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July 03, 2005

Are you an American?

I do not ask this facetiously or lightly or even as some sort of rhetorical trap. Even if you don’t answer me here I want you to think, think hard and with some seriousness --

Why are you an American?

I believe too many people never ask themselves that question. We tend to think being born here, or of American parents, lets us “be” American in the same manner as those of us who may call ourselves “Christian” or “Jewish”; not because we have examined or consciously embraced the tenets of those faiths, but because we were born into a Christian or Jewish home and it just seems as much of our family background as meatloaf on Fridays and Labor Day at Uncle Bob’s place on the lake.

However, being American is not like being Japanese or Filipino. There is no person of a worldwide ethnic background you can point at and be sure they are NOT American.

Because American is not an ethnicity, even as it is a culture.

Let me restate this, emphatically:

There is an American culture even though there is no American ethnicity.

We are a society of shared traditions, shared history, shared values and shared aspirations. We don’t walk in monolithic lockstep, and we quibble and snark about the roadmap. We even argue to which roads to take, but we have always shared the basic direction.

I believe that being an American is contingent on two basic points.

First – belief that the individual is the source of sovereignty. We hold these truths to be self-evident … There is a school of thought that such thinking is delusional, that we cannot be sure of what individual rights really are. But just as Kant proposed one cannot discuss and debate morality without starting from the assumption of free will, so can we not discuss the proper role of government and the responsibilities of citizens towards each other without starting from the assumption of individual sovereignty.

Second – belief that the United States is a sovereign nation. Now many of you might be wrinkling your forehead and wondering, but of course the United States is sovereign! However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read, or engaged in debate, or heard, others speak of the need of the US to give up its sovereignty. Sometimes its couched in the language of nihilistic multi-culturalism – Who are we to judge others? Sometimes couched in the language of peace-at-all-costs – The USA can only exercise power legitimately through the expressed approval of the UN.

Whatever the language used, it is distilled down to its essence – that the US has no real sovereign rights and by extension, neither does her citizens.

Throughout most recorded history, revolutions have always devoured themselves.

We did not.

In 1783 the American Revolution teetered on the brink of a military revolt against a Congress they thought ignored and dismissed them.

George Washington averted it by the strength of his dignity and the basic honorableness of his men by standing before them and while struggling to read a letter from Congress to them said:

"Gentlemen, you will permit me to don my spectacles, for I have grown not only gray but nearly blind in the service of my country"
Of such small things the course of history is changed.

As Americans, we all have an effect on our country and even the seemingly smallest of things may have profound significance.

The 4th of July is as good a time as any to ask yourself -- are you really an American -- based not on accident of birth, but from an internalized examination of the ideals first espoused by America's Founders and defended through the decades by citizen and soldier alike.

We are all familiar with the start of the Declaration of Independence; let us cite here the conclusion, signed by many men who knew (and were later confirmed in their premonitions) that they risked their security, their fortune and indeed their lives in signing on.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
They dedicated themselves based on an assumption of Individual Sovereignty and National Sovereignty.

How can anyone not so dedicated be truly called “American”?

Posted by Darleen at July 3, 2005 01:55 PM