Many of us are, or are descendents of those who have come from far away to be in America. The place we were born and the one in which we landed conspire to make our identity. We say we are Italian-Americans, or Americans of German ancestry. Some brought the homeland with them, for instance, naming a place in Maine after Denmark and another after Poland. Those of us lucky enough to be from my city mostly just say we’re New Yorkers.
As citizens of the United States, however, we are always recognized by our distinctive Americanness. Who are you? I am an American.
What does that mean? I am an American. It means I honor the hard-won rights, liberties, and responsibilities of all those singular and distinguished Americans who forged this “more perfect union.” Some of us continue to struggle to keep the ideals of our Constitution (and its amendments) intact. We are united in the laws of our land. We are one under a flag that represents American values. Nothing should divide us, although many things do.
Sometimes it’s our background, or place of origin that keeps us from acknowledging that we are all one people. Sometimes, it’s our ethnic heritage or religious beliefs that we hold above being an American. Sometimes it’s the ethnicity (or choice of worship) of our fellow Americans that we disparage, showing disrespect not only to our compatriots but also to our way of life. We allow differences in political orientation to distract us from who we truly are. We are not Republicans or Democrats. As denizens of a democratic republic, we are in truth both. We need to celebrate and esteem our “nation, indivisible” and recognize the unity that is these UNITED STATES of America.
Happy 4th of July!