Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Meaning of Being an American

I grew up during Watergate and Nixon and Vietnam -- I became politcally aware during those years. Spent hours in front of the television watching the Watergate hearings, even ordering a copy of the proceedings. I was outraged at our President's behavior.

I didn't know anyone personally who went to Vietnam. But I have a memory of my senior year in high school, listening to a broadcast of the final pullout of American troops, and feeling such relief. I was outraged about our behavior in the world.

All that to say that I have never felt particularly patriotic. In fact, I've been wary of patriotism because it can slide into nationalism which I think is evil. I've prided myself on being a critical thinker when it comes to my country.

But last night, as D and I were driving to visit some friends (see post above), I found myself asking my husband what he thought it meant to be an Amerian. He said that being American is choosing to live in compact with others who believe in the ideals expressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Good answer.

I'm rethinking my stance.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common
defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

-Checks and balances on government, with three branches
-Tension between state and federal government
-Freedom of religion, press, expression
-Right to a speedy trial and to confront your accusors
-Trial by jury
-Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all ...are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among [Us], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

2 comments:

Jan said...

Thank you. Bravo.

INTPanentheist said...

He said that being American is choosing to live in compact with others who believe in the ideals expressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

However, by that definition, are the people who, say, voted yes on Proposition 8, not American?

I'm not insinuating that they're not (although I personally think that their ideology is certainly not) so much as expressing curiosity about the reach of this definition.