What It Means to be an American

There was a time where being an American was largely associated with rebellion. We were the group of settlers that swore we could find success and nothingness, the ragtag militia that somehow defeated one of the greatest empires of the Western world for their independence. 3809103ffa79c3467e8ad7055bb73ef4

Figure: Colonizers protest taxation by England though they had no representation in Congress. This depicts the riots preceding the 1765 Stamp Act. Source: Historical Scrapbook.

As much as the history nerd in me wants to pinpoint when, somewhere along the way our defiant nature on which this country was founded. Now, two-hundred-fifty some odd years later, we’ve become obsessed with conflating patriotism and being complicit in any violence the State deems necessary.  We’re not to question the police, any wars, any legislation and certainly not to dredge up the historically oppressive residuals of any aforementioned entity. The only real distinction I can make between protests of 1774 and protests of 2017 are that in 1774 it was white men demanding freedom, and now the rioters are marginalized Americans asserting humanity.                                                              mSPGYLh    Figure: A Ferguson protestor throws tear gas back at cops in Ferguson, 2014. Source: Twitter images.

If we measure being American by how much I agree with imperialism, Christianity, or capitalism then I am about as un-American as they come. I don’t believe in the military or prayer in public schools or a healthcare market where people cannot afford medicine. I think patriotism has become dangerously conflated with jingoism which fewer and fewer people seem to know the meaning of and more and more people seem to be partaking in. I believe wholeheartedly the American people have a responsibility to critique and dismantle any oppressive entity as our founding fathers did, whether the current American looks like one of the founding fathers or not.

However, if we’re discussing “American” in terms of that old spirit of rebellion? I’m as American as they come. I acknowledge the government as in imperfect institution, and like the Boston Tea Party attendees, put the value of human lives before property that can be replaced. And while my revolution will include people of color and women, I’m relieved to have a history where the groundwork has been laid out before me.


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