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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Free to be Me

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(6/2015) I am proud to be an American where at least I know I am free to be me. I know that sounds a little too clichť for some of you reading this, but with this being the month that holds the anniversary of our country's independence, it is hard not to ruminate on the benefits of living here.

In my last article, I discussed the sincerity and the perfect ideals framed The Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights. Forgive me for harping at the same idea, but I find it difficult to discuss my pride of being an American without mentioning these two important documents. Here in America, I have the right to be who I am, which is, among other things: a Catholic, a woman, a student, and a writer.

The first Amendment protects an individualís rights of religion, speech, and press. It never specifically excludes any religion, nor gives and exception to when that faith can be exploited. Now, while individuals may or may not hold personal grudges and biases towards one particular religious group or another; the documents upon which our country was founded do not single out one religion while degrading another. I was born and raised Roman Catholic and my faith is very important to me, so too, by extension, is this Amendment. I am extremely grateful to live in a country where I can practice my faith without censure or fear.

I rarely think about what it means to be a woman in America verses what it means in other countries. There are some who believe that women are still disrespected, degraded, and still seen as subordinate to men in American society. While I agree that there is still an undertone of inequality, I realize that I am lucky to have been born here, where I have the right to vote, the right to defend my country, the right to hold office, and the right to an education. My rights are protected, I am not required or expected to get married, keep house, and pop out 2.5 kids. I have the underappreciated right to chase my career, to marry if and when I want, to have dreams and hopes of a better future. It is an unfortunate truth that in some parts of the world these rights are still denied to women.

The right to education is an important one and as a student (and a sister to a teacher of todayís youth), it holds a special place in my heart. Knowledge is a powerful tool, one that everyone has a right to utilize. A civil rights activist and icon of hope and equality, Malala Yousafzai, realizes the importance of education and has spoken out numerous times as an advocate of education and the right of knowledge, even at the risk of her own life. As a country, we tend to take advantage of education and I know for certain that I have. I have had the privilege of learning in well-equipped schools, and did not, until now, attempt to imagine a life where I would be unable or forbidden to pursue an education. Until now, I have never thought that I could have been born in a place with no libraries or a place filled with only censored books, or a place where it is seen as a waste to educate a woman. Now that I have taken time to realize this, I am more than proud to be an American, I am grateful.

Being a writer is also very important to me. It is as much a part of me as my faith, and to live in a country that protects what I write is obviously valuable. To know that I can express my views whether in speech or in ink, without fear of persecution or, as previously mentioned, censorship, is comforting and also somewhat empowering. However, the reason I have this right is because I live in America. Writing and other forms of expression are not only important, but also necessary. By denying this right, you are denying a person their voice and on a greater scale, you are denying who they are. Looking back at literature, and other media, though the ages, one can see a reflection of the time in which it was written. One can see the times of prosperity, protest, pride, and persecution drip from the pages and canvas. It is inhumane to refuse a person their voice whether it be in speech, paint, or ink.

I am proud to be an American and feel indebted to the men and women throughout the ages that have created, fought for, and protected our country and her ideals out of pride, honor, and good old-fashion stubbornness. So this July, as the smoke from the grill hangs in the air and as the lights of the fireworks light up the sky, look around. As colored light washes over the faces of your loved ones, take notice of the look of wonder and awe that alight on their features; and the look of pride in their eyes that burn in the afterglow.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir