One thing that defines people as American is freedom of choice. America is built upon the idea that all people have rights that cannot be take away, and that everyone has the freedom to choose what they want to do with there body. The book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult illustrates this well. The author tells the story of Anna, a 13 year old girl with a sister, Kate, who is diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Annas parents, Sara and Brian, had picked her embryo because it was a perfect match to Kate, who needed an organ donor in the family. Anna has always felt that she had no control over the decisions that were made in her name, only that she had to do certain things that would keep her sister alive. From the day she was born she was never given the option of not donating her bone marrow or platelets. Picoult writes, “‘ Isn’t it true that someone had to physically hold Anna down to get the needle in her arm?’ Sara looks at Anna, closes her eyes. ‘Yes’”(Picoult 295). As she grows older she realizes that she deserves the right of choice, and files for medical emancipation from her parents. Given that she is only 13 years old, shows how early kids are being taught American values and culture.
There were also lots of examples of how the freedom of choice was not an option for a lot of citizens in the documentary.”American Creed”. In this film, Leila Janah talked about Dumas, Arkansas, and how they don’t have access to things that people would think that everyone has such as internet, cell phone coverage and cars. In the documentary, she states, “And then you go to a place like Dumas and you see that opportunity is not equally distributed in any way”(Janah American Creed). This inequality in equal economic opportunity causes a plethora of problems for the people living in Dumas and countless other cities all over the United States. All of these economic issues limits the choices that the residents of these cities have. For most of them, they have lost hope of ever being able to get out of the town, because so many generations before them haven’t done it either. Although many parts of the United States are progressing at a rapid pace, their lack of access to technology in Dumas also prevents people from being able to find work to support themselves and their families. All of these factors add up, and make for a suffocated environment.
When immigrants tell their stories of how and why they came to the United States, many of them mention that they wanted the freedom of choice and the opportunity to do things that they weren’t able to do in the country that they previously lived in. They also want a better life for there children and other family members. One immigrant, Marisela, shares her story, and says, “I grew up to be a police officer, wanting to be able to prevent crimes in my city, New York, like to what happened to my father. I thank America for the opportunities that it has given me and will be forever grateful”(Marisella, Immigrant Stories). She moved to this country with her mother seeking a better life, and later got to be someone that she never would’ve had the chance to be if she had stayed in Guadalajara, Mexico. Another immigrant, Emilia, states, “They had no idea where I would be at 22, but it was thanks to them that I was born and raised in a place with unlimited opportunities”(Emilia, Immigrant Stories). There are countless other stories like Marisela’s and Emilia’s, and they are all great examples of American Creed and what America stands for.
Equal Opportunity is what makes America different from other countries. This the value of equality is represented all around Americans. In fact, It is even written in the Constitution. The 14th Amendment states, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, of prosperity, without due process of law, nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”(USE Const., amend XIV). It is important that this was added into the Constitution, because it was one of the main reasons that America became a country in the first place. The colonies wanted equal representation in the monarchy, and say over the laws that were passed over them. This amendment was also added to the Constitution in response to the Civil Rights Movement, and makes sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly. It states that everyone is subject to the laws, and no individual is above them.
Another lens to look at freedom of equality and choice thought is the American Dream, and how it has evolved over the years. In the early stages of America, the American Dream was something that every American wanted for themselves. It meant economic opportunity and freedom. Now, the things that the American Dream stand for have drastically changed. In his article, “The Transformation of The ‘American Dream’”, Shiller states, “Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success”(Shiller The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’). Now, the American Dream is more about having a nice house, and social prominence. All of these changed values take away from the economic freedom that once existed. It makes home ownership a large burden, and makes supporting a family an impossible task. This is another example showing that even though the United States prides itself on freedom for all of its people, there are still long strides that we have to take to truly reach the American Dream.
“American Creed.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/program/american-creed/.
“My Immigration Story.” My Immigration Story, myimmigrationstory.com/.
Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper. Washington Square Press
Shiller, Robert J. “The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/upshot/the-transformation-of-the-american-dream.html.
What Defines Us As American? by Rhea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.