Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What America/Independence Day Has Meant to My Family - Part I

I really struggled over what to write for the Carnival...so much so, that I missed the deadline! Oh, well! That's the way it goes sometimes! The theme this time is "What America/Independence Day Has Meant to My Family." So what should I write about? I thought. My ancestors and their reasons for immigration to this great country? Traditions of Fourth of July celebrations in my family? How privileged and honored I feel to live in this land? Gratitude towards our military (past and present) for keeping us the land of the free? Finally I realized that the best answer would be a bit of a melting pot of all the above...appropriate, no? But it's a bit long, so I've divided it up.

My ancestors have been immigrating to this land from Northern Europe from 1620 to 1884. They include Pilgrims, Puritans, and a couple of Palatines. Most came directly to what is now the United States from the shores of Europe by ship, from the Mayflower to the Surrey; a few came overland to Michigan and New York after settling a generation or two in Canada. They came to Plymouth Rock, Philadelphia, the Maryland shore, and Castle Garden in New York City. Most came to escape religious persecution; additional reasons were a potato famine (in the Netherlands, not Ireland), economic hardship, and simply to seek a better life. They were mostly English, Dutch, Frisian, Scots and Scots-Irish, with a few German and French thrown in for good measure. With the exception of the ancestors of my 5th-great-grandfather, Joseph MASSEY, every family settled in north of the Mason-Dixon line. And except for the Spanish-American War, my ancestors served in every war on this continent--and with their allies abroad--from colonial times through World War II.

Learning about my heritage has increased my pride in being an American. I realize that my ancestors sacrificed much so that their descendants--including me--could have the freedoms, rights, and privileges we have today. I take seriously the responsibilities of citizenship that go hand-in-hand with the benefits, such as voting, jury duty, tax-paying, etc. Included in that is making sure my children know and understand the history of this country and the role their ancestors played in it. I'm extremely grateful for all they did, and for what our country's military men and women continue to do so that we can sleep in peace and safety each night. If my feelings for my country could be summed up in one short phrase, it would be Freedom Isn't Free.

I love listening to our national anthem, or any of our patriotic songs, for that matter. Having performed in church and school choirs and bands, I have had the privilege of literally being in concert in leading an audience in declaring their national pride through song. There's a powerful--almost spiritual--feeling that swells in musicians' hearts when they perform certain rousing pieces, and the national anthem is definitely one of those. When I'm in the audience, I don't merely stand at attention; my hand is on my heart, I sing the words. I consider myself extremely blessed to work for a public school, because it means that 180 days of the year, I stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of my work day. I am one of the privileged of the world; I am an American!

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