13 May 2006

An American Identity That Everyone Can Hold On To

The idea of an American identity that everyone can hold on to is a very complicated notion. It may be cliché but America is the “Melting Pot” of the world; here more than anywhere in the world there is a diverse range of ethnicities living in one country. But with all these different cultures together to make up America how does a specific American identity form, and if so what is it?

America was not built on diversity like some would like you to believe; it was built on the blood of Native Americans and the backs of African Americans. Despite this, America has grown, the African Americans were freed, women fought for the right to vote and won, Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus, Jackie Robinson played baseball and they both changed this country indefinitely. More and more people from all parts of the world keep coming to America in search of the American dream. The American dream? A chance to be anything that you want as long as you are willing to work hard for it. Certainly some people have to work harder to achieve it than others but that opportunity is always there in America.


In America you can find people of any type of heritage; most of the time it’s not just one cultural background that they are coming from but many. People are very proud of their heritage; they may celebrate traditions that have been brought with them from other countries, wear the clothes and eat the food. People hold on to their heritage and at the same time call themselves Americans. Is this a contradiction? No, I don’t believe so. Everyone except the Native Americans had to travel to America; they were of different cultures, colors and creeds and yet congregated in a single country. There are many people that focus on the problem of racism in America, which should be dealt with, but despite this America continues to be the country where all kinds of people migrate to. All these different peoples created America and therefore all the different cultures they represent are equally important for America. It is the differences that have made America so unique.


At one point the ideal American family consisted of a mother and father, 2.5 children and a pet of some kind. The mother stayed home to care for the children while father made the money. That idea has changed drastically over the years. Women have become much more active outside the house and in the work place; children are placed in daycare centers and some families are only families after work hours are over. This idea of family also includes single parents; they have become as much an idea of the America family as the traditional family. Recently a new type of family has started to emerge in America, couples of the same sex have begun to adopt children and raise them. Like the family with a working mother or a single parent this new type of family is controversial.

I remember going to New York not too long ago; it was the first time I had really been there and looked forward to it. New York in itself is an American experience; one could argue that it is the focal point of American culture. My friends and I did the typical things like walking through Manhattan seeing the sights. We went to Rockefeller center seeing NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall. Times Square was an entity of its own, buzzing with street musicians and people going every which way. In Central Park I passed a small carnival where people of all kinds enjoyed the summer day with a rollercoaster and some cotton candy. All of this was great but what I believe was the best part of our visit was when we ended up at Ground Zero. It was cleared of all the debris and was hard to imagine that two of the tallest buildings in the world had once been there, the pinnacles of civilization some would say. The terrorists wanted America to fall just like the towers; they wanted everyone to be fearful so that we would be divided. Instead the American people came together after this tragedy; we raised our flags higher and more pronounced than ever before. It is because of this pride that Ground Zero will not stay a symbol of tragedy but be rebuilt into something new, something that says to the terrorists that America will not just cower but will be resilient and push on.

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific idea that makes all people American but not impossible: difference is what makes America what it is. When the whole country is comprised of a population that has roots all over the world, difference is what we all have in common. Of course there are some problems that arise from this but most Americans embrace and celebrate these differences.

1 comment:

The Constructivist said...

EvanB asked me to post this for him.