What does it mean to be an American? As someone who, without an option, was brought to America at the young age of four, this was something I’ve always been confused about. I remember every statewide exam that took place that asked me whether I was a U.S. citizen. Depending on my mood, I had given various answers. My choice ultimately came down to whether I felt a strong urge to assert my heritage, or immerse myself in the culture and “choose” to be American. Of course, later I found out the difference between being a citizen and being an American, and yet that conflict of identities that I had as a kid helped me realize that being an American isn’t some formal procedure that everyone has to go through in order to have the full benefits of residing within the states.
Being American, at least to me personally, is searching through the wilderness of the skyscraper trees, the asphalt rivers that divide the cement paved roads, and creating an identity of not just yourself, but also of the wilderness all around, just like how the first immigrants that came into America came to create a civilization from the wilderness around them. In creating this brand new civilization, as Nash so perfectly writes, “they sought to give that civilization identity and meaning”.
Nash later goes on to state that “Wildnis has a twofold emotional tone. On one hand it is inhospitable, alien, mysterious and threatening; on the other, beautiful, friendly, and capable of elevating and delighting the beholder.” This perpetual truth resounded through the ages and still continues to echo in today’s society. There will always be doubt and fear in the back of the minds of the immigrants that come to America searching for a better life. However, to immerse yourself into the wilderness of a foreign land, merging your identity and the environment together to form something greater, an elevation if you will, should ultimately be what being an American must mean.
So in this sense, yes, I am an American, and I’m proud to be one too.
Some further readings on the opinions of people of all ages on what it means to be an American include:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/us/what-does-it-mean-to-be-american.html?_r=0target=comments#commentsContainer (Refer to the comments section)