Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Being An American

I had the great fortune recently to attend the ceremony of a dear friend of mine who chose to become an American Citizen, a title that many of us take for granted. Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those sappy, follow-the-leader types regardless what the leader says, but I do take pride in being an American. So, what does it mean to be an American? Well, for me it's the right to vote and have my point of view and allow others to do the same.

One of the problems I've had with the last many years is that I have encountered too many people that have tried to squelch this critical American attribute. Some of these folks have taken the position that anyone who disagrees with them is unpatriotic. Ridiculous, I say! Diverse points of view and civil discussion and disagreement are essential to a robust and free democracy. It's violence that I object to. But back to my friend who chose to become an American.

Since I work downtown Chicago and since my friend is 83 years old, I met her at the train and escorted her to the Federal building where she would be sworn in. The judge - and forgive me because I don't remember his name but I'll never forget his words - took a moment to tell his own story, or that of his ancestors who came to this great country and made it possible for him to be born an American. A point he made is that other than Native Americans, we are all immigrants. I agree. I am part Cherokee Indian but I'm as white as they come. If we all look at our ancestry I think we will find that we are more alike than we are different and we all have an interesting past. This is one of the lessons my friend has taught me. I visit her every summer in Canada where she lives part year on her family land and while I'm in another country I'm struck by how alike we are.

Now, you might say, dah! it's Canada! but I've also traveled in Great Britain and served in Korea with the U.S. Army. So, I'm here to tell you that we are truly more alike than we are different. Still, I think America is one of the best places in the world and instead of shoving this down the rest of the world's throat we need to embrace our great fortune in being Americans and use that to help others. That's what has and will continue to make this a great country and Americans great citizens, something to remember this Thanksgiving as we celebrate.


Morgan Mandel said...

We don't know how lucky we are!

Morgan Mandel

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Frankly, I'm quite happy to live where I am. I've seen enough of the rest of the world to know that we are blessed to be living in U.S. of A.