The question of what it means to be American, and what American culture is, is debated at best. The meaning of the American identity and its values is the concept at the root of most of our politics, and one’s opinions on political issues often come down to their interpretation of what it means to be American. One such interpretation is that of Tegan Griffith, a very vocal veteran of the US military. She believes that being American means that you’re patriotic and “when the nation is under attack, you serve”, as she says in the film, American Creed (2018). While this is surely an interpretation of what it means to be American, it’s not the whole picture. It doesn’t talk about American culture or any other part of American identity except patriotism.

Similarly, Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented immigrant who has become very successful, has a slightly different view. In his article, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant”, that he wrote for his column in the New York Times, he speaks about how being American is more than just whether you have citizenship or not. It’s about fitting into the culture and loving your country. In the article, he writes, “From the moment I wrote my first article for the student paper, I convinced myself that having my name in print — writing in English, interviewing Americans — validated my presence here.” It is evident that, while it is a great burden that he does not have citizenship, he does not let that prevent him from considering himself a part of the American identity.”

Everyone you talk to will have a different opinion on the American identity, which leads me to believe that there is no true universal American identity. Different versions of it contain similar themes, such as loving your country, but everyone who comments on it has different underlying views. And that makes sense in the context of the politics of this country. The nation is so big that even different regions within the country have vastly different cultures and political views, which means that, while smaller countries may be able to unite more as a whole, America will never be able to do that. So, in my opinion, the American identity is that there is no single identity; just a jumble of smaller identities all under the umbrella of one nation.

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Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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