Defining American

Supposed American ideals contradict current political, social climate

Siena Pradhan, Contributing Writer

What does it mean to be American? To be living the “American Dream” in what we call the “land of the free and home of the brave?” As kids, we were repeatedly told that America is it; it is the place to be in the world. There is truth to this, but looking back I think to myself, how can we say that with such confidence? 

We tell our youth that the president is the leader of the free world while we watch our own people storm the capitol. We tell them that anyone can live the “American Dream” while we throw kids in detention centers and deport their parents seeking asylum. We tell kids that we are making change, yet we’ve never known a world where politicians can seem to agree. I posed the question of what ‘being American’ means to some students. Natalie Weinman ‘24, states, “[Being American is] dealing with the systemic oppression for all groups except cisgender, straight, white men.” On the other hand, Maddie Hsia ’23 answers, “Being American means to be open minded … though it doesn’t always feel like that.” Although there were conflicting answers on whether being American is a good thing or not, the consensus was we can, and we should do and be better.

We grow up ignorant, in the illusion that America is faultless while under our noses, it overthrows Panama, Syria, Iran, Guatemala, Congo, Brazil, and Chile’s democratically-elected governments. How can I be proud of a country where the most common stereotypes are racism, an obsession with firearms, and environmental ignorance? How can I be proud in a place where some people don’t consider me American because of the color of my skin; where everyday I wake up scared to see what my country has done today?

However, absolving ourselves from guilt of our country isn’t the way to progress into a world where being American isn’t something to be shameful about. To be an American is to acknowledge the unnecessary wars and the lives that have been taken, and be better. The more appropriate question, however, is “should we be proud to be American?” As Social Studies teacher Stacy Helmbrecht-Wilson said best, “We can be a country where everyone can be proud to be an American,” though we are far from it now. We should never forget those that had to suffer before us or forgive the system that led us here. But, we should learn from the past and make something out of it. Acknowledging our gruesome and oppressive history is always the first step to healing. So, should we be proud? The short answer is no, but we should and can work to create something that we are all proud of.