I found your blog a week ago and have been reading your articles. How did I know you would come out on the anti american side of the ground zero mosque today? You pretend to be so much smarter than the rest of us but you sure have your head up your ass. I’ve never seen anybody so consistently wrong about everything. Have another cup of Obummer coolaid LOL! I can’t understand how you can hate your country so much, but I can sure see why you worship your america hating president. You are so predictable. Non americans like you should just get out and move to france if you hate America so much.Anti-American? Non American? Me?
I’m on the non-American side?
How the hell did that happen? See, somehow, I thought religious freedom was as American as NASCAR, shooting holes in road signs, and fear-mongering bigotry. Doh. I didn’t even know there were sides – well, I mean I knew there were teams, I just didn’t know we’d given them names. Just so I’m clear, one side is the “Anti-Americans?” What’s the other one? The “Assholes?”
Non-American? What the hell does that even mean? As an insult?
The admiring email above got me thinking, I don’t know what non-American means but I think I can figure it out from the context.
But that begs the question, what does American mean?
What exactly makes you an American?
It’s certainly not geography. Canadians live in North America, but they’d sic their polar bear infantry on you and pelt you with empty Molson bottles if you called them Americans. Mexicans live in North America too, nobody calls them Americanos, not even the ones that live in LA and make the burritos and mow the grass. Ditto for Central and South American countries. You never hear: I’m an American!” “Really, where are you from in America?” “Tierra Del Fuego!”
Is it skin color? Once upon a time you had to be white to be a real American. Or did you? People of color, both free and slave, fought in the American Revolution – you know, the war that actually created this country. And despite the fact that many of those people ended up as property in their oh so grateful newly formed homeland, a significant number were free Americans right from the start. They couldn’t vote of course, and often couldn’t own property if a white man objected – but right from the founding of the United States skin color wasn’t a defining criteria for Americanism. Oh sure, there were plenty of tri-corner hat wearing assclowns who wanted it otherwise and we’re all familiar with what happened, the lynching and the KKK and Segregation and Jim Crow and Separate But Equal But Not Really. Eventually, however, we got around to finishing the Civil War with the Civil Rights movement and we settled that question once and for all. No specific race makes you an American.
Is it gender? Once upon a time you had to pee standing up in order to vote and own property, to be an actual American. Surprisingly, women put up with that nonsense a whole lot longer than you would have expected, but eventually the suffrage movement ended such silliness and settled the question. Gender doesn’t make you an American.
Is it ethnicity? There was a time when it was deemed that German-Americans and Italian-Americans were real Americans, and the less-American Japanese-Americans got herded into camps. Of course, those Japanese-Americans only got penned up for four years and in the end faired better than Native-Americans who got herded onto shitty reservations permanently. We’ve spent a hell of a lot of time feeling guilty about that and numerous similar episodes, making insufficient reparations, and promising insincerely that it won’t happen again. It also turns out that we like ethnic food, and ethnic festivals, and ethnic holidays, and we consider those things as American as St. Patrick’s Day and fortune cookies. So we’ve pretty much established that ethnicity isn’t a benchmark of American-Americans.
Is it moving and shaking? Used to be real Americans were well bred and high born and owned steel factories and oil companies and built railroads and were timber barons and lorded over whole damned towns. Everybody else just sort of worked for them. After WWII though, we ended up with a middle class and it turned out that you didn’t have to be a tycoon to be a real American.
Is it culture? Is it the coast you live on? Is it your music? Is it the food you eat? Which is more authentic America? New York or Los Angeles? Deep dish or Chicago Style? Biggie Smalls or Tupac? Broadway or fish tacos? Which is more American, Country and Western or Rock and Roll? Rap? Hip Hop? How about Bluegrass and the Grand Ole Opry? Is it your job? The car you drive? The beer you drink? All of those things are American, but none make you an American.
Is it your religion? There are a rather large number of folks, all of them Christian, who insist that it is. We had a president who said in no uncertain terms that if you weren’t a Christian, you weren’t an American – nice of him to make it clear that he only represented those Americans he thought were worthy of the title wasn’t it? Texas erased Thomas Jefferson from their school history books, because he wasn’t Christian enough to suit them and therefore not a real American. Thomas Jefferson. Astounding, but then Texans tend to regard anybody not from Texas as somewhat less than American – pretty funny for a bunch of folks who keep threatening to secede from the Union every time we turn around. But of course, being a Christian doesn’t make you an American, despite George H. W. Bush’s idiotic statement to the contrary.
Is it age? Do you have to reach a certain age to be an American? Is it military service? If you’re eighteen and can fight and die for America, are you an American then? What if you don’t serve, are you still an American? All those talking heads, Dick, Rush, Sarah, Glenn, Sean, Rupert, Michelle, not one them served, not one single day, are they Americans? Of course they are, military service doesn’t make you an American – otherwise a whole lot of very prominent conservatives would be shit out of luck.
Is it because you buy American? It’s a nice idea I suppose. Patriotic after a certain fashion. But of course nobody can buy only American, can they? So I guess that’s not it either.
Is it because you speak English? Is it your politics? Is it your driver’s license and the car you drive? Is it your school? Your haircut and the clothes you wear? Thirty years ago, when a bunch of long haired hippies camped out on the Washington Mall to protest the government’s actions, conservatives called them traitors and said protesting the government was down right un-American. The shoe is on the other foot now, isn’t it? Guess we’d better be careful defining who is and who isn’t an American by who is calling the government a bunch of fascists, eh?
None of those things conclusively make you an American, do they?
So what does?
Point to one trait that decisively makes somebody an American.
Wait, is it because you were born here?
It is, isn’t it?
For a hell of a lot of folks, that’s exactly what being an American is: an accident of birth. Nothing more.
They just happened to be born here. That’s all. They didn’t do a damned thing to earn it. They didn’t do a damned thing to deserve it. They didn’t decide to be an American. They simply came squalling into the world on American soil or were born of an American parent. They could just as easily have been born Canadian or Mexican or Tierra Del Fuegan. They speak English because their parents spoke English because the majority of the people who founded America spoke English, it’s not better, it’s just an accident. Their birth, their language, their customs, their culture, their music, their religion, their gender, their race – none of it was anything they chose. It wasn’t a conscious decision on their part, they just happened to be American.
Does that make them any more American than the next guy?
You know, the next guy who did choose to be here? Who sweated and worked and schemed and slaved and sacrificed to be here? Who was willing to break the law and risk his or her very life and freedom to be here? To have their children here. Who believed in the opportunity of America so much they were willing to give up everything they knew and leave behind everybody they loved just to be here?
Is being an American defined by birthright?
A rather large number of Americans sure seem to think so.
But see, here’s the funny part, if birthright is what makes us Americans, well then it really can’t be all that damned special, can it?
After all, a bunch of real Americans seem to think you can just vote it away.
Answer me this: how can something supposedly so fundamental as being an American be something others can just take away?
Unless, of course, it’s not so special after all.