It’s easy to complain about things in our lives. Our job is draining. Our phone battery is dead. Our favorite coffee is sold out. But if we set aside our petty complaints and look at the bigger picture, as Americans, we are incredibly lucky. We have many freedoms we don’t fully appreciate, even though we really should, and there are so many things we take for granted every single day.
Here are some examples:
Kids like to complain about going to school: there’s too much work; the lunches are gross; they don’t like their teacher. On the other hand, in many parts of the world, Third World children would give anything to be able to sit in a classroom with a teacher who cares about their future, in a stable building containing ample books and supplies. However, due to various reasons – war; poverty; gender inequality – many kids around the world aren’t afforded this chance. In fact, over 61 million school-age children outside of America are not in school today because of these issues.
With over 683.1 billion dollars spent on international travel in 2016, Americans love their out-of-country excursions. This is just another freedom many Americans take for granted: the freedom to travel freely both nationally and internationally. In fact, a passport from the United States grants entry into 174 countries, even if the traveler doesn’t hold an active visa. Though citizens of most developed countries like Europe have the similar freedom of international travel, politics or other factors limit travel for citizens of countries that are politically or economically strained. Israelis and Brazilians can only receive access to 147 and 146 countries without advance visas, respectively, Taiwanese only 132, Russians only 100, and Chinese only 52!
American supermarket aisles are filled with various varieties of chewing gum. However, buying a pack isn’t so easy in Singapore. In an effort to keep the streets clean, a 1992 law banned all chewing gum in this Southeast Asian country. Today, gum is allowed only with a doctor’s prescription. Should a chewer spit a wad on the ground or leave it on public property, the offender is facing a hefty fine.
Because of the First Amendment, Americans have free access to anything found in the deep depths of the Internet. Some may see this non-censorship as a natural right, however, not all countries are given unrestricted access to online information. Facebook, Google, and other Internet services have removed or blocked postings on a country-by-country basis. As examples, China and North Korea have completely banned both Facebook and Google, while Germany censors online posts regarding the Third Reich, as content about this topic is illegal to distribute there.
Land of the free and home of the brave! Despite our recent political and social turmoil, we are still lucky to be citizens of such a great country. We are granted rights that no one can take away from us. We have the right to become anyone we want to be and to drive our life in whatever direction we choose. We are not forced to practice a certain religion or work in a certain field. Not every country allows their citizens these rights, which is truly one of the greatest things about being an American.
Katherine Truong is an editorial intern