What am I doing here? Celebrating International Independence

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

Sefrou, Morocco
July 4, 2012

It’s funny, certain days will never lose their meaning. Christmas will always be an important day, no matter my religion. Ramadan (which is coming up) will always have significance for me whether I fast or not (by the way, it’s coming up in a few weeks). And, being an American, July 4th will always be a day of celebrating independence, remembering the founding fathers of the USA, and thinking of barbecues, watermelon, and fireworks.

It’s been years since I stepped foot in the USA, but it won’t matter if I never go back – the 4th of July will always cause me to pause and reflect. When I was a kid, I used to get stacks of books from the public library – then I would sit in a treehouse and read them. I would go through series and collections and one of them was something like the ‘Young Patriots’ series – These were childhood biographies of notables like Ben Franklin, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas, John Adams, Samuel Adams and more…

US passports by stateThese books led me to read the actual biographies of the men. And perhaps, it was reading those biographies that introduced me to the ideas and concepts of liberty, democracy, freedom, and independence. From my youngest days, these ideas became a fundamental part of my personality and ideals.  In fact, it was probably as a result of all of that, that I eventually enlisted in the Marines, skipped going to college, and set myself on a path towards disappointment in my country and what it had come to stand for.

It was in the Marines, that I began to see that we had become corporate mercenaries working for the likes of Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Enron, and the entire military industrial complex. Those ideals of the founding fathers, they seemed to have been twisted and turned into something that was completely different from what the great men had fought for. Much like the teachings of Christ, Mohammad or any other religious founder had been twisted for selfish ends.

Benjamin Franklin based the new American passport, in those days just a single sheet of paper, on the French one.

So, in a sense, this holiday, this 4th of July, always makes me sad because it reminds me of what our country could have been versus what it had become. I finished my commitment in the Marines and wasn’t able to reenlist in good conscious. From that time, I was working to try to escape – I wanted to look for someplace where those ideals still existed or to find a way to fight for those ideals. I had thoughts of becoming a revolutionary – but what I saw with research and time was that every cause becomes subverted and perverted by those who don’t feel any moral compunction in exploiting others for their own benefit. This is the world, and this is how it works.

Pretty cynical – unfortunately, it is also pretty true. Eventually, I managed to escape from the USA and become an expat and traveler – but what I learned was that it doesn’t particularly matter where you go, it’s all the same.

So what is international independence? In fact, it’s the passport.

God Bless America for giving me this beautiful blue passport that allows me to go just about anywhere in the world that I want.  My wife, with a Moroccan passport, can’t go to even 1/3 of the countries that I can go to without getting an expensive visa, filling out forms, and going through bureaucracy. Me, I just take my blue passport and get on the plane. I’m independent to go anywhere.

America’s first passport cover, in 1918, was beige, going green three years later. It changed to various shades of red in 1926 and back to green in 1941. Only on the bicentenary in 1976 did it turn blue, matching the shade in the American flag.

The list of countries that I can go to without a visa is vast. There are more countries I can just bop into without any planning than there are that I need to plan ahead about. The greatest freedom the USA has given me, is the freedom to live this kind of life I lead. Without my passport, my citizenship, my country – I wouldn’t have been able to leave as easily as I did.

American founding fathersIf the founding fathers failed in creating the perfect society they envisioned – it wasn’t a complete wash. As Americans we can go all over the world and have international independence – and for that alone, I am going to go and get some hot dogs, light up the barbecue, and introduce my Moroccan family to this American tradition.

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook