What does it mean to be “American”? Are you “American”?

 

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Being an American does not mean one specific thing. I could sit here all day and repeat what has been said over and over to us throughout life, that being an American means you believe in freedom. You believe in equality of man and women. You believe in education for all and equal opportunity for all, or even that you love apple pie and your right to bear arms. That you are truly free to do all of that or to not believe in any of it at all. Even though these are all true meaning of being an American, and after some serious reflection, I have concluded that to be an American just means that you are born in the United States or you have become a resident or citizen of the land. It is just formality, a label, which we as humans desperately like to put on things.

The reason behind my conclusion is that every single one of those descriptions define me as something else rather than just an American. I believe in equality for men and women. In equality of all mankind and freedom of all. I believe that every single human being has the right to education and I do encourage everyone to get an education but I do not believe in these because I am a citizen of the USA. I believe in these as a Baha’i. These believes are part of the core values of what it means to be a Baha’i, almost down to the exact definition. These believes were with my family before they came to the U.S. and exists among other Baha’is all around the world, regardless of their country of residence. And as far as apple pie goes, well I sure love any kind of pie, not because I am an American but because I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I do love food in general. Of course, I should also mention that not all who identify themselves as American believe in everything just mentioned that is supposed to define you as an American.

But wait, to be an American is not what you believe or do, right? Doesn’t being an American mean that you are part of a country that is providing the freedom for you to do all those things? Sure, that is another way to see things. Being an American means you have democracy to vote for who you want and to live openly and freely as you please as long you of course you do not disturb the freedom of your fellow citizens. But again, that is not an exclusive for the citizens of the United States. If my family had moved to Argentina instead of the United States and had the freedom to vote for their representatives in a democracy like the USA, would that have made them an American? of course not.

I am an American in the sense that I am proud of this country. I am free and I do love my people and opportunities here. But I would say that I am more a Texan than an American. Because my Texan American ways are totally different from the American that the people of Utah know. As a Texan, the definition of American could be linked to being a good catholic, loving your beer, loving your pickup truck, more apple pie love and of course enjoying your gun. But as a resident of Utah, the definition of American for me would switch to being a good Mormon wife which then alcohol becomes a big no-no and so on. The social norms are different in different states and therefore the generic you aren’t an American if you don’t such and such completely changes its meaning from place to place. That is why I say being an American is just a label with no set meaning since it changes from person to person or place to place.

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2 comments

  1. I liked how you stated that being a Texan American might be described differently as being an American from Utah. The ideas of what it means to be American can vary by state. I didn’t think about this idea before but I totally agree. Every state is different, and so are its people. What people are proud to live in Texas for can be different than other places in the United States and you make a great point. There are many stereotypes about Texas- beer, guns, ranches, etc. Some of these things might even be why people love America itself too. I think the main point is that everyone wants the freedom to have and do the things that make them unique. America offers many opportunities and its diversity is what makes it so great even if our description of “American” is different.

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  2. Ideally, America would be the great place that we are constantly hearing about. The freedom, education, equality, and apple pie that you mention above are all great, in theory. I believe everyone should have apple pie, it seems like the easiest of those tasks to accomplish.

    Although we talk a good game with these benefits, it is almost like America is force feeding us why being here is great. We have formed no great ideas about America ourselves. America has not offered all of these alleged rights to anyone I know. By telling us why America is great, we have essentially been brainwashed into regurgitating these qualities. I would love to discover and reside in this mythical version of America I keep hearing about.

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