Theodore Roosevelt in speaking to the largely Irish Catholic Knights of Columbus at Carnegie Hall on Columbus Day 1915, asserted that,
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all… The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic… There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.”
These strong words were spoken by a strong man in a time when people were honest and frank. People didn’t hide their position on a subject. If you were to tell them to get in touch with their feminine side they’d have laughed you out of the room. And hand wringers of political correctness weren’t dictating what your vocabulary.
There’s a lot of things where a blurred line is a good thing. Few things in life are or should be absolutes, but in this case I agree with Roosevelt. You’re either an American or you’re not. We pledge our allegiance to one flag. The American flag.
I believe one of the problems we face, as a country, is that our sense of belonging, our perspective of all of us being a part of something great and meaningful is eroded by the hyphen. I know. It sounds silly when I say it like that, but think about this for a moment. Why is it that when someone tells you they’re a Mexican-American, or African-American, or Canadian-American, that being American comes last? People that are third, fourth, even fifth generation Americans, people who have never set foot on foreign soil will tell you they’re this or that-American.
When it comes time to protect this country, fight for it, step up and be counted as an American where do hyphenated people stand? Do they care? Do they feel that this is their country, or just some place they’re living?
I understand about heritage. People are proud of their roots. Sure, I get that, but I can’t help feel that they are ignoring all the reasons they should be proud to be called an American. This country set the standard for democracy. What other country created a Bill of Rights?
The very first words of our American Constitution begins with “We the People…” Not we the government, or King, or ruler.
While other countries were content to enslave other races, this country went to war against itself to stop it; to make all people free. When other countries faltered from political and natural disaster their people came here… and they did not return. They stayed here for a reason.
I know some of you have been reading this while mentally writing up a list of Americas flaws. I’m not blind to our history and it’s not without some shameful moments, but save your criticism. We all know America has it’s flaws, but I have found that the people who look for opportunities to tear holes in this country never have an answer for why they don’t go somewhere else?
Celebrities are in a position to get the most attention and they’re great for threating to leave. Eddie Vedder, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Barbara Streisand, Robert Altman are just some of the few that have beaten their chest and proclaimed they’d leave America. Want to guess where they are now? Yup, right here. America. Why? Where else could they live with the same freedoms, rights, and liberties? Nowhere. Nowhere in the entire world is there a country like America.
Europe has a wild hair up their rears about America. I’m not being paranoid. Just google ‘Why Europe hates America’ and you’ll find hours of reading material. We’re at the butt of many jokes if not out right insults. I can be watching a foreign movie, news show, talk show, or sports show and out of the blue someone makes a jab at America and everyone laughs. What have we done to earn this? Didn’t we send our men and women directly in harms way to aid our European allies in two world wars? Even now we have our military men and women stationed in Germany, Greece, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands, Greenland, France, Poland, Turkey, and Kosovo. We are there to aid in the protection of our allies. Everyone of us are paying with our taxes to provide that protection and the gratitude we receive in return are mocking jokes and criticisms.
After the war while America was melting down it’s own spoons and forks because we didn’t have enough metal to make planes, ships, and cars; food was scarce and gas was as rare as gold, we gave billions of dollars in aid to Europe in The Marshall Plan. It was America that brought Europe up from the post war ashes and today those same countries put us down.
I have wondered over this at times and think I might have come up with part of the answer. While the countries of Europe conform to each others judgement America stands apart. We abstain when other countries tell us we should be like them; conform to their idea of what America should be, what we should do, and they don’t like that. They don’t like that America doesn’t fall in line. But that is the core of our history. America was founded by those who would not fall in line, and would not accept the mandates of foreign countries. Every war we’ve fought has been to protect not only our rights and freedoms, but the rights and freedoms we believe all people should have.
If you are a legal citizen of this country you are an American. You are part of a country that, in spite of it’s mistakes, strives for freedom for it’s people, protects your right to speak your mind, guards your choice to worship as you decide, safe keeps your right to live anywhere you want, have what ever job you pick, get an education, raise your children in the religion of your choice, and more.
This is not a country divided by a hyphen. It’s one country and it should be made up of one people. Americans and nothing more.