Born in the USA
By Lori Welch Brown
Born in the USA
I am blessed with an embarrassing wealth of freedom and independence. When I think of freedom, I think of my ability to take an art class on a Wednesday morning, get a manicure during the work day or accept an invite for a Girl’s Night Out. Most of us wake up every day with freedoms we take for granted. Freedom to post our political views on social media, freedom to wear a hat named after a female body part, freedom to wave our individual freak flags any which way. I am free to vape, get my tongue pierced, clone my pet or any other stupid thing my credit score affords me. I have never had to conceal my ‘real’ self in a closet or fear for my family’s safety due to their political affiliation. For those reasons alone, I lead a privileged life all because of one event—I was born in the USA. It is mind-blowing when I think of the creature comforts I am afforded all because I took my first breath in a hospital in Alexandria, VA versus a mud hut in the Congo.
There is ‘freedom’ and then there is ‘independence.’ Our forefathers fought the British so we could drink tea without a tax—okay, history isn’t my strong suit, but you get what I mean. I know it wasn’t so we could light off fire crackers once a year and scare the bejeezus out of every dog in the country. When I think of independence, I pay homage to the fact that I can sustain myself. I can work in the profession of my choosing, pay my bills, wear what I choose. Every day I get to make decisions around my own life thanks to the actions of people who walked this land hundreds of years before me. Those men loaded canons and carried muskets so that I could enjoy liberties that I mostly take for granted.
If you’ve read this publication over the years, you may know that I wrote a single’s column for DECADES. Let’s just say I enjoyed my ‘independence’ longer than most. I was nervous about losing my independence when I married—and I certainly never wanted to hinder anyone else’s—no ball and chain here. Both my husband, XXL, and I appreciate each others’ freedoms and actually encourage one another’s independence. Neither of us really feel like we have to ‘ask’ permission to follow our passions, but we do promote a lot of communication around them. I am cautious, however, around allowing XXL to do too many things for me. His chivalrous nature is much appreciated, but I don’t want to lose my own confidence in the process—which I’ve seen happen with a few of my married friends over the years. Over time, my once ambitious, accomplished friends have become reliant, ne’er do anything for themselves ladies-in-waiting, as in waiting for their significant others to wait on them hand and foot. “Honey, do you mind pumping my gas?” somehow morphs into, “Sweetie, can you butter my toast?” XXL was out of town recently, and I got the urge to take my kayak out on its maiden summer voyage. Getting it off its rack and cleaning it free of spiders and other creepy crawlies would typically be something XXL would handle. When we talked on the phone that morning and I informed him of my plans, I heard the pregnant pause. “What? I can do this! I used to do things like this all the time before we met, honey.” Another pause and then I got the “Okie dokie,” which—I’m not gonna lie—isn’t a real confidence builder. I don’t want to become one of those women who evolves from independent career professional to riding shot gun to the Piggly Wiggly because she’s too afraid to drive on the highway. It’s a slippery slope, ladies! As we age, it is easy to become fearful and lose our self-confidence—which is the rabbit hole for losing our independence. When I was younger, I lived to challenge myself by doing things like throwing my bike in the back of my SUV, mapping out a cool route, and trekking around a new place like Harper’s Ferry solo. Now when I get the urge to explore, XXL gets my bike down from its rack in the garage, checks the air in the tires, and wipes it off before I jaunt off around our neighborhood. Pretty soon I’ll just ask him to ride it for me because it’s just too dangerous out there on the perilous streets of Mt. Vernon.
My 89 year old father recently relocated back to Virginia and is living with us part time. I watch him struggling to maintain his independence on a daily basis. My brothers and I are doing our best to help him maintain it because we lose a little piece of him every time he loses his ability to do for himself. It’s an important thing to live independently and so easy to take for granted. It is a blessing to wake up every day and be able to dress and feed yourself. Think about it.
I am literally wallowing in a plentitude of privileges—those I have because I am strong and healthy and those I have because of someone else’s sacrifices. I don’t often (enough) think about how I got them or who is sacrificing what so I can retain them. I know I didn’t get them by accident—I saw a Few Good Men ya’ know. There’s that fence at Guantanamo Bay that Jack Nicholson owns and stands watch over, right? Seriously—I am a freedom brat, a spoiled rotten greedy freedom monger of the worst kind. I take, take, take. What do I give back? A cute meme on Memorial Day? “Remembering our vets!” Insert smiley face emoticon. The only freedom I have fought for is an extended curfew or my right to shave my legs—which was a stupid thing to fight for, by the way. The only thing I have protested is the surcharge for late Sunday pick up fee at my doggie day care resort and spa. I have never been arrested for my political beliefs or participated in a sit in, although I may have participated in a smoke in once in the late 80s. (Just kidding, Dad!) I have not personally paid a price for my freedom and independence. I have no earthly idea what it is like to stand up to an enemy, walk through a mine field, or be separated from a spouse who is defending a border. I know many who have served and a few others who have lost a member of their family—a member who gave their life protecting mine. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for someone they never met.
I have a lot of people to thank for my freedom and independence, and I am eternally grateful to having been born in the USA.