What it means to be an American: Diversity just part of the fun
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays by readers in response to the question of what it means to be an American. To submit, email email@example.com.
To me, being an American is many things.
I can choose to fly the U.S. flag but I am not required to do so.
There is no mandate that I follow a specific religion, like in some countries. I can practice one faith this year, change to another next year or I do not have to follow any at all; my choice, my right. Driving around our country one might see a mosque, temple, church or mandir or any house of worship. This is freedom of religion.
I love that I am not told where I have to live or what job I must take. That I am not told how much education I can or can not have. I am not restricted to specific region(s) when I travel.
We have beautiful natural wonders and National Parks open to everyone.
As an American I am free to criticize my local, state or federal government or an elected official without worrying about being arrested or made to ‘disappear’ as happens in other countries. I do criticize and I am very patriotic; these are not mutually exclusive. A patriot will ask, “What can we do better?” or, “This is a problem, let’s talk.”
Americans know that our Constitution is not a one-time relevant, rigid document set in stone.
It has to be discussed, malleable, like clay, and subject to new scrutiny or interpretations as society changes and new technologies transform. We have rights and in some countries people can’t even imagine such a thing. America is not perfect. We can do better! We will.
We are able to vote for those who represent us in Congress; if we are satisfied or dissatisfied.
We should remember that there are people in foreign lands, right now, dying in the streets fighting to secure representative governments and the right to vote! What we already have!
In the natural world or physical world, composites can be stronger or more versatile than a single component. I feel this applies to America and Americans. We are diverse! This makes us stronger and should not be divisive. In contrast, Japan is approximately 96% Japanese.
Somehow, I feel that they must miss out on aspects of culture and society. We gain from working together ... with varied experiences, context or perspectives.
I myself come from ethnic heritage-diversity: Irish, German and English. I can and do enjoy St. Patrick’s Day, German festivals and English traditions. Yet I enjoy so much more: Cinqo-de-Mayo and Hispanic food/music, Mediterranean food, European history, African culture, traditions and wildlife, Asian history, food and traditions and the ancient Islamic contributions to mathematics, medicine and astronomy ... and so on. The list is long.
I love America, despite our problems; truly a work in progress and that is as it should be. Let us be the Sum of all the good parts.
Jeffrey Asbill lives in Norwich.
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