your blog - came over here via Tara's.

Holli said...

Heather-
THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS!!!
Since moving overseas, traveling over the last year and half, and befriending tons of friends who HAD to leave their home country to survive. We get asked ALL the time why we would move outside the US. We have learned just how blessed we truly are. Happy 4th of July!

Jen said...

I truly believe that even the most unfortunate in Canada and the US have it better than those in countries like Haiti. I cannot imagine a parent in the US or Canada having to watch their child die from malnutrion but in Haiti it is commonplace. Here is would be a crime....

Candis said...

Heather,
Your comment "...how unearned most of our advantages really are." made my heart skip a beat. I even find myself cringing at comments which praise people for unearned achievements--"good" hair, "colored" eyes, well-to-do parents... (Can you tell I teach high school at a predominantly minority (oxymoron?) high school?)

And I concur with your stance re: relative advantages in this country. Opportunities provided by rich parents notwithstanding, the availability of clean water alone makes a wealth of difference between the poor of our country and AND THE POOR OF ANY THIRD WORLD NATION. Water borne diseases that debilitate, and often kill, rob the poor families of the means to subsist even under the best of circumstances. There is no comparison between the poor here and the poor of Haiti, Somalia, Guatemala...

Paige Mann said...

I am sure you know I agree with you here. Midrine, while blissfully happy in what many Americans would consider the hopeless squalor of Haiti, has no idea what she is in for when she becomes a U.S. Citizen. Returning from Haiti after our first trip made me all the more thankful to be a citizen of the USA. Returning from our FIFTH trip there a little over a week before this holiday has really hit home. We will never forget where she came from and plan to visit and volunteer there whenever possible. Comfort zones are a wonderful and dangerous thing. May we all find them and leave them regularly!

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

I really enjoyed reading this post--especially on the 4th of July. It made me think a lot about our discussions over the years, my own unearned privileges--US citizenship of course being only one form, and of course, your research findings presented in your book. I hope readers of your blog consider reading The American Dream & The Power of Wealth!!!!

I love the "important notes from the artists"!!! Doesn't it remind you of our project?? :)

I miss you :(

Love, Maggie

insanemommy said...

Great post Heather. I have seen much poverty over the years in my travels. It never gets any easier no matter how many times you return. Very sad.

As for your boys wonderful art. You need to frame it! It's awesome.

Rony

Christine said...

Happy fourth! Sorry that getting SS cards was sp difficult.

ali said...

hi!found you through the Livesays also. we are in NH also, down in merrimack. our son came home from haiti in Nov 03. strangely, getting his SS card was the EASIEST thing so far! the guy even threw in the middle name we wanted, even though passport and green card had a name the O chose. sadly, the rest has been a NIGHTMARE. immigration kept all my english translations when we landed in miami, 3 different BC's with 3 different dates.... and the list goes on from there. he will be 16 before we know it(hes about 12 now) and the DMV will not go for it, with what we have now. also, with only a haitian passport, he cant visit haiti and return here, so we cant go. i wish i knew where to turn! anyway, you have great kids. are you close to merrimack? i could tell you were nearby when you mentioned the june 10th, 101* weather! LOL wasnt that CRAZY? love, the crawfords