I have always understood the advantages and appreciated the opportunities afforded to me as an American, but it has only been in recent years that I have truly realized what it means for me as a writer.
Living in America, I am able to, without fear or persecution, freely and creatively express myself through writing. I can write about politics, classism, racism, or any other subject that I feel is noteworthy, and I can openly interject my own thoughts and opinions.
As a writer in America, my thoughts are not dictated nor restrained by my government. I am not told which books I can read and not read nor am I told which books I can write and not write.
As writers in America, we sit at our keyboards posed to write what is in our minds and hearts without the worry of maltreatment from our leadership. If we feel fear, it’s often because we worry about our own creative inadequacies never because our government tries to obstruct our vision. Here, in America, we are free. Free to dream, free to create, free to be artistic, free to write.
We, as a people, are able to artistically express ourselves in a variety of mediums, which allows our culture to, in turn, benefit from these creations. Because our works of art, writing and music aren’t distorted by any ulterior motives harbored by authority figures, its significance is authentic.
The validity of work created organically contributes to our lives, enriching our thoughts and minds in ways unknown in other places. Consequently, the development of our culture deepens as we progress both mentally and emotionally as a nation.
But what about when one lives in a culture void of art–no music, no paintings, no writing unless it is created and/or approved by a government that seeks to oppress its people? What happens when one lives in a place where even if one feels the desire and need for artistic expression, he or she must suppress that longing? What happens when every manifestation of creativity is squelched by those who seek to control their people?
It is obviously a question I, gratefully, cannot fully answer. I can conjecture that the lack of free and open creative expression fractures the psyche of an individual, slowly eroding one’s sense of imagination and vision causing small fissures in the cohesiveness of a culture. These small tears spread and expand until they rip apart a people’s ability and desire to understand and appreciate themselves and one another.
I believe that people are innately endowed with the desire to be creative and thoughtful in their expression. An inherent need as basic and necessary as eating. And just as we will seek food when our bodies are hungry, we will seek art to nourish our souls.
Any hindrance to this expression is equivalent to consuming rotten food when fresh can’t be found. It will still nourish, but it will never satisfy. We, as Americans, are fortunate for we have the opportunity to be both filled and fulfilled.
So as the last sparks of dancing light extinguished in the night sky, I thought about what it truly meant to be an American.
It means that I–we– can live in the light of creativity while others, tragically, are forced to live in the darkness of a life without art.