Avoiding Crisis

comments on the 4th and my patriotism

with 2 comments

…no BBQs, no red-white-and-blue decorations. No hamburgers and hot dogs. No parades.

But, I guess that’s life when you don’t live in the United States. That’s life when you’re an expat.


This morning, I tried to explain to my daughter what the meaning of today was. I told her that it was the 4th of July and that in the United States, where she was born, it is Independence Day. She didn’t get it. So I told her it was “el Día de la Independencia.” It was making a little bit more sense to her now.

She told me that her teacher had told her about the Día de la Independencia . How it’s the day that we celebrate the country’s freedom. How there was a King who was in charge but that people didn’t want to listen to him so they formed their own government. “Yeah. Something like that,” I said. Then I tried to explain to her that what she was describing, though applicable to our country, was about Argentina and their independence from Spain. And that how the King in our story was from England. At which point she felt the need to tell me how I must be wrong since there can only be one King and according to her teacher he was from Spain. And then she shot me this geez-mom-have-you-forgotten-everything-they-taught-you-in-school look. It was precious.

So, I did what any mother in my situation would do, I changed the subject.

I also decided that before she went to bed we were going to read one of our many books about the United States of America. I was going to show her our flag and tell her about our founding fathers. And about how she’s named Abigail because I’ve always loved that name since learning about Abigail Adams and her “remember the ladies” quote. I’d tell her about July 4th in the USA and the types of things that people do to celebrate. I ‘d give her a mini history lesson. (If nothing else, I figured it would put her to sleep pretty quickly.)

A new Nick Jr. magazine arrived yesterday. It had the Backyardigans on the cover and Dora and Diego all over the pages inside. Somehow, the mini lesson got pushed aside.

Well, there’s always next year.


I didn’t grow up in a super patriotic family. We weren’t unpatriotic either. But we weren’t flag-waving-tie-a-yellow-ribbon-around-the-oak-tree types either.

Since I was a little girl, I always new that we had one American flag in our house. It sat folded in a black plastic bag in the attic collecting dust. It had been draped over my grandfather’s casket when he died. It made it’s way to our home after my grandmother passed. We never really talked about it. It was just one of those things that you’d stumble upon every now and again when helping to take out or put away Christmas decorations.

When I was in college I used to joke that if you cut me, I would bleed red-white-and-blue. Contrary to how it sounds, this comment had nothing to do with my patriotism or my love for country. It had everything to do with the fact that I spend 4 years studying American history, reading American literature, analyzing American films and dissecting American mass media, discussing the American dream, and commenting on American culture. I was an American Studies major.

I moved to the nation’s capital after college and got a job working in a policy think tank. I was surrounded by national monuments. I lived 20 or so blocks from the White House. Still, I wasn’t moved by days like July 4th. Songs like God Bless American didn’t bring tears to my eyes or make me want to stand up and sing. I wasn’t very patriotic.

Then, 2 U.S. Embassies in East Africa were bombed, the U.S.S Cole was attacked and September 11th happened. My world changed.

Since then, nothing has been the same. At least not for me.

That American Flag that flies over the US Embassy is an important symbol that I no longer take for granted. I’m much more patriotic these days than I ever was; then I ever have been. A combination of world events, my own experiences living overseas and working in an Embassy, and my personal contact with members of our Armed Forces that have served in conflict have led me to this point.

I think we all too often confuse patriotism with nationalism, with the adherence to a particular ideology, the ideology of the ruling party. But that is not my patriotism. My patriotism is for a country, for a people, for a land. For an idea. For life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

My grandfather’s flag. The same one that sat folded in the same plastic bag collecting years and years of dust now sits proudly on my parent’s mantel displayed in a beautifully crafted oak box that I gave to my father on father’s day one year.


From your resident expatriate, here’s wishing you all a Happy 4th!


Written by nicolemarie

July 4, 2007 at 11:24 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Great post! And a happy 4th to you too.


    July 5, 2007 at 9:17 am

  2. Very good post, very cute about abbey!

    Mark F

    July 5, 2007 at 12:39 pm

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