I love the Fourth of July. Dare I say, it is one of my favorite holidays! Usually I write a little blog and I share stories of the small towns; the parades and fireworks that made Fourth of July so special for me as child. Not this year.
This year, let me tell you about Hong Kong, where I lived in 1996. Let me tell you about Malaysia, Korea and China. Perhaps strange topics for Fourth of July, but trust me, I will tie it all together.
My company sent me to live in Hong Kong in 1996. That year I traveled all over the far-east on business trips. Somehow, I felt so amazingly patriotic and proud of the USA as I traveled. I remember the Fourth of July in Hong Kong quite vividly. I wore a red suit and went out for an American hamburger for lunch, no fried egg, thank you! A red suit was a little daring as that color had different meanings in China. But, on the Fourth of July, I dressed to celebrate the USA, and I wore red.
I traveled a lot those days and I captured and wrote about my many experiences. I remember a trip to Malaysia and I wrote extensively of my patriotic pride in being American. It started with the flight when I saw that we had a selection of California wines on our (USA) Boeing plane. We had multiple USA movie and music channels to choose from on Cathay Pacific. My choice, remember it was 1996, was to watch “The American President” over and over again, tearing up each time at the end. How I loved our country, and missed it, truth be told.
In Malaysia we visited many stores and markets so I could see how our products were working there. Since we were close to the Fourth of July on my visit, the Malaysian markets were encouraging people to buy and act like Americans. There were mugs and t-shirts and beach towels with stars and stripes. So, the color blue was a bit off from Old Glory, I understood the message they were trying to convey. The signage all said, “Live like an American, Shop like an American”. They were trying to sell more goods by inviting people to embrace America.
What were they truly embracing? I believe it was the freedom. You see, I did not feel free in Asia, especially in Hong Kong or China. I am Catholic but was advised to never attend the Catholic church there as they were on the look-out for American Catholics. As a tall, blond female, I sort of stood out. I was shuttled from place to place in private cars, with interpreters. Why? Because I was stopped at gun-point in mainland China when the guards decided I did not belong. No, I was not free when I lived in Asia.
So the sales, the stars, the stripes, they were not simply brands and logos, they were iconic of a life that many in Asia could only dream about. I remember a trip to Malaysia. The cab driver that picked me up spoke a little broken English. But, he said, “You are from America?” Yes, I answered. “My son, he go to school in America”. I asked him where in America, for it is a big country. He replied “I do not know, but it is in America.”
That conversation has always stayed with me. A father on the other side of the world sent his son to America to attend college. He did not know where, but it did not matter for it was in America.
What would that father say today? What would the store clerks say today? Do they want to “live like Americans”? In this day and age in our country, I fear that we are not the beacon of light we once were, given all that is happening in the USA.
At the same time, on this Fourth of July, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we can truly be the land of the free, the home of the brave. I am hopeful that we can be a country united by our love for our great land and people, not a country divided. For when we come together, when we live as one, we are united, we are radiant. We are a beacon, a light for the world, of what is possible. I know, because I saw a continent that hungered for the freedom we celebrate today.
Today, let us rejoice, let us celebrate and let us offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings bestowed upon us as Americans. Let us be a shining light for others in this world as we move towards health and recovery for all.
May God bless America!
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