I cringe now at the thought of having to associate the term American with the United States. American seems to imply that only United States citizens deserve to be called such a word, but American is not a term that should only describe people from a country that has been the center of so many atrocities in this world (continuation of slavery, oppression of people, colonization, “Police force of the world”). I am automatically an American by location. Everyone from Canada to Argentina is an American in my point of view. We are all Americans, and I am a United States Citizen.
The term American has a history that has begun to carry negative connotations around the world. To many an American is just another term for a self centered, elitist, narcissistic, and privileged person on this world. I agree. I very strongly agree with this viewpoint. We are very narcissistic, and that is why we use American to only talk about one country in a hemisphere that contains two of America’s. The world only revolves around us. Americans only care about their America. This sense of patriotism in my view seems to fundamentally destroy the notion that all people are created equal. In America now, we see through different sources of media the types of oppression that people go through. We are created equal, but in America, that sense of equality never seems to equate what many people seem to actually believe when we are younger.
American can mean anything you want it to be. There is no true label as to what it means to be an American. Hell, the term American was created in a time where the only people in America with some power were white males. Is that even as relevant now? Maybe? However, we can look around now and see some people of color striving in positions of power. We have a president of color now. What once was America is now something of the past.
American and the morals around it are simply morals that many people around the world share. We do not own them. In Benjamin Franklin’s, “Information to those Who Would Remove to America”, he describes particular sets of guidelines and things to do live by in order to succeed in America. He writes, “Much less is it adviseable for a Person to go thither, who has no other Quality to recommend him but his Birth. In Europe it has indeed its Value; but it is a Commodity that cannot be carried to a worse Market than that of America, where people do not inquire concerning a Stranger, What is he? but, What can he do?”, to describe that a person does not simply become valuable to society unless they are working, or doing something that contributes to society. I agree with that statement, even though America then had institutions that were morally wrong, like slavery, and the privileges that white men had over everyone else. The United States of America now is only able to succeed by the contributions that all people have been able to give.
Immigrants like my father were enamored by the idea of succeeding, especially in America. However, he knew it wouldn’t be so easy. With hostility towards Mexicans (I would say Mexican American. Mexico is in America, and in America too.), he knew that it would be a struggle because of racism, language barriers, and how American society viewed immigrants like himself, merely just cheap labor. However, the term American, in its truest sense is reflected through him. Using Benjamin Franklin’s idea of what people who come to America should live by, he didn’t have to show up here to realize it. He was an American who valued work in Mexico to help his family out. He had to drop out of school early because he needed to make enough money to buy food for everyone in his big family. He needed to be valuable not because he wanted to come here, but because he needed to be valuable in order for himself to succeed and make his family proud.
When you hear the term American, do not associate it with the United States. Truly think about what it means to be an American. Does it reflect more about what type of person you are, or the country you live in?