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Really American,
Part III

Part I
Part II
Part IV

Natalia J. Garland

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It has become popular to say that there are two Americas. I disagree. There is one America with ever emerging applications of our values and ideals. America is not perfect, but we strive for greater realization of human rights and potential in the complexity of our society. When I was in the fourth grade, we had to memorize The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America. Let's venture back to those school days and review the Preamble from a post-9/11 perspective.



We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.



In order to be really American, it is essential to have an American identity. When the Preamble refers to a more perfect Union, this could indicate that the acquisition of an American identity is developmental, a process of becoming, a reaching toward greater levels of perfection individually and nationally. To condemn and reject this identity because of imperfection, is to propel oneself into an abyss of self-hatred. Self-hatred, in turn, can only have divisive political consequences. It is personal self-hatred, not national imperfection, that can drive people into two Americas.

Notice that the Preamble begins with the phrase, We the People. Another necessary component to being really American is inclusion. Perhaps the best way to be included in our society is to vote. America is a country of free elections and, for the political process to be effective, this requires citizen participation. Not to vote, or not to be able to vote, is to risk losing the rights and freedoms guaranteed under our constitutional government.

Free elections depend on having more than one political party. Although America is traditionally a two-party system, third-party opposition can make us aware of unmet needs or unrest among different groups of people. The majority vote wins, but the minority continues to have rights. Prejudice and discrimination may be American realities, but these negative qualities do not represent our ideals. This fact cannot be overstated.

The body of the Preamble summarizes the responsibilities of being really American. These responsibilities are all connected to allegiance. No democracy can sustain itself without the loyalty of its citizens. Promoting the general welfare of the people is a matter of survival. Our laws and traditions are designed to affirm life and to pass on the goodness of life to the next generation.

Allegiance is perhaps the most peculiar aspect of being really American. There have been some people, such as the Navajo Code Talkers and the Tuskegee Airmen, who demonstrated exceptional allegiance at a time when they enjoyed very few benefits under our Constitution. They were needed by their country and they answered the call. Let us be worthy of the freedoms they secured for us. Complacency is a deadly enemy in post-9/11 America. (Written 09/20/04: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2004 Natalia J. Garland