I have lived in the United States of America for my entire life, growing up in the Bay Area gives me different views of what it means to be an American to other people. The idea of what it means to be an American can alter wherever you are in the country. To some it means extreme patriotism and to others it just means to be living here. To me America means freedom and the extreme opportunities given. Yet, others have had very different outlooks on what this country is.
The country that I see as a land of freedom and opportunity has been a land of false advertising to others. The idea of our country being a place where everyone is equal is just a lie. In “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes he talks about how America has never really been America. In our own countries Declaration of Independence it states, “all men are created equal.” This part of the document was written by a slave owner which highlights the ways in which our country is built on unkept promises. Langston Hughes talks about all the ways in which African Americans and many other groups of people who have been oppressed don’t have the same opportunities as white people in America. In a particular part the author says, “ O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—.” This conveys that America means a country that has only worked well for white men so we need to make it a place that works for everyone, as promised in documents like the Declaration of Independence.
While some see America as a country that has not worked for them, others have been able to live the “American Dream”. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book, told from narrator Nick Carraway’s point of view, about the lives of his wealthy friends. One of those characters, Jay Gatsby, is a very rich man who came from a poor family. This book shows another side of America which is the people this country did not give false promise. As he comes from a poor family and ends up an extremely wealthy man.
Like Langston Hughes said previously, many Americans have not been given the opportunity and freedom they were promised years ago. This same idea is prevalent in Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”, a poem she performed at the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on January 20, 2021. She talks about how we can make America a better place by giving equal treatment to all. The poem states, “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president.” The ways in which they do not compare is she seems to talk about how we all need to unify to adopt these standards. This is largely because of how different the country is nowadays versus in the 1930s.
As stated earlier I believe that America is a country that many have found to be great due to the fact of the ways in which it has allowed them to succeed in life. America is a country that many have found to be great, whereas others have found it to be a place not providing equality for them. Growing up as a white, middle class, male I have felt the United States has been a great country that has worked very well for me. Yet, I have grown up in an extremely diverse region which allows me to observe the ways in which it doesn’t work for people of color and other marginalized groups. So, I agree with all of these texts, for some the country is a place where your wildest dreams can come true and for others you are not given the opportunities you were promised.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940. The Great Gatsby. New York :C. Scribner’s sons, 1925.
Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again.” Poets.org. The Academy of American Poets. 07 May 2013 <http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609>.
Gorman, Amanda. “Amanda Gorman’s Poem Stole the Show at the Inauguration. Read It Again Here.” Town & Country, 17 Feb. 2021, www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a35279603/amanda-gorman-inauguration-poem-the-hill-we-climb-transcript.Tags: American Creed Berkeley High School Inequality Langston Hughes The Great Gatsby