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July 4, 2008 / jadettman

Happy Barrel Day!

Today we’re celebrating the 4th of July and America’s Declaration of Independence. History says that on this day two-hundred thirty-two years ago a group of men representing the colonial population signed a document that declared this country a separate political entity from Britain.

Considering my vague recollections from my few, and inadequate, history classes, it seems like a worthy day to celebrate and reflect on the nature of our country. I’m willing to bet that a large number of people are just celebrating that they get an extra day off from work, which for most of us is just as worthy.

I didn’t have a choice about being an American. I was born in Texas, my parents were both born in the Midwest, their parents were born in America, and, to the best of my knowledge, their parents were too. Somewhere along that line, someone in my genealogical back-story made the conscious decision to come to this country but I don’t know who it was.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they made a bad choice or that I don’t like being an American. Honestly, I’ve never really thought about it much. As I said, I didn’t have much choice in the matter, which is the crux of my thinking this morning: nationality is largely an accident of birth.

There are, of course, exceptions. Many people move to countries that they weren’t born in and work to become citizens of those places. Generally, they do this when they’re an adult and they make a conscious decision about the matter. I think that’s pretty cool.

I really have to wonder, though, how many people (like me) take their nationality for granted. I mean, it’s not like I think about it very often and I’m not the most patriotic person that I know. Would I be happy if I were Canadian or French or Tibetan? I’ve got know way to know.

I think my point here is that we’re all human. As a species, we’re really good a drawing lines on a map and saying that the people over on the other side of the line are different than the people on this side of the line. Even when it’s just an accident of birth, people get caught up in divisions when we should all be thinking about how we’re similar.

I live in America because this is where I was born. I might as well have drawn a colored flag out of a barrel for all the choice I had in the matter. Instead of focusing on the colored flag and how that makes us different, let’s focus on being human and how that makes similar. That’s what I’m thinking about today.

***Bonus points for those that get the barrel reference. I borrowed it from someone smarter than me.***

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