What does it mean to be an American? You could do a survey of one-hundred people asking this question and there’s a good chance you would get close to one-hundred different answers. In a way, that itself answers your question. To be an American is to be able to come from many different backgrounds, races, cultures, languages, and places, yet still have the same opportunities.
No matter what you see when you look in the mirror and no matter where your ancestors were born, in America you have the opportunity to fulfill your dreams. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian we see this clearly. Junior grows up on a reservation that seems to crush dreams and suck the hope out of people, however he still is able to make something of himself. He was able to get the opportunity to go to Reardan and do his best to fulfill his dreams. In America everything is possible if you work hard enough and want it enough, no matter where you come from.
A big reason that Americans have so much an opportunity no matter their background, is the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights provides Americans with the right to protest, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and many other significant rights. This is a privilege for Americans as some, if not many, other countries don’t even have half of those basic rights!
We also saw this in Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie. In Superman and Me Alexie describes how he grew up and a few things that lead to his future as a successful author. Despite growing up on a reservation and having unfair and prejudice teachers, Alexie managed to become an author. He read and read and pursued what he loved. He made his passion his profession. Now Alexie goes to reservations and tries to help Indians read and be inspired and make the most of their opportunities in this country.
While America in theory should be a utopia, it isn’t. Having the Bill of Rights along with other laws and legislature, helps build a foundation. However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still challenges.
In America all creeds, cultures and orientations are accepted, for the most part. While unfortunately America isn’t perfect, as nothing is, there are still some prejudices that exist. While these prejudices exist, so do protests. In America you have the right to peacefully protest and stand up for yourself. We see this all the time both recently and in the past.
In 2017 the biggest protest in the United States took place. The 2017 Women’s March had 3,300,000 to 4,600,000 estimated participants (List of Protests in the United States by Size). That is significantly more than the first protest that took place in the United States in 1773 now known as the Boston Tea Party.
This shows that as time goes on, more and more Americans are utilizing their right to protest. This is a true value in American culture that has impacted the way our country has been shaped significantly. This leads to America constantly changing and developing. The growth of a country due to its citizens is something truly unique and special and proves that Americans make America what it is.
Alexie, Sherman. “Superman and Me.” Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 1998.
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Cornelsen, 2009.
Carbone, Nick. “Top 10 American Protest Movements.” Time, Time Inc., 12 Oct. 2011, content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2096654_2096653_2096692,00.html.
“List of Protests in the United States by Size.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_protests_in_the_United_States_by_size.
Photo: YouthVoices Media Library
What it Means to be an American by Brendon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.