What does it mean to be an American?

Given the dialogue in the media of late, it would appear America is nothing more than a group of disorganized immigrants with nothing in common other than coming from another country where everyone is poor and the only opportunity for them to improve is to come to the US of America, (remember America includes Mexico and Canada).  The anchors in prime time and the talk show hosts on the old guard stations, would have us believe that’s all it ever was.  Being an immigrant is an abstract idea to them and obviously, unless you’re a native American then, all of us born in the US are immigrants enjoying unearned opportunities.  Since it’s unearned we have an obligation to share the unearned largess with the rest of the world.  Of course, in their narrow way of thinking, once the immigrants see all the opportunities and our way of life they’ll automatically change their values to ours and begin contributing to the society as WE know it.  These immigrants don’t have to make any changes, in fact the way I hear it from them, bringing their culture into ours without making any adjustments, is how we became who we are.  For anyone who hasn’t studied early American history, (pre-1770), you can’t really see the signs of all those who came before.  But to be fair, the cultural differences between the middle east, Asia and to a lesser extent, Mexico are significant when compared to the cultural differences in western European countries.  The US is markedly different in a number of ways from western Europe, more so then than now but still significantly different.  The most prevalent difference was the belief that governing a country, for the first time in recorded history, did not have to be done by a monarchy, emperor, religious authority or a dictator, but could in fact be run by the people for the good of the people and not a select few individuals who were supposedly born better than the rest of us, (Carter, Clinton, Bush or Obama).       

Since I’ve graduated from school I’ve learned a little more about the origins of this country, (the education system certainly didn’t teach it even back when I was a youngster and it’s gotten worse these days).  Think about it, in the mid to late 1600’s you leave a country because they don’t like the way you worship God, or you have a hunger inside, you know there’s a select few who have it great, (the ruling class), but they don’t do anything for it, just sit around and tell everyone else how to live.  Somehow you know you could do that even better than them if you only had a chance.  Then you hear rumors about a place on the other side of the ocean where you can start over.  Would you do it?  Of course, because that’s the way you’re wired, you’re different from your neighbors because they are content supplying the king with supplies in exchange for protection from the neighboring kingdom who, you’re told, is not as nice.  With practically nothing but an independent spirit and the knowledge that it probably can’t be any worse you set out for this new land.  You get there, and you find out it actually can be worse but you’ve got that hunger inside that tells you you’ll make it better.  This is what I believe is the crux of the difference between the pioneers of this country and what the anchors and talk show hosts would have us believe our country is all about.  The early settlers came from a society where everyone knew the natural order and natural place of everyone, who was expected to do what and who was expected not to be capable of doing what.  When these pioneers came over they probably didn’t know very many people but, all of a sudden they had to depend on building relationships and friendships with people they hardly knew, who were as diverse as you can imagine, or they would likely die, because life is hard and not always fair.  Some of those strangers didn’t do things or necessarily think about life in the same way but in short order they learned they all would survive and even thrive by setting aside their differences and working to a common good.  They left the old way behind and created a new way with new ideas and beliefs.  They found out by combining their ideas with someone else’s they might make something better than any single one of them could do by themselves, (kinda like the “smartest guy in the room” (Obama) isn’t a guy but the combined efforts of several people).  This need to combine with the talents and resources of other towns, in order to survive, taught the early settlers that we in fact could successfully govern ourselves and we didn’t need to be guided by some benevolent (more likely not) privileged family.  After all, they or their parents were independent enough to leave what they knew and start something totally different.

This independent nature, (spirit), has carried forward in American life.  Our system of government is unique in the way that allows unlikely people the ability to rise above impossible situations.  Abraham Lincoln read and studied by the fire light of a fireplace and used charcoal to do his homework, eventually becoming a President.  Except for south American dictatorships and a few other spots in the world where could this have happened without a coup?  On the business side a young man invents a new way to continuously lubricate various moving parts on the train to minimize the number of stops the train makes en route and then becomes a successful Inventor & Engineer.  Elijah McCoy was born of two former slaves from Kentucky who escaped through the underground railroad, he eventually made it to Edinburgh Scotland to receive a master mechanic and engineer degree.  His invention was so successful everyone wanted his automatic oiler and not any of a number of other similar invention, because only his was “the real McCoy“.  (Sorry folks that phrase doesn’t come from the Hatfields and McCoys).  Really, only in America has this happened over and over again where someone from a suppressed group of people has this kind of opportunity.  How about Benjamin Banneker who developed the first Almanac to help farmers maximize the productivity or their land to help feed the revolutionary troops.  Thomas Jefferson, the secretary of state at the time, wrote a 12 page letter to Mr Banneker, after reading a copy of the Almanac that all blacks were intellectually and mentally equivalent to whites.  If it had been most other countries in the world neither gentlemen would have been able to even start down that road on their own, let alone have history tell their story.  Or how about the first Catholic to become president, unheard of when John Kennedy was elected.  Even crazier is the thought of an actor of mediocre abilities becoming President and leading us out of troubled economic times when interest rates had risen to 21% and talk began of how it was impossible for 1 man to run the country.  The pundits of the day suggested we would need to split the presidency into 2 or more positions, can anyone say politburo?  A dropout built a billion-dollar company out of his garage and a crude talking businessman went on to “de-throne” the next “leader” in spite of a massive effort to make him look racist and corrupt.  The citizens, in their independent ways, knew better than the so called experts in the news and as a result the markets have greatly improved, unemployment dropped and very large numbers of people reentered the job market as a result of his presidential election.  What other country in the world can point to these kinds of diverse successes.  There are so many other stories just like this, such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Condoleezza Rice to name a few.  The odds of these three and others like them, finding success in any other country are slim to none.  Why is that? Listening to today’s press and too many of our politicians you come to learn it isn’t possible.  Perhaps they’re right since these three are over the age of 50 and they come from a different era.  Oh ya, many of these people are of colour, I listen to the BLM rhetoric and I have to ask, are we more racist now than then, something to think about huh. 

Over the years this country has served as an example for other countries, that self-government is possible and even beneficial for the many, if not the few.  In my experience great thinkers and doers, like Dr Thomas Sewell and Dr Ben Carson would not have succeeded as they had (and it wasn’t easy) if they attempted it in another country.  Our government represents the first time a government was established that dared to allow the ordinary citizens to have a say in their own governance, (Eric Metaxas, “If you can Keep it”; Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”), in fact the charter for this government says it should remain small and allow people to rule themselves and only supply safety and security (to prevent other dictatorships and monarchies from overrunning us).  This is what it means to be an American, having the independence to know you can accomplish great things in your life.  Understanding that when we come together and work as a team, (as opposed to a committee), unafraid of leaving our past, we can come up with ideas greater than any single person could.  Americans don’t live a hyphenated history, we live a joined future where we take the best of our history and combine it with the best of others to make an even better future.  Not everyone agrees with this concept but then not everyone has the same agenda or priority.  It is true that some people only want what is best for themselves – control.  I love for people to visit and see how good we have it but, if you want to stay it’s important that you buy into what it means to be a US Citizen.

2 thoughts on “What does it mean to be an American?

  1. A couple things I didn’t understand: when you said ” obviously, unless you’re a native American then, all of us born in the US are immigrants” …aren’t those one in the same?

    And, when you quote ” kinda like the smartest man in the room (Obama) isn’t a guy but the combined efforts of several people”. Are you referring to Obama as the smartest man in the room? Surely not!!

    I really enjoyed learning about McCoy and Banneker. Lots of food for thought. If we could just all come together in enforcing those who want to stay in the US to work to become citizens and not just come for all the handouts!!! I love this country and would be glad to share it with immigrants who want to work hard and support the country.

    Good job, Willy. Another good one!! Keep ’em coming!

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    1. Some would say only the native American Indians are not immigrants because they predated the first Europeans to arrive so everyone but the Native Americans are immigrants. Very childish and manipulative point of view. As for Obama, reports from some of the people in attendance of his administrative meetings and his overall demeanor say he believes he is the smartest man in the room and we all should listen to him. Even now his comments about Trumps actions ooze contempt for a lesser person

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