'We are Americans first'They say that the first step towards resolving a problem, is admitting that you have one. Well, we have a problem, and the problem is that I fear that phrase is not only no longer true, but is perilously close to having no meaning at all. Why? Because in order to truthfully say that we are Americans first, a person has to first be able to say:
'American', with some understanding of the word that's coming out of their mouth. From what I can see, in looking at what other words are coming out of people's mouths, I'm seeing very little to indicate that most of us do know the meaning of American, beyond the shallow legalistic sense of having been born within the geographic borders of the United States... and if that's the extent of your understanding, when you come up against racist organizations advocating for 'America'... well... do you see the problem?
Sure, you're given a legal status by being born within our borders, but you do not, in any meaningful sense, become an American by such means alone, at least not in a way that is any different from how a person becomes a German or a Russian, i.e. by being born of parents on American soil - aka: by 'blood and soil', which, BTW, also happens to be the traditional rallying cry of fascists.
Now do you see the problem there?
Being an American that understands the meaning of that word, American, requires understanding that the meaning of that word, is not gained by means of osmosis through your ancestors blood, or through the soil that your mother gave birth to you upon, which were features and events which you yourself had absolutely no hand in, knowledge of, or choice in. If that and your "[insert your favorite color here] Pride!", are the extent of your claim to being an American, then you are not, in that more meaningful sense, an American.
To understand what it does mean to be an American, means understanding, and accepting as best you can, the fruit of that particular set of ideas that were expressed in our Declaration of Independence, especially, that:
"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."Those phrases of our Declaration, have deep philosophical meaning, which gives voice to the meaning and purpose of America, and yet, as Jefferson later wrote to a friend, they weren't meant to be especially impressive, or 'deep', or as an exercise in edgy literary or philosophical virtue signaling, but simply as expressions of something much more commonly profound:
"Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c..."If those ideas and 'harmonizing sentiments' or the 'elementary books of public right' are foreign to you, then you necessarily stand mute before them, making you intellectually, and spiritually, foreign to America, no matter what the legal status of your physical ties to its 'blood and soil' are.
Am I being too harsh in this? If we look about the land today, what evidence do we find for the sentiment that 'We are Americans first'? If we look to Charlottesville, Virginia, for instance, what did we see on display there last weekend? When I look at the center of these heinous events, I'm seeing prime reasons for the fears that I'm talking about, as racist, socialist, anti-American sentiments were on display in abundance, with very few visible examples of those 'Harmonizing Sentiments' which are what made it possible for the contents of our melting pot, to want to see themselves as being "Americans first."