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What Does It Mean to Be an American?

Essay by   •  February 2, 2014  •  Essay  •  1,198 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,036 Views

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"E Pluribus Unum." From many, one. The powerful motto portrayed on the Seal of the United States, with three simple-minded words, creates a compelling statement that virtually sums up how America was established, developed, overcame, prospered, and changed. From many nations, religions, races, intellectual abilities, languages, ideas, governments, and structures, one location grew to become the seed of prosperity among differences, and developed an abstract label that we take for granted everyday, America. America is not a country. We have created the United States of America, and the appropriate adjective, "American," but there is no such place. America is a structured metaphor for the conglomeration of everything else in our world. To be an American is to not only have the apparent right that was given to us at birth, freedom, but when you say you're American, you're expressing your acceptance of your nation's diversity, and realizing that there is no place else alike.

First off, in order to discuss the obvious attribute of any developed American, "freedom," we have to understand what it is. The thing is, freedom cannot be defined into a solidified set of words for everyone to agree upon, because it's impossible to define an idea. Sure, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has a preferred definition, but people are entitled to their own opinion and self, and have the right to not agree. The Irish poet Oscar Wilde said, "To define is to limit." If you were to define the term "freedom," you would be contradicting its very ideological meaning; to not limit. So, if you want to truly know what freedom is, how would go about understanding it? Here's my view.

Not only in America, but everywhere in the world, every person is born free. No matter what government, religion or ethnicity they are born under, they are given a clean slate, at the beginning at least. When the person is free, their pure self and spirit are able to be expressed in the world, and they can quite literally do as they please. The big problem with this is that the government that the person is born under can strongly hinder the individual's ability to fully enact their freedom. Examples of this in our current world are communistic countries, such as North Korea, China, and Cuba. They have greatly skewed their citizen's aptitude for freedom through restriction, tyranny, order, and punishment. The individual still has a sense of "internal-freedom," but its greatly restrained through external conflictions. In contrast to these conflictions, or governments in this matter, the idea of an "ideal American" entails that your internal spirit, or freedom, has the ability to be released into the open world, free of hindrance. The freedom of speech, religion, and social mobility vividly create a picture of how the term freedom has been implemented into our every lives. To be an "American" has two different concepts, freedom being the larger of the two in terms of recognition, but being the lesser of the recognized doesn't dampen its impact on the American citizen.

The "underdog" of the elements of an American draws back to the initial sentence in this essay; "E Pluribus Unum." The Latin statement stated on the Great Seal of the United States sums up what it means to be an American. Historian Philip Gleason stated, "To be or to become an American, a person did not have to be any particular national, linguistic, religious, or ethnic background. All he had to do was to commit himself to the political ideology centered on the abstract ideals of liberty, equality, and republicanism. Thus the universalist ideological character of American



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