What makes me an “American?” Or asked another way: Is there such a thing as the American Cultural Experience and am I a part of it?
People come to America for many reasons. Some do not seem to know or care to know what that American experience is. They come to get what they can get because they heard the word “free.” Others identify the American way of life as the way to freedom from political oppression. They want to share in our freedom—to give back and not just get. They contribute to the dream of our forefathers.
What it means to be American should never be lessened in importance! We ought to be ever improving as a society without altering our identity as Americans. In evolutionary terms: We must remain the same specie but better “fit” or adapt at caring, dealing with poverty and illness—and, culturally, a people united under a common flag.
An American cultural experience, as a way of life, was once based on a simple constitution that has over time been extended beyond that simplicity. The Federal Register includes 438 agencies and sub-agencies in which federal authority has been delegated to non-elected officials. This means unelected persons with no allegiance by oath to this Constitution. As history will show, some had not honored it in practice. We know this because the more we are regulated, the less free we are. The American cultural experience, that a revolutionary war was fought to defend, is being regulated out of existence. What is basic to being American is hereby being redefined. Even some would rewrite our national history to legitimize changes that impugn (and even criminalize) what it has always meant to be American.
So I ask, What does it mean to be an American? What makes an American an American?
The Statue of Liberty describes those coming here as “yearning to breathe free.” The Declaration of Independence used the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to describe this. It has always been American to be a free people and that “yearning” has been transformed into a national patriotism that professes, “I am American!”
But how is this a cultural idea? Hamilton called the U.S. Constitution essential to our freedom which makes this Constitution a vital aspect of the American cultural experience:
Alexander Hamilton enlisted the help of political writers … to pen a series of essays convincing the American people that the new Constitution was essential to their liberty. These are known as “The Federalist Papers” (Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition. p. 75)
Culture defines the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular society. Culture is the collective achievements of any society or nation, which for America, is described and envisioned in our Constitution and the importance we ascribe to it. [Wars have been fought on its account.] To disregard the provisions in the U.S. Constitution is to enlist in a regulatory system of control and deny Americans those freedoms described in that constitution. In other words: To change the culture is to change what it means to be American!
There are those who talk of democracy as foundational to our way of life but that word has been painted with a broad brush stroke that includes a hundred other nations. We are more than a democracy. We are a constitutional republic with a Bill of Rights and a separation of limited government powers.
To be American, means to have a distinct cultural experience that defines freedom in terms of our faith and that gives voice to our opinions. We even can redress grievances—disagree—with the government publicly.
Culturally, also, being Americans means we can climb up out of a lower class into a higher one—a higher economic bracket, a better career, if we choose. We can improve ourselves. Our roles in society are not culturally defined. There is no defined class system in America.
In the Federalist Papers #14 James Madison wrote concerning the U.S. Constitution,
“To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness. … Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.” [The Federalist Papers. Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.]