Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is an American? For that Matter, What's America?

I think it was last year when someone told me that my avatar (that very blue eye in "About me") is a very American eye.

That pleasant sentiment started me thinking. Words like "Spanish," "Japanese," or most nationalities carry an ethnic identity with them. Quite a few people seem to think that there's an "American" ethnic group.

Understandably: since most immigrants were from northwestern Europe for the first century or so. I'm part of that bunch.

But that's not what being "American" is. What I wrote almost six years ago still applies ("An American Family" (June, 2002)):
As of June, 2002, we're still seeing those "I am an American" public service announcements on the television.

Being "American" is, I think, more than just having ancestors from scattered points on the globe. It's being willing and able to accept good ideas, no matter where they showed up. It's an American strength that we're able to pick up what works, use it, and sometimes even make it work better.

What is an American family? I think I'll use my own as an example. Here's a "typical" family event: The parents and children in a Norwegian-Irish-Scots Irish/German-Dutch-Swiss family, having finished a supper of (Italian) noodle and chicken soup, practiced Tai Chi, using a VCR made by a Japanese company.
What got me started on this post is an article I read today, "What Is An American?" The (anonymous) author wrote more than I did, and had a different point to make. It's worth a read, though.

What Does This Have to Do With the War on Terror?

Some Muslims think that the "Great Satan America" is out to get Islam. Some Americans think that "Christian America" has to defeat Islam.

There's some truth to both beliefs, but not much.
  • America Against Islam? I don't Think So
    America is no more against Islam than it is against Catholicism, Hinduism, or any other religion. My homeland's laws and culture aren't in full compliance with my beliefs, or (I suspect) those of a devout Hindu or Muslim.
    But I can go to a Catholic church down the street, Muslims (where there are enough to build one) can go to a mosque, Hindus are free to go to a temple, and the same applies to other religions.
  • Is America a Threat to the Terrorists?
    Yes, but not for the reasons the terrorists and their supporters seem to believe. America allows individual freedoms and economic opportunities which threaten the values of people who seem to want, above anything else, to live in the seventh century. America doesn't have to do anything to be a threat, other than exist as a place where people can come to live without clearing everything through an imam who doesn't like electricity, or women who know how to read.
America is a central figure in the War on Terror: So it's a good idea to know what America is.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.