More than 314 million people have likely heard or uttered a certain line hundreds, if not thousands of times. You’re supposed to sing it, but most often someone with demonstrated singing abilities is given a mic and does it for you, as you lip synch, speak the words or listen respectfully. You don’t have to hold your hand over your heart, but many still do. Next year, the line and its song will be 200 years old.
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave
As tiny little patriots, we’re taught the lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. Like most I haven’t given much thought to what it really means to me. It’s just part of life – that song you hear before sporting events, followed by ‘Play ball!’ Sure, sure. We get the free part. And the brave are our soldiers and forefathers. But now it’s even clearer. Brave? Why, that’s you and me and those odd, brave steps we take that somehow make us American.
In Swedish, brave = modig, but I can’t sincerely say I heard or read the word very often until about a month ago, when more than one person said it about me. Why? I put in my two month’s notice at work without having a new job lined up. Why? Even the most patient of people like myself can be pushed too far. So I straightened up my spine and jumped.
When you’re a non-Swede in Sweden, people tend to assume you’re a love refuge – that you moved here for your Swede. I’m not. I didn’t. Back in 2007, I decided I needed a change of the big variety. I researched master’s programs abroad, applied to three and even tried for a Fulbright grant to do research and museum work in the Netherlands (I at least made it past the American judges, but the Dutch weren’t interested). I did all this while my parents were clearing out/selling my childhood home AND I was in charge of a beastly 268-page special anniversary issue at work in addition to my normal duties, but nevermind. Accepted into all three programs, I chose the one in Lund over those in Finland and the Netherlands. I secured all the paperwork, stayed up way too late panicking over finding a place to live, took out student loans, threw myself an unforgettable going away party and boarded a plane for a two-year stay in an unknown place very, very far away from Louisiana. Oh and I didn’t know a soul.
I’m not a soldier. I’m not a wartime reporter. I’m not a single parent. I’m not a whistle blower. I’m not an activist. I’m not a survivor. I’m not a pioneer. Yet, I am brave. Part of me attributes this to being an American. It’s part of who we are. It surfaces in different ways, but we’re all brave enough to stand up for what we believe is right – for others and/or for ourselves. Though we crash and collide most times, arguing over our beliefs, still we stand tall. Mostly, we’re brave enough to try.
So with one month left to go till unemployment in this crap economy, I remind myself, my fellow Americans and those in need of some lifting, that no matter where you come from, you can build yourself a home of the brave.
Let’s play some ball, motherfuckers.
P.S. The Swedish national anthem? For what it’s worth – no mention of bravery.