What It Means To Be an American

This post is a bit different from some of the other articles. The idea is to get us thinking on a special national holiday about purpose and nation. Thanks for reading!

Are you a “True American” or a “Modern American”? There could be many answers to what this means, but here is mine:

“True” Americans are immigrants or the ancestors of them and are hard-working, entrepreneurial types who prefer an honest answer to an easy one. Like Ben Franklin, they are international-minded, but like where they are and are proud of their home and its history, learning experiences and all. In making friends, they look more to Dr. King’s version of the “content of their character” than to any other criteria. They are trustworthy and expect others to be the same. They honor and value family and believe that their life’s work and their children are their legacies. Politically, an American thinks of his country in terms of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address quote in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” A true American thinks about his family first, then the national interest, then his preferred political party somewhere in the distance. They love peace but will fight for their beliefs and stand their ground when necessary.

I believe this “idea” of what it means to be an American was a notion set in place following the founding period; how accurate it was / is may be more an ideal than a reality. This version of Americanism is also quite poignantly portrayed as a declining stereotype in Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film Gran Torino. Separately, thinking about the “family first” is not intended to mean promoting one’s own family over the interests of the nation while in political office, simply that one takes care of a crisis in his foundation, his family, prior to attending to community or national matters, unless the larger matter would impact his family more severely.

“Modern Americans”, however, are often seen to be mentally isolationist, more a nearly rational result of distance from, and lack of need of, other countries than anything else. They are also portrayed as shallow, being more interested in television programming in the form of American Idol, etc. or video games than anything substantial. Families are often broken, whether still together or not, and do not teach subsequent generations age-old wisdom, honor, duty and respect for nature or other human beings. The “me-first syndrome” is epidemic, and partially a result of the popularization of ego-centric athletic stars in the “blue-collar” culture. “White-collar” society is not forgotten here, as they have the Wall Street investment bankers’ belief in being “masters of the universe”.

This version of modern America has its flaws as well. It seems most countries have their “True American” high producers who fit a highly-productive, highly-ethical standard in their approach to life and business, but this is a distinct minority, regardless of where you travel. Most citizens of any given country are the “Modern America” American Idol or Baywatch type, valuing themselves and what the community owes them more highly than their responsibility as a member of the community as a whole. Any country that could turn the aforementioned minority into a majority would be likely to lead in the 21st century.

To America and beyond: July 4, 2011 is the 235th anniversary of your Declaration of Independence. We have inherited much to be thankful for. Are we willing to do more than simply maintain our status? Are we willing to improve upon the foundation we have been so lucky to be born upon?

This article is dedicated to the memory of the American Founders and the noble work and mortal danger that was bravely endured by those great men so that we may prosper today. Whether you’re a natural born American or have never set foot on its soil, all nations are important and need to be staffed and educated by men and women dedicated to making the world a better place.

What can you do to improve the world around you?

About Barry Saturday

The author is a Lexington, Ky-based financial advisor and formerly taught high school social studies for Fayette County Public Schools. Along with a M.A. in Education, his educational background consists of a B.A. in Foreign Languages and International Economics and an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in Global Commerce. In 2012, he finished a two-month stint student teaching in Xi'an, China, and recently (2018) ran for City Council in Lexington, KY (District 4: Tates Creek / Nicholasville Rd area). Today's news outlets profit most from incendiary, surface-level appeals to emotion, which is poisoning much of our political discourse nationwide. Barry created this site in order to learn more about our world and share that knowledge with others. He hopes this site, aimed at an educated audience, will provide objective information for those seeking greater clarity and understanding than is often available in the current news environment. If you like what you see, feel free to comment and share with your network.

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