What is “an American?” Is it defined by the way one thinks, the way one acts? Is it a birthright or is it something you earn? What is “an American?”
Merriam Webster defines an “American” as a “native or inhabitant of North or South America.” But, I believe there’s more to this word. What is it that comes to mind when we hear the word “American?” To some, it might be the stereotypical male with his AR-15, yelling “America!” holding tightly to his Second Amendment.
To others, it may be our troops in the Middle East fighting for our freedom. And to others, an office worker nobly working for his or her family. The word has very different connotations depending on who you’re asking.
The United States Constitution is a perfect example of how vague and incomplete the definition of an “American” is. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution states, “We the people,” meaning we the people, regardless of race, gender, or creed. Unfortunately, it was not always like this, it has changed over time with social reform, gender equality and civil rights movements.
However, for some, the word “American” means separation and inequality. This was shown in Charleston, when nine Americans were killed and in Orlando where 49 Americans were killed. Unfortunately, the word “American,” in this context, is used as fuel for their hate. Hate groups view the word as a barrier between them and others.
This causes separation, inequality, and hate because they see their targets not as Americans but something else.
But there is still hope. Thankfully, there are those who hold the meaning of “American” very differently. To many, the word means unity and equality. This is the American that gives a hand, that helps fellow Americans.
This is shown in the worst of times, when America is on its knees: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, all show how Americans, regardless of their skin color or gender, work hard to help their fellow Americans and show their compassion.
To me, as an American, what I want is equality.
When I think of an American, I think of my mother and my stepfather, who work day in and day out to support me and my siblings. When I think of an American, I think of the noble field worker, striving for the so-called “American Dream.”
Although they might not be defined as an American because of where they were born, they continue to work hard and strive toward their dreams, and they still want to be an American. Who are we to deny them that? When I think of an American, I think of hard-working. So, that is my definition.
Just as our Founding Fathers fought and worked hard to be Americans, we, too, can work to be called “American.” An American, to me, is not a birthright, it is earned through hard work. God Bless America!