I believe in America. My friends and family believe in America. My entire school believes in America. But what do we believe in? What does it mean to be an American? Are there strict requirements to be an American? I believe that there are none. I believe that America holds its ground on freedom, whether it be religion or culture. I believe that you can be whoever you want to be in America, and that the idea of freedom is the idea we should all believe in.
Where do these ideas stem from? Beliefs are ideals that you are confident are true. I connect the word ‘beliefs’ with the words trust, faith, and confidence. These words are the main themes that branch to even more words, like freedom, prosperity, joy, that can connect with our own society. One or maybe many of these words are words that people have to believe in when coming to America.
Many people come to the United States in search of freedom of any sort, such as freedom of religion or freedom of speech. Some are in search of wealth and prosperity: the “American Dream”. Others just enjoy the thrills or the leisure of the US. All of these are possible only by believing in our fellow citizens. We, as Americans, live in a society where fellow citizens depend on each other to make the right choices for their future as a whole. Only through trust and courage can we continue to live in this large and diverse community.
Essentially, those who believe in the American creed are dreamers. They are the ones who dream of having things they don’t have in their environment. Of course there are already citizens that can dream for wealth, but those citizens are the ones who already enjoy their rights. Not only is America a place where dreamers gather, but it is also founded by dreamers–dreamers who came in search for territory. America was built on immigrants and their ideas that would keep developing into the foundations of America.
Although America has faced great obstacles in the past, we still are hindered from internal problems. These problems mostly have roots in our current society and politics. These politics have greatly divided the American people and set a controversial stance on what standard values should be. Yoram Hazony, author of the “The Virtue of Nationalism”, states that, “it’s American nationalism that the U.S. needs right now. Never in our lifetimes have we seen America’s various tribes so divided, so intolerant of one another, so quick to delegitimize and even threaten violence” (Hazony 2018).
The Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation that funds political research, asked a series of questions that were asked to different political parties in 2011, 2012, and 2016 to see where we are as a nation. In many of the reports, the Republicans who supported Trump were much more firm on their stance of exclusiveness on American identity. Many of those supporters believe in requirements such as speaking English (80%), having European ancestry (30%), being born in America (63%), or believing in Christianity (69-72%).
Some people may argue that America has its own kind of culture based on what the majority believe, and that following that culture is what makes an American. However, even with moves to restrict new immigrants, the US Census Bureau says a new immigrant moves to the US every 33 seconds–exemplifying how culturally diverse the country is. The US is also known as a “melting pot” due to its influences and form from various cultures. There is also no official language, according to the US government, and, although 90% of the population speak English, 300 non-English languages are spoken throughout the nation, as stated by the Census Bureau. Religion is also dominated by Christianity with 71% identifying themselves with the religion, according to the Pew Research Center in 2017. There are also many traditions that are connotated with America, such as the numerous holidays celebrated, foods, like hot dogs or hamburgers, clothing brands, media, and sports. Are these all things that are a part of the American culture?
Yes. All of these traditions have a part in American culture, but another key part of American culture is cultural openness. Numerous times have I mentioned that America is the land of freedom, and I intend to believe that America will stay that way. It is also true that I mentioned the standing opinion of American identity exclusion, however, the conclusion of the Voter Study Group from the Democracy Fund found that the exclusion of American identity, based on its study on religious exclusiveness, has decreased significantly and had been continuingly decreasing. This signifies that the nation, as a whole, continues to grow more open to diversity.
Overall, my final verdict is that there are no strict rules for anyone to have an American identity. The people that make America represent the characteristics of bravery, courage, and liberty. But those people that make up the country are people who can either come in search of this dream or are already born into the warmth of freedom. It doesn’t matter who you are, for as long as you believe in America and what it promises, then you exemplify a true American.
Hazony, Yoram. “How Americans Lost Their National Identity.” Time, Time, 23 Oct. 2018, time.com/5431089/trump-white-nationalism-bible/.
Vavreck, Lynn. “The Great Political Divide Over American Identity.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/upshot/the-great-political-divide-over-american-identity.html.
Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States.” LiveScience, Purch, 14 July 2017, www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html.
Are you an American? by Jihan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.