Don’t ask Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, that’s for sure. You will likely get a long-winded, ultra-rehearsed speech that ultimately culminates in some type of criticism of their opponent. Boring.
It’s a fairly simple, straight-forward question. At least, until you really think about it. “Being an American means you are free,” is a quintessential response, and it’s true. Freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms (for now, at least), freedom of religion, freedom to live life how we decide, freedom to make our own decisions. Power to the people, am I right?
America is the most unique country in the history of the world. Since our inception, we have always been driven by the desire to be free, and this passion has generally united us. These days, more so than any other period in our history, we are more preoccupied with the latest technology, entertainment, social media. With endless information at our fingertips (thank you, Google), we are somehow radically disconnected from our roots. Our identity as a nation is in rapid decline. Why is that? Who are we?
Let’s take a couple steps back and clear up a few things first.
- Freedom sure ain’t free. Freedom is bought with blood, sweat, and tears. Freedom rests on the shoulders of those who gave their lives. Here’s a big shoutout to the United States Military. We salute you.
- Freedom is more than a right; it’s the most valued, highly prized privilege a human being can obtain.
- Freedom in this country, contrary to popular belief, can – and will – be slowly diminished if we, the people, remain stagnant and dormant in our devotion to country.
So I decided to perform a personal study. I asked several of my coworkers, friends, and family members for their personal interpretation of what it meant to be an American. A buddy of mine texted me and said, “Beer. Wings. Football. And Donald Trump. #merica.” I have no doubt he meant well, but I thought it best to do a tad more searching, just to be sure, of course. Luckily, I have an in with a fifth circuit clerk and up-and-coming legal juggernaut. He addressed the topic thusly:
What it means to be an American is inextricably tied to our view of what it means to be a human. At its core, Americans believe that humans are to be equal and free. As enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, we’re all created equally in the image of God and thus share the same fundamental and inalienable rights. And so it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, what you believe, or how much money you have; at the end of the day, we’re all equal before the law. And since we’re equal, we’re also all free to pursue our own beliefs, passions, and callings. It’s these two pillars of equality and freedom on which our country is predicated and which our government is founded to protect.
I am going to take it one step further. As Americans, I believe we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We defend not only our own freedom, but the freedom of others as well. That is what makes us truly unique, what makes us Americans. We stand for the oppressed. We defend the weak. We are not bullied or pushed around. When provoked, we respond swiftly and decisively. When disaster strikes – whether it be natural disaster or enemy attacks – we rally ’round the flag and to one another. We will not be outworked or outdone. We are a light on the hill. This is our identity. This is who we are. This is America.
But I fear this identity is quickly changing. Our society is not as devout to traditional American morals. We look for shortcuts, for the quick dollar, for the coveted “change” we are so often promised. We look to the future without pondering and reflecting on the past. We are a transforming society, defined by political correctness rather than truth, honesty, and courage. We fail to question our politicians and hold them accountable for their actions. We are lulled by unsubstantiated guarantees, which so often veil an imminent threat to our future and that of our children. We crave the short-term, instant gratification and satisfaction.
So, who are we as Americans? We, the people, are free, and we must fight to defend and maintain that freedom. Neither politicians, nor the government, will do that for us. Yet, every 4 years, we are repeatedly misguided. We are persuaded by smooth-talking, promise-making, overly-optimistic politicians who tell us how the government can fix our problems. But what about us? What role do we play? Why do we sit idly in front of our big screen TVs, accepting what we are told as truth? We know better. The power of freedom lies not in the federal government, but within us, within you. You are the effector of real, genuine, nation-altering change, not the kind of change that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump so frequently promise. We are independent, strong, disciplined, steadfast in devotion and loyalty to God and country, and most of all, we are united.
I leave you with a quote from President John F. Kennedy:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”