What Does it Mean to be American?
Sep 11, 2014

“Do you like being American?” Two weeks ago, a German I met asked me that simple question. I reclined in my chair, put a hand on my chin, and assuredly said, “Yes, yes I do.”

On this day, it is imperative that that we ask ourselves what it means to be an American. How we feel about the role of America on the global stage, and why in the world someone had enough hatred to send two passenger jets into the most populated office buildings in America.

Being American isn’t about freedom, liberty, or democracy. Not about military might, barbeque, or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

These are parts of a whole, the small bits you can patch into a quilt. To me, being an American is having a vision of something greater. Let’s start here, with a group of 100 settlers that left England in search of religious freedom. Landing in hostile territory, they overcame foreign disease, a new type of land to cultivate, and grueling winters.

We stood up to the British Empire, at the time the greatest military power in the world. With little more than a rag-tag militia, we had the balls to say no taxation without representation. Soldiers died for the right to freedom. And eight years after the war began we had solidified ourselves as a sovereign nation.

As the nation grew so did our eyes. Looking west, Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the race was on. In 1845, a journalist named John O’Sullivan coined the term Manifest Destiny, a doctrine that guided domestic policy as railways and buggies carried adventuresome folk to free plots of land provided under the Homestead Act.

Passing through the decades of this nation, we have fought wars of attrition, suffered economic depressions, and struggled to secure liberty and justice for all. And yes, despite all of these actions, I remain proud to be an American.

Because despite our flaws, despite our mistakes, we remain committed to a vision of something better than what we have.  We are not a perfect nation; but we are committed to the formation of a “more perfect Union.” From our actions as a state, to the daily lives of over 300 million people, we strive to be better one day at a time. And that is the most noble of intentions.

So raise a flag, wear the colors, or crank up the country and fire up the grill. Today we can all be proud to be American.

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