Despite our heritage, we are all people of the United States – Farmville


INormally, July 4th is marked by family reunions, grills and fireworks.

The subdued tone of calm inspired by last year’s pandemic may carry over into this summer for many people, but themes of U.S. history, independence, and patriotism will likely emerge in conversations, decorations and prayers for the nation.

Recent discussions have often focused on how the people of the United States are divided. This perception has been exacerbated by the limited in-person contact and algorithms used by social media. These automated processes were developed to stimulate and prolong engagement by arousing emotions. They push people to the extreme limits of ideas. By filtering and limiting the scope of the data presented, they isolate people from the moderating effect of broader perspectives and exposure to other viewpoints.

Progress towards the ideals on which America was founded demands that we overcome this type of shattering. The Constitution of the United States opens with words that emphasize the need for cooperative participation in order to preserve our cherished way of life. You may have even memorized these words.

We, the people of the United States, to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of freedom for ourselves and our posterity, order and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These sentences highlight important ethical principles such as unity, justice, tranquility and freedom. They emphasize the need to work together for common goals, such as our common defense and general well-being. They remind us that we do not respect these principles for ourselves alone, but for generations to come. They include everyone in the United States, not just those who belong to a specific demographic.

According to data collected by the US Census Bureau, there are over 328 million of us. Our median annual household income is $ 65,712, but over 12% live in poverty, including nearly 17% of our country’s children. Almost 13% have some type of disability, including hearing, vision, walking and personal care problems. More than 9% do not have health insurance. Almost 7% are veterans of the US military. There is a wide range of study options and outcomes: 12.8% have a graduate or vocational diploma, but almost as many (11.45%) do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Our racial and ethnic origins cover a wide range of colors and we live in towns, villages and rural areas.

A good majority of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Aboriginal people represent less than 1.5% of our population. In other words, over 98.5% of us have ancestral roots elsewhere. My heritage places me firmly in this group.

My paternal grandmother’s lineage came from Quakers who came to America in search of religious freedom. My paternal grandfather is a mysterious man, at least to me. My mother’s family line contains a side that migrated from Old England to seek opportunities in New England. They arrived a century before Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. The other side of her family’s American experience began with Finnish refugees arriving much more recently. They were fleeing the rattling of Russian and German sabers in the days leading up to World War I.

A few tangled generations later, here I am. My children have inherited this blend as well as my husband’s multinational heritage, and my grandchildren claim various additional elements brought in by my daughter-in-law’s family.

Some people come from families with less blurred roots and others from families with a greater assortment of branches. Despite these varied backgrounds and experiences, we are all inhabitants of the United States.

On this Independence Day, as we come together to celebrate the birth of our nation, let us applaud its worthy ideals, including our right to vote, our freedoms and the promised opportunities. At the same time, let us commit to recognizing our faults, such as the legacy of racism and the opioid epidemic. As true patriots who are responding to the call to come to the aid of their country, let us unite to remedy these shortcomings in order to rise above them.

KAREN BELLENIR wrote for The Farmville Herald since 2009. His book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia presents a compilation of his columns. It is available on You can contact Karen at [email protected]

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