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One person may insist that The Americas comprise the continents of North and South America, and that any native or permanent resident of this landmass is “an American.” This person may be adamant and persistent about this being an important issue and insist that millions of people are disenfranchised by people in the United States appropriating this identity solely for themselves. Sure, that’s right; I can see the point.

However, stand up in a civic meeting in the U.S. and say “I’m proud to be an American,” and everyone knows exactly what is meant. A citizen of the United States, self-identifying as “an American,” is no big deal; it sits easy on the mind; it does not cause cognitive dissonance.

As the Cringe Test illustrated, it is possible for two people to hold two very different and yet perfectly-reasonable beliefs. It can be, at the same time, both wrong and just fine to call residents of the United States of America “Americans.” Both ideas can be useful, even as their conclusions are polar opposites.

So, what is a writer about “American Values” to do? Citizens of the United States of America will assume that I am talking to, and about, them. Citizens of other American countries may feel that I am being as ignorant and disrespectful as any other “Ugly American.” Nonetheless, I invite any reader to glean what they can from the discussions that follow.

I do not pretend to have the only valid perspective, just something that seems, to me, worth sharing. I will not insist that your faith or culture does not suit your needs or give your life meaning. But, I will insist, over and over, that we are all part of an interconnected global society and need to be able to tolerate, understand, and live with our diverse neighbors — even the idiots next door.

This is an excerpt from “Family and Community Values in American Culture: Forming a More Perfect Union” to be published in 2014 by David Satterlee. Excerpts from other books of essays, short stories by this author are available at


Do the real citizens of the United States of America include:

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