by

October 1, 2022

 

Equality in America

What it means to be an American could mean various different things in this day and age depending on what specifically you’re asking about and who exactly you ask. There could be speak of freedom, personal identity, education, business, opportunity, and so much more. There’s also many factors that could influence the way someone perceives that question, and that’s exactly what I believe is key to being an American: one’s individualism. The differing of opinions and ways of thinking between Americans is precisely what makes it the country it is today. America has been esteemed as one of the most innovative and influential countries in the world, and as young Russian student Katya Gazetnikova describes it: “It is the main country in the world, all new technologies appear there, most interesting things, too,” (Gladstone). Personal liberties and freedom of expression have been the cornerstone of such innovation and economic growth, and people’s individuality and independence has been a key component of that as well.

Despite this, people’s differing opinions have also brought about much conflict throughout the course of history and, most notably, very recently. In light of current events, there’s been much violence due to those conflicting opinions. In a political sense, many people may think of the two parties and perhaps the upcoming election. In fact, the election in and of itself is a conflict to appeal to people’s opinions and to try and resonate with them to gain a vote, with the two parties being the two main contenders. Unfortunately, the conflict between parties extends beyond just the elections. Each party has acted more and more in their own interests and sticking to their foundational beliefs over working together for the sake of bettering the country. There’s been much debate about the Republican’s insistence to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the presidential election, going against her dying wishes to wait. As Thomas Nacey Jr. suspects, the Republicans are not very confident in the president’s chance at reelection and that might cause the loss of a Republican seat. All the parties ever seem to do anymore is fight and it’s somewhat shameful and even embarrassing as a citizen to see this sort of behavior in our leadership system.

Is that how other countries see us: a nation who can’t seem to stop fighting with itself, having a corrupt government and unable to achieve progressive accomplishments? How must they view us in terms of government scandals such as the Watergate incident, and recently even the president’s impeachment? How about when he encouraged police forces to violate protesters’ first amendment rights and cleared them out with tear gas so he could take a photo, about the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole?

“…Where will this end? It’s almost like a civil war,” and it might as well be (Gladstone). In fact, there’s been continued conflict over confederate memorials. Winning a battle for the abolishment of slavery then having to see statues erected in your own town that represents all that you’ve fought against can be seen as wildly inappropriate and offensive in many cases. “They were symbols of defiance, intended to let African Americans and the federal government know who was back in charge,” a symbol that could be seen as fearful and even as an attestment to white supremacy, causing much debate and conflict ever since they first started to be erected (Robinson). Currently, there are many people attempting to make progress and achieve equal rights and representation, yet there are others who are still looking out for themselves and trying to limit other’s freedom based on their own beliefs and self interest. “[America] goes around the world promoting democracy and human rights, but can’t enforce them at home,” and they’re completely right (Gladstone). America is a country founded on the idea of freedom and prosperity of the individual, yet freedom and equality for all is still being fought for in great strides to this day. While one’s initial response to the question “what does it mean to be an American” might be the idea of freedom and equality, there are many who can personally attest to that not being entirely true.

Works Cited:

Gladstone, Rick. “Dear America: We Watch Your Convulsions With Horror and Hope.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/world/americas/global-protests-george-floyd.html. 

Nacey, Thomas. “Letter to the Editor: Why the Republican Rush to Replace Ginsburg?” TribLIVE.com, 23 Sept. 2020, 9:00 a.m., triblive.com/opinion/letter-to-the-editor-why-the-republican-rush-to-replace-ginsburg/. 

Robinson, Eugene. “It’s No Surprise We’re Refighting the Civil War – It Never Really Ended.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Aug. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-no-surprise-were-refighting-the-civil-war–it-never-really-ended/2017/08/24/fd9b2d00-88fe-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html.


To be Free and to be American

Many people have many different interpretations of what it means to be an American. Some may think that being American is being able to do whatever they want. Others may believe that being American is having their own rights and following their own values. However, amongst all of these responses, the one thing that remains the same is the idea of freedom. This is a value that, throughout history, has been entitled to all citizens of the United States and has been one of the main characteristics of what it means to be American. 

One famous government document that grants freedom to the citizens of the United States is the Bill of Rights. The first amendment grants people the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. These are rights that many people value as an American. For example, in the Sherbert v. Verner Court Case, the Supreme court ruled in favor of Sherbert, who was unjustly denied employment benefits just because she wasn’t able to work on Saturdays for religious reasons (“Sherbert v. Verner”). Sherbert went all the way up to the supreme court to get justice and to protect her right of freedom. This shows how much she values her freedom. It is a right that is given to her as an American. It is a value that she wants to uphold. 

Another thing that supports the idea of American freedom is the concept of the American Dream, the hope of a better future that people wish to have as an American. Some may think that this concept in itself is too idealistic, nonetheless, this has been something that has motivated thousands or more people to immigrate to America seeking opportunities and freedom. For instance, “migration from Mexico to the United States has been largely driven by low-skilled, unauthorized workers seeking economic opportunity” (Zong and Batalova, “Mexican”). This shows how many Mexicans immigrate to the United States in search of opportunities. The American Dream is something that believed to attainable by many. Therefore, many people do see America as a place of opportunity and freedom. 

Last but not least, many works of writing support the idea of America being the land of the free. One work that supports this claim is the poem Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes. In this poem, Hughes talks about how America was a place that promised equality, freedom, and prosperity, yet none of those values have been truly upheld for everyone (Hughes). This poem may make it seem like America isn’t a place with such values, but the fact that he pointed out that not everyone is able to equally enjoy those values shows that those values do exist. America is a place with those promised values.

Although many people do see America as a place of freedom, some people do continue to argue otherwise. Nevertheless, those who continue to believe and fight for such value show that America is a place where freedom is very important. Therefore, freedom is a value that makes an individual an American. It is what defines what it means to be an American. 

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again”. Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/147907/let-america-be-america-again. Accessed 7 October 2020.

“Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963)”. Justia, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/374/398/. Accessed 7 October 2020. 

Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. “Mexican Immigrants in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute, 11 October 2018, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/mexican-immigrants-united-states-2017. Accessed 7 October 2020.


American Freedoms and Values

To me being American means many things and different things to every person, but right now most of them aren’t very good. We seem to argue over everything, not being able to come to an agreement (1). We preach ideas of freedom and independence, then blatantly take it away from groups of people (2). We still mostly hold to our ideals and people in America can still have opportunity and freedom. If you know what your American dream is then it’s possible to achieve it (3).

Our congress is notorious for arguing about every little thing and taking a long time to function. People in congress will say no to completely reasonable things, that both parties will talk about wanting, just because it’s being proposed by the other party. Take for instance the Covid-19 stimulus package. The first stimulus check showed how quickly congress can work if people will just agree, but the second round of relief has been put to on pause as both parties argue about how much money should be given and to who, as american people lose their jobs and lives because of this pandemic, both parties are just waiting away trying to make sure their party’s views come out on top. Then they blame each other for the delay “However, these also failed, with each side blaming the other for the delay.”(Jarvis 5).

Our country has many ideals and freedoms, most of them are written in the bill of rights. As most people know, the first rights are the freedom of speech and the freedom to peaceful protest. Obviously some people in the government have missed these because lots of police and the president himself have ignored BLM’s protesters rights as they try to protest something unjust. Sure there has been some looting, but there are also  stories of unmarked police abducting protesters. Then there is this story of hundreds of police officers charging at a group of protests and even people not protesting. This is a horrible example of people in charge talking about rights and freedoms and then taking them away without any consequence. This all while a pandemic is going on too.   

There are many bad things about being American right now and there’s a lot that we have to work on, but there still are some good things about America. Everyone’s still free and opportunities are still sound. The film American Creed showed this, it showed people enjoying the freedoms of America and the opportunities of it. As long as you know what your American dream is you can work to achieve it. The part of the film with the principal saying that her American dream was teaching and spreading knowledge, really made me think about what the American dream is, instead of some predetermined idea of how to live it’s just the general goal of everyone in America. That goal can be different from one another but everyone still has one, and every one has the ability to try and achieve their American goal. 

It’s weird being an American right now, it’s weird living in any country right now, but with how American rights are being treated and how our government and population are split with arbitrary party lines, I just don’t feel that we’re very united right now. We still have some things to be proud about, but at a lot of times being American just feels ugly. What does the rest of the world think about us? The United States of America fighting each other in the streets? Fighting each other in congress? It feels so wrong to me.    

Works Cited

Jarvis, Jacob. Second Stimulus Check Mired in Congress Six Months After Trump SignedFirst,www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/second-stimulus-check-mired-in-congress-six-months-after-trump-signed-first/ar-BB19sJSi. (1)

Kesslen, Ben, and Matteo Moschella. “NYPD Officers Charge at Group of Protesters and Diners, Arresting People on Sidewalk.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 28 Sept. 2020,www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nypd-officers-charge-small-group-protesters-diners-arresting-people-sidewalk-n1241216. (2) 

“American Creed.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 27 Feb. 2018, www.pbs.org/video/american-creed-ikwuqf/. (3)


The “Land of the Free” Doesn’t Exactly Feel Like It

Americans are supposed to live in freedom, we toss our flags to the wind and shout it from our rooftops. But we sleep on the issues. We let all the unrest bubble and burn at the bottom of the pot. “There’s nothing we can do,” I’ve heard people whisper. “That’s just the way it is.” That’s not true. We are fighting and scratching and biting everyday for our right to live. If this is truly our country, if this is the place that crawled off of the battlefield at the end of the revolution shouting that we’re free, then we can always change something. We were built on freedom, but some don’t acknowledge that everyone deserves the right to be safe and happy. In other words, everyone deserves the right to be free. So what’s stopping them? Well, to put it simply, we are. Regrettably, the same things that made our country what it was are the things that are tearing us apart. Even though we’ve put some rules in place,we’re still not there.

The preamble of the Constitution starts with the words “We the people”. We the people. Not “We the able-bodied white straight Christian people who believe that we’re the superior race because we were told so by our parents and are clearly too naive to even question that.” No, it’s “We the people.” While not everyone who is able-bodied, white, straight, and Christian is like that, that’s still a thing we see coming to light in this recent day and age. If we truly want freedom, we need to accept that others are different. That some people aren’t white, and some people aren’t straight, and some people are Muslim, and some people are disabled.

There’s also freedom of religion. In the first amendment it’s stated “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Some people believe that this is a Christian country, but that isn’t true. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and all the others are allowed to live in America.The first amendment clearly states it. Even if there was a religion that was focused around killing people or something, the people in that religion wouldn’t be arrested for their religion, they would be arrested for committing murder. Wars over religion shouldn’t be happening. It’s like if someone asks if your favorite color is blue, and you tell them that no, it’s red, and then they get mad at you and tell you that all people whose favorite color is red should have been killed off by Hitler in World War II. So yeah, freedom of religion is important if we don’t want half of the planet dying off because they don’t all believe in the same thing.

Our history shows that we’ve always wanted freedom. When we were on the brink of war with Britain after they imposed unfair taxes on us, Patrick Henry delivered the famous line “…give me liberty, or give me death!” This line then spurred the people to action to take our freedom from the British. What’s life if you’re not free? When Martin Luther King stood up for African American people across the nation, gaining all sorts of rights for them, they all had that beautiful taste of freedom. Three years ago, when gay marriage was legalized, people rejoiced because they were finally able to celebrate their love on paper, in a ceremony, surrounding by friends and family.

So with all of this, I believe that Americans believe in freedom. But many have a skewed idea of it. They think that owning guns with limited controls is freedom. They believe that keeping America white, straight, and Christian is freedom. They can’t see the other side of the story. American culture is wars. A war made to cut us off from those who loom over us. A war made to free people that have been beaten into submission. One kind of pointless war that involved a tornado and the white house burning down. Wars that we were roped into unintentionally as the world turned and fought and we were caught in the crossfire. A war in order to prove that those with darker skin deserve those rights talked about in the Constitution. Wars to keep us all safe. Wars fought with weapons and wars fought with words. Those wars are the ones we’re focused on today. We’re in a war right now, and we’re fighting to get out. We’re always fighting for that state of absolute freedom to live against people who think someone is lesser than them because of their skin color, or religion, or their gender or sexuality. So I know we’re going to win this war, because people don’t give up their spirit so easily.

 

“Patrick Henry.” Terms of Estrangement: Who Were the Sons of Liberty? : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site, www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biohen.cfm.

 

LII Staff. “First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 10 Oct. 2017, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment.

“Preamble We the People.” National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.org, National Constitution Center, constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/preamble

Image from: https://www.epaumc.org/blogs/newspirit-blog/2018/07/freedom/

https://www.youthvoices.live/tag/american-freedom/