Many people have different conceptions about the word American and what it means to be American. Diverse experiences inform people’s associations and connotations with the idea of Americanism. However, in the Bay Area, and Berkeley in particular, there are many commonalities between the majority of individuals’ views. This primarily stems from the fact that in order to truly identify with America one must have a certain amount of contentment with the status quo. This becomes a problem in Berkeley as many are unsatisfied with the status quo, ergo the idea of Americanism gains a negative connotation as it comes with the implication of support towards the status quo. This dissatisfaction with America is exemplified by the song “BLK Girl Soldier” by Jamila Woods. The song discusses the history of racism in America and the power structure that is used to put down and discriminate against people of color. The song implies that to be ‘American’ is to exist in a society with a racist power structure, and to either benefit from or suffer by the hand of systemic oppression. In her song, Woods states: ”They want us in kitchen; Kill our sons with lynchings; we get loud about it; Oh now we’re the bitches” This makes a good point on negative aspects of Americanism, however, it fails to acknowledge the benefits that come with being in America, and in that sense, this approach falls short.
In contrast, Tegan Griffith has a far more positive view of Americanism. Griffith, an ex-member of the US navy, talked in the documentary: “American Creed” about the sense of community she felt being in America as a veteran. She remarked upon the amazing ability granted to American citizens to protest, and the right to free speech. It is clear that Griffith values the idea of Americanism and how it symbolizes freedom, service, and community. Griffith states, “I feel like I could travel anywhere in the US and I would have somewhere to stay”. This emphasizes the strong benefits that come with living in the United States and demonstrates Griffiths approval of the idea of Americanism. However, just as Jamila Woods fails to recognize the positives of being American, Griffith fails to recognize the negatives. Additionally, the author’s experiences in the US military distances her viewpoint considerably from the average American. Many of the benefits Griffith cites, are mostly exclusive to vets and are thus un-applicable to those without a military background.
To me, the idea of Americanism is somewhat of a mixed bag. While there are definitely aspects of America to be criticized, there are also many aspects worthy of praise. Growing up in the Bay Area has definitely had a strong impact on my views on Americanism. Even more so, being white and born in the US is a major factor in the way I’ve experienced America and subsequently my views on Americanism. While the arguments above provide interesting points, in my opinion, Americanism is truly about the diverse mix of people and cultures that have fed into and culminated in American culture. America is composed almost entirely of foreign ethnic groups who all brought their culture and ideas to the US, eventually forming today’s culture.
Thank you so much for sharing this post!
You had many interesting ideas and thought-provoking conversations. I liked how you talked about the extremes of both sides as well as the moderation within your statements. ￼I agree with you, that the meaning of being an American citizen is different for everyone. With all the cultures in America, it can be hard to identify with one common culture. This being said, the “American culture“ at times can be hard to identify with. While there are amazing things about our country, there are also negative aspects that I think all of us can agree aren’t easy to live in a country with.￼￼ However, in a way these still constitute the American culture, which is composed of many cultures from all around the world. I think that this “mixed bag “as you said, is what makes our country so unique and has shaped many of our perspectives of the place that we live. Again, thank you for your post, and I can’t wait to see what you write next!
Hey Sebastian, I’m a student from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Utah. I came across your article, and found it to be very interesting. I fully agree with the idea that in the modern world it’s difficult for somebody to say they’re proud to be an American. I do think it’s an interesting topic that kind of gets overlooked when you take into consideration how much attention other issues are getting. I look forward to seeing anything in the future.
Sebastian, this was an awesome thing to read. I completely agree with you. I think today’s political climate makes it very hard to be proud to be American, no matter which side of the party-line one falls on. This website speaks a little to that https://townhall.com/columnists/jackiegingrichcushman/2018/06/28/why-americanism-is-important-n2495088. The point about Americanism being a mixed bag makes sense. I hate America sometimes, but there is nowhere I would rather be really.
I thought your adaptation of what the definition of the “American Identity” was interesting. I loved how you gave both the extremes of both sides as well as the moderation. I agree with you, I think the meaning of being an American citizen is different for everyone. For me personally I think being an american means fighting for what’s right and the freedom and equality for all where as some may not agree but that’s what being an american citizen is, having the right to have different opinions.