What Does it Mean to Be an American?

If you believe my history professor, people in America cannot answer this. To him there is no belief in founding principles or documents, no commonly-held pride in national accomplishments or figures, nothing we Americans ascribe to, honor, believe in, strive for or do together. No common religion, language or purpose.

I disagree.

We honor individualism. We are proud of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and of having outlawed slavery. We pursue sexual gratification, profit and self-indulgence. We limit government. We’re suspicious of government snoops, of drafts, of onerous regulations. We express ourselves frowardly. We idealize sports, from Little League to the World Series, from children’s gymnastics to men’s softball leagues. We cherish nature. We aid the downtrodden. We expect integrity. We eschew corruption. We pray. Our foundations are Judeo-Christian. We acknowledge a linguistic heritage: English. We celebrate Christmas and the 4th of July together. We expect families, not agencies, to inculcate responsibility and virtue. We are free, except when over-taxed. We are prosperous to a greater extent than any other people. We expect to keep the fruit of our labors- money, profit and earnings- and to suffer when we over-indulge, slack off and fail.

What are people expected to know to pass the test for citizenship? They need to know about the Constitution and what is expected of citizens. This tells us something about our civic heritage. We have a cultural heritage which includes jazz, baseball, basketball, Hollywood, and world technological leadership.

These are the ways people of other countries and immigrants see our country and how we ourselves view America.