Liberty and justice for all: why I plan to celebrate with our community this year



Oklahoma City family fun is for everyone this July 4. 

Independence Day tops my list of favorite holidays.  I love that it's more relaxing than others throughout the year, without Christmas's sense of obligation or Easter's hasty preparations. July 4 is chill at our house, given that the most I'll prepare is some barbecue and the only plans we have to make are when to load the lawn chairs into our aging Jeep. 

Another reason stands out this year for why I love the holiday: it's unifying.

Find out what's happening near you with MetroFamily's Independence Day Fun Guide.

We can have a good time at LibertyFest, at Red, White & Boom and Freedom Festivals throughout the state without worrying so much about our differences. 

My husband isn't a citizen. Mario is eligible but that takes a long time. Immigration processes are not known for their ease or efficiency. They are expensive and a source of immense stress for our family. "Pending" is an unsettling word when your family's life depends on it. We cross our fingers, pay our money, refresh .gov pages and hope that everything comes out fine. 

A lot of people's views soften when they realize this is us, that families like ours are in the system and that we've done everything right but there's still no guarantee. Being from Central America makes for some awkward pauses right now as friends and neighbors try to find the right approach to ask questions they don't always want answered about why families come here and how. It is easy to conjecture about other people's circumstances when yours are comfortable enough.

Year after year, I notice a lot of people from other places at July 4 celebrations and that is inspiring to me because no matter what you believe now, at this divisive point in our society, we are a nation of immigrants. You don't have to be born in the U.S. to celebrate that unique concept.

I am proud to welcome new people to a home they chose and I personally believe that diversity makes us stronger. Even diversity of opinion has its place because those differences make us decide who we are and what we know to be true. So that's my answer when people ask how our family is doing: we are saddened and we want to help but glad to see other people reaching out too. Bring the debate because our society has room for that. 

Democracy and all it stands for are at the forefront this week with Tuesday's elections as well. Record voter turnout is a beautiful thing and I'm really proud my children see what we're talking about, that their voice matters and they should sign next to their names later in a printed book that says they showed up to exercise that right.

Real life, though, often clashes with patriotic ideals. I was late, really late in fact, going to vote after work, even though I had studied the names and the issues and kept trying to get out the door. I had been rushing around all day, between getting ready for a babysitter, going to a staff meeting and figuring out what to make for dinner. Five o'clock rolled around and I was starting to think voting wasn't going to happen, may as well as skip it. Mario urged me out the door.

I went. I stood in line for the wrong precinct. My name wasn't in the spiral-bound book manned by a table of senior citizen volunteers. I started over again at the west division's separate line and texted home to say I was thinking about leaving. The answer back, from my husband who can't vote yet, made me stay: "Don't... It's the one time everyone is really equal." That's the proudest "I voted" sticker I have because it represents speaking for those who can't. 

We'll go together next week and celebrate July 4. I fully expect to hear "You don't belong here" on the news that day. That's okay. We don't need everyone's approval to share a community. There are good things happening in it that measure up to our nation's common identity. For one day, I want to focus on shared ideals and just enjoy the red, white and blue together. Other ideologies are just details; like it or not, what we share outweighs the rest.

Love your country and come celebrate alongside us.

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