Who is American? How do you become an American? What does it mean to be American? And what are you if you are not American? Answers to these questions underline the narrative by which we define our American identity. Then there are American values; freedom, democracy and perhaps tolerance. We are told believing in these values make you an American. We can be more specific and say our values are defined in our Constitution. Anyone that subscribes and commits to the Constitution is an American. Is that enough or do we want more? Are there other conditions that we forgot to mention in the constitution?
It is obvious that American values are universal. Would there be people in the world somewhere who do not like freedom, democracy or tolerance? Of course, there could be. Then for sure they are not Americans in their thoughts and identity even if they hold American passports or birth certificates. With the world that is no longer shrinking but literally collapsing at our doorsteps, the American values are more accessible and being an American at heart more desirable. The ultra-nationalist or bordered mindset is losing ground and doesn’t hold authenticity.
American identity in its essence is global. Pursuit of its ideals is driving many reform movements of the world. Thank God American values doesn’t stop at the borders, is not subjected to the customs and immigration stamps, and more importantly transcends across regions, races and religions. As Walt Wittman said, “That you are here–that life exists and identity.”