S A R I S H A K U R U P
O my America! my new-found-land,
As much as I love to travel in Europe , I cannot deny the singular comfort of descending into SFO, walking on American soil, where I have never felt foreign, never an outsider. There is only one place in the world that I will ever truly feel that way, and it's right here, in California.
The Fourth of July has always been an aspirational holiday for me, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, where traditional lore about what the day is supposed to be like makes me intent on somehow capturing that fantasy. I am no Taylor Swift, but I can still dress in red white and blue, cut watermelon squares, and light some fireworks.
Growing up as the child of immigrants, I think I've always loved the Fourth a little bit more because there's something beautiful about being able to embrace the history and legacy of a country whose mythology and promise your parents believed in, chose, and gifted to you. On the Fourth, I find myself especially glad that of all the places in the world my parents could have chosen to live, they chose here.
The promise of America is so often written about it's almost utterly clichéd by now. But I think there's something beautiful about it anyway. As a child, already in love with history, I was so enamored by the Kennedy's Camelot. I would flip through black and white hardcover books in the library, pictures of Jackie and JFK, in the White House, in Hyannis Port, in countries all over the world. There will be great presidents again, Jackie Kennedy said, but there will never be another Camelot. But how I so wanted a piece of that Camelot when I was younger.
We had a coffee table book called Spectacular America, a heavy thing filled with wide lens photographs of some of the most beautiful places in America, and in elementary school I would flip through it with rapt attention day after day, marveling at the enormity of the Grand Canyon, the distinct patterns on the rocks of Zion, the white, untouched planes of snow in Alaska and Vermont, and rugged, wild oceans of Maine. It was the book that made me love travel, I've always known that, but when I think about it now, I think it's also the first book that made me love America, made me proud that I had some claim to all these unearthly places. One day I want to work in political journalism (still a minor in Art History though!), to give back to this country and its people as much as I have been given.
It's a country with so many flaws, so much work to do. This year feels heavier than most others in that respect. But it has also been a privilege and an honor to live in a country that is at the center of the world. Last month, in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, I saw so much of the glory of the Old World. Great art of the Renaissance, great sea ports of the 15th century, great streets of the Dutch Golden Age. It was all the grand history I had found sorely lacking in California. But as I slipped on my high-waisted blue shorts this morning, buttoned up my pale blue and white shirt, I couldn't help smiling at the distinct American-ness of it all.
I live in the New World, I thought.