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NAVRAJ, 20

I'm Punjabi, I'm Sikh, I'm Queer and I live in the United States. My parents both immigrated here and so I grew up with narratives of patriotism being literally shoved down my throat because that's America. Within these narratives of patriotism, pretty much any objection to the American system or the status quo is looked down upon. You're supposed to dedicate your life to achieving the American dream, developing America and contributing to the American economy. That is a meaning of life. And again, I really genuinely think it has ripped people away from like what they really want in life. Things that are really important to them, their family and community. This idea of patriotism has detached people from their families back home, because they feel this pressure that they need to join Western culture and become patriotic. And they can't have allegiances with their own country anymore because that's not patriotic. so what ends up happening is that you have families that are perfectly fine together back in South Asia or back anywhere, that then feel the pressure to send their kids to the West and turn them American so they can get good jobs. And then their kids end up being lonely in America. And then their parents end up being lonely back home in South Asia. And everyone's just sad and lonely, but at least we're “American”

 

Is to be American, to be lonely and sad and away from your family? Maybe when I was younger and impressionable, and I was told these things and patriotism felt a lot more positive and it felt more of a duty to me, but now, I’ve just never really seen patriotism as positive. 

An important philosopher said ‘be lazy in everything except for in being lazy’.  So, in things like school and work and career, I'm not going to say I do the bare minimum, but I do enough that I feel is I am proud of. Beyond that, I do not think it is worth my while to waste my energy on things that are not living and existing and connecting and, you know, having conversations and being with friends and just spending time with my family and learning from them, because those are the things I'm going to remember. I'm not gonna remember waking up for work and turning in my assignments and buying stuff. 

Is to be American, to be lonely and sad and away from your family? Maybe when I was younger and impressionable, and I was told these things and patriotism felt a lot more positive and it felt more of a duty to me, but now, I’ve just never really seen patriotism as positive. 

I feel most inspired by majority of the world. If you look at our material, human conditions, sorry to be Marxist, if you really look at it, it would be that 70-80% of people are oppressed and colonized people whose pre-colonial beliefs are that we exist to be strange, we exist to exist, we exist to be free and to grow just as things in nature grow without knowing why they're growing. They just do it and they flourish. These are the beliefs that I feel like we should always be running by. 

I’m trying to figure out and navigate on a day to day basis how to balance the need for joy, my own joy, the joy of my community and the dire urgent need to materially help people and stop people's suffering. I think this has required a lot analysis of my position. What is my current position? Where has my focus been in the past? For example, for a couple of years in the past, I was involved in nonprofit organizing, progressive organizing, campus organizing and electoral organizing etc. 

 

When the pandemic ended high school, I started to question whether a lot of the things that I did in high school were impactful. I started to question the things that I was supposed to be doing, the things that I was told that would lead to change, who was I being guided by, where was that coming from - the narrative of how to make a change. Upon analyzing that, I realized that, though it was good work, it was either materially not helping anyone or only helping a select few. That realization required me to step back from a lot of the work I was doing and reassess and reform my guiding principles. I am anti-capitalist, but it is my duty to make sure my family is secure. It is my duty to distribute my wealth among those who are my kin and community who needs it. I realized that I should be investing on myself. I hate the idea of “what do you want to be when you grow up”, as if you can only be one thing when you grow up. But I think as long as I am living my truth, with the guidance and the principles that I feel secure with, and I can further help people with their own truths, however that looks like for them.