American Identity

Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness

Image result for russian-american
Russian Doll covered in American Flag.

What does it mean to be an American? Well, if you ask my mom she will instantly point her finger towards me and say that I am the definition of an American because I am the first one in my family born in this land. Yet, even though all my family members have their citizenship in the USA, I am considered to be the American because of the way I speak (in both languages), dress, and act on a daily basis. However, sometimes I do not feel American, especially when I’m slurping down a bowl of steamy borscht. When I compare myself, along with my Russian heritage, to my “real” American friends (who lived here for generations), I find it interesting to be categorized as the outsider based on certain values, traditions, and customs I keep from my heritage. So then, who is really American? I think the safest answer is that we are all American through legal documentation and the culture that we assimilate into; this can make anyone into an American.

In his essay, To Those Who Would Remove to America”, Benjamin Franklin argues that no one qualifies to be an American if they continue the ways of their motherland. He states that “Strangers are welcome to come, because there is room enough for them all, and therefore the old inhabitants are not jealous of them, the laws protect them sufficiently, so that they have no need for the patronage of great men; and every one will enjoy securely the profits of his industry” (p.464). Franklin encourages people to come to America if they are willing to work hard for their American Dream. Though it sounds quite appealing, this idea still sticks through this nation where many families (like mine) come to this country for a better life for their children. However, this idea is challenged by this year’s election, as the Republican Party candidate Donald J. Trump does not agree with Franklin’s original idea. This unjust idea will crush the dreams for many families that come to this country for a better life (that is why I believe it is extremely important to vote wisely during this election).

As a country we have to realize that we all come from somewhere else. It makes no difference from the immigrants that come into our country today and the Pilgrims that settled in the 1700’s. Since I get to experience the best of both worlds, where my identity revolves around my heritage and my current environment, I think the best answer to describe the term, “American”, is one who (meaning every race and religion) has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this great country – The Unites States of America.

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4 thoughts on “Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness

  1. I love that you pointed out Trump. I did as well. To be honest, it is extremely saddening to see how many people support him. He incites this racism and hatred and he gives people that believe in these horrible ideas a platform upon which they can continue their hatred. I personally just on the basis of objectivity do not believe that we have the right to silence anyone so unfortunately that means if someone is being racist we have to allow it as long as they do not cross a boundary and hurt someone else. I fear that Trump incites others to cross that boundary. His rallies have become increasingly violent and he is the one that feeds that fire. There is a difference between free speech and deliberately being hateful toward and attempting to hurt them. Also, love your description of your family life and I could relate in so many ways. So many others could do, which is what made America what it is, the ability to bring all these people together under one nation based on the fact that we all want to live a better life, and that is what makes America America.

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  2. I really like how you approach living in two worlds at once; for example, when you wrote, ” I get to experience the best of both worlds, where my identity revolves around my heritage and my current environment”. I think that really brings “environment” and place into question here–because where we are physically does not always represent or relate to where we are in our self-perceptions and stream of consciousness. Well said!

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  3. Wonderful post! I strongly agree with you that this election has brought dangerous and horrific ideas forward, showcasing the ugliest side of Americans. And while you point out that Trump is swaying from Franklin’s original idea of the American Dream, we must not forget that Franklin and this ideology is not as welcoming as it sounds; while he says there is room for all, is he REALLY including all, such as the Native Americans they pushed out, or anyone other than Western European heritage? Throughout all of American history, there have always been groups that were excluded and unwelcome. So the Founding Fathers were not as welcoming as we like to think they were.

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  4. My parents wanted to me be exclusively American so they never thought me a lot about my heritage from the Caribbean island nations. I understand your struggle trying to figure out your identity and balance being American and Russian at the same time. I am also interested in learning about my roots so even though I never grew up with it I understand. I disagree with Ben Franklin idea that you have to give up your heritage to become an American. The original settlers that founded America all brought with them ideas and traditions from their past countries.America is suppose to be inclusive with all people that want freedom.

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