What does it Mean to Be an American

Posted by ChloeMendez on March 11th, 2020

What being an American means is a multiplatform, multimedia and national question, which attracts the views of leading public figures, thinkers and Americans from all walks of live to explore and the tough questions about how America’s past can inform its present and project the future. The USA is a state that is anchored to principles that all its citizens enjoy more freedom than other nations in the world. By the virtue of its fundamental principles, the USA is a country of diverse religions, races, cultures and ethnicities. In his poem, The Melting Pot, Israel Zangwill, a character in the poem, argues that while Israel is a nation where people from all works of life come to worship and return to their homes, America is a land of favorable conditions where individuals from different parts of the globe arrive to seek for economic opportunities and better life. At the same time, our attention is drawn to Horace Kallen, an immigrant, who was the first person to seriously challenge the notion of the American melting pot and the legitimate ideal of cultural diversity. In Kallen’s opinion, humans can literally change everything, but for their roots. In this paper, I will explore the unique features, which make a person proud to be an American, thus, in essence answering the question what it means to be one.

To begin with, people can easily change their politics, clothes, wives; religious beliefs and philosophies to a greater or lesser extent but they cannot choose their grandfathers. The term ‘grandfather’ is used in this case to refer to the ancestral origin. America is a nation founded by immigrants coming from different parts of the world for various reasons. Some of them fled to the USA as a result of religious persecution for the freedom of worship in their native countries.Thus, for one to be a true American he or she must embrace people from diverse backgrounds.

In addition, religious liberty is a part of American citizens’ DNA. The U.S. is an open state, which hosts not only opulent and respectable strangers but also the oppressed and persecuted persons from all nations and religions around the globe. In America, one has the freedom of choosing a religion. Accordingly, these people from different cultural and theological backgrounds make the U.S. culture diverse. The kind of liberty, which the Americans enjoy, is well articulated by the political class, which says that the USA is not a white, an Anglo-Saxon or a Christian country. It defines America as an idea. As a result, this definition makes the country a liberal state ready to receive immigrants of various lifestyles from all over the world. Consequently, to be an American means that one has the freedom of worship.

Therefore, Kallen envisioned American nationality as a collocation of autonomous ethnic groups, which coexist harmoniously and are entitled to the freedom of worship, rather than something distinctive in itself, which lacks national coherence. Hence, cultural pluralism brings diversity and the uniqueness of the American people.

Furthermore, the U.S. citizens are receptive to the immigrants who throng into their country in large numbers due to various reasons such as political and religious intolerance in the country of their origin. The warm reception contradicts Kallen’s expectations. The philosopher believed so rigidly that if one was a Jew, he/ she could not become a Pole or an Anglo-Saxon even through assimilation. On the contrary, the United States is a free country full of possibilities and plenty of opportunities where the individual’s destiny need not be programmed at birth. Despite the ambivalence as a result of different cultural backgrounds of the American citizens and families, they are free to change not only names, spouses or residence, but also the religion. On that account, being American means that one has the freedom of choice.

However, it is important to note that freedom comes with liability. Thus, being an American involves the sense of responsibility. The U.S. citizen should work hard to make the country proud. As an American, one must be an inventor. Furthermore, an individual is required to put the interest of the country first and refrain from activities, which can undermine peaceful coexistence of people from different backgrounds. Therefore, as a true American one is supposed to embrace the tenets of cultural and religious pluralism.

For teens, being an American denotes that one has the liberty of choosing which school and church to attend, deciding on the course to pursue and the mode of entertainment without parental or governmental interference. Furthermore, they add that it involves being a proud citizen and defending human rights such as the right of free speech. The U.S. teenagers enjoy the freedom of education regardless of their gender unlike countries like China and Afghanistan where girls are not allowed to attend schools simply because they are females. In America, women are able to receive the same education as men and have a greater chance of becoming more successful than their male counterparts. For that reason, being a citizen of America presupposed equal opportunities of personal development and advancement.

However, some youngsters present interesting views when asked to elaborate what is implied by being an American. It presupposes staying blind to the global problems and consuming the resources of other nations. All over the world, the USA has been thrown into controversy concerning the discovery and extraction of natural resources such as gas and crude oil. It is, however, important that this is just a perception by other nations. In addition, when they had to explain what it meant by American lifestyle, they were grateful for being citizens of the United States of America given the fact that teenagers as well as adults enjoys many freedoms. However, they were skeptical of the high-headedness tag that comes with holding American citizenship.

On the contrary, Americans tend to be exposed to global challenges such as racial discrimination, climate change and terrorism. Racial discrimination manifests itself when the native people show prejudice towards the non-whites. Though great progress has been made on the racial relation issue, there is the need to entrench the beliefs that a democratic society should endeavor to preserve the integrity of its constituent groups. Other challenges, which an American citizen faces, is the threat of terrorism as a result of open door policy of the state government that sometimes gives room to the criminal elements to enter the United States of America.

In a nutshell, being an American means that one is able to enjoy greater levels of freedom, cultural pluralism and opportunities for personal development as compared to other countries in the world. However, these liberty and fair personal advancement conditions come with responsibility of being a law abiding and hardworking citizen, who is ready to participate in solving global issues, which America faces.

Chloe Mendez, blogger and writer at https://specialessays.com/

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Joined: March 11th, 2020
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