I spent the first two decades of my life in Iran. But Iran, in the vice grip of tyranny, was no home. When I left to live in Hungary, it quickly became clear that my Middle Eastern background meant that I would not find a new life in Europe. This is not the case in America, where our accents and how we look do not make us any less American than one other. Here, the measure of one’s patriotism is one’s dedication to liberty and the American creed.
Love for America does not mean blindness to its many faults or to its unfulfilled promises. I was mortified by Donald Trump’s ascent, but I am also proud that the same ballot box that brought him to power ousted him from the presidency. I was outraged by the murder of George Floyd, but I fell in love with America all over again when I saw the outrage it generated among my compatriots.
And my American story is not those three times in the past seven years that I was a target of bigotry because of my background or beliefs. Rather, my American story is that it happened only three times—far fewer than in Hungary or in Iran. I arrived in this country with two suitcases and nothing else. Despite the mountain of expectations I had of America, it has not disappointed me. For the first time, life is not so frustrating that it forces me to focus on my wellbeing alone; freedom has brought with it so comfortable a life that I can now care about others.