This day, however, should be a time of reflection. What does it mean to be an American? Does American citizenship mean the same to everyone? Does everyone mean the same to America? Is America really exceptional?
Being American means one lives in the country with the most powerful military. It means living in the country that ultimately controls the world’s economy. With that power comes a responsibility that over the last few years were not used wisely. In fact, both the military and the financial sectors were instrumental in the unnecessary deaths of thousands and a near world economic collapse. Being an American means bearing the weight of these bad deeds whenever traveling abroad and professing the intrinsic love for this country.
Being an American citizen means different things to different people. For many nth-generation white Americans, it is a birthright even as they are blinded from the suffering of the natives whose land was taken, the blacks who were enslaved for profit, and the Chinese and indentured servants whose labor was exploited. For the American Natives, one can understand why many feel it is they that are the true Americans and stewards of these lands. For blacks, inasmuch as much of the economy was built on their free labor for centuries, they are made to feel as a notch less. And for most non-white or non-black Americans? They are still asked, “Where are you from?”
Many buy into Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of American Exceptionalism. For the masses in America and throughout the world, it just isn’t so. For what most Americans learn about America is a reality devoid of perspective. It does not matter what Americans say about America, it matters what others think of America based on America’s actions.
America was founded by immigrants who came to a foreign land and took it all forcefully. How then can America be exceptional when instead of atoning for said act it then tries to keep those attempting access to a better life out with politically driven angry mobs?
Being an American citizen is complicated. One is proud of what is attained under the red, white and blue. Americans have been to the moon. America has a presence throughout the oceans, continents, planets, inner and outer space. One is proud to be in a country capable of projecting ultimate power. Many Americans often feel a sense of superiority when traveling abroad.
Yet, it is a lacking of humility that may be what really haunts America. For America is not really one nation under God. America is all nations. It is that America comprises the best of all nations that make it great. It is that America still has a grassroots that continues to fight to not make America what it was or is, but what America is to be.
So, afterall, America cannot be considered exceptional now to many, not even with de Tocqueville’s shallow and antiquated definition of exceptionalism. That said, all Americans working together, that mosaic from around the world, just may make it so.