What It Means to Be an American - Paper Example

Published: 2021-07-26
1040 words
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9 min to read
Middlebury College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The United States is among the most diverse countries in the world. Its population consists of people from different ethnic backgrounds. Latinas, African Americans, Indians, Asians, and the Native Americans all make up the American society. Building a community this diverse is a complicated process that requires time and patience. For the people to stop identifying themselves as part of their previous origins but in the course of their newfound American culture. Various literary works give different accounts of American history and the culture of its people. The previous anthology focused on the colonial activities of the British. This paper is going to show what it means to be an American and its identity.


The most basic definition of being an American is that involves being the legal citizen of the United States. This entitles every individual to the protection by the constitution. But being an American citizen is different from Americanism. Americanism has more to do with the culture of the people. Their lifestyle. Some of the earliest heath anthologies of American literature depict the life of an ordinary American as just an individual who is trying to carve out a better future for themselves by surviving one day at a time. Most of these literature talk of the settlers who had traveled to the new world in search of a better tomorrow. Most of them were farmers. They had no other option but to survive. They had given up everything in their former lands to come to settle in these new territories.

According to Glazer and Daniel, Since the culture of the American society is influenced by several other individual groups, it is not uncommon to spot some practices in America that have similarities to other parts of the world.(28). Holidays such as Christmas were brought in by the Europeans who were Christians. The previous colonizers who were British also conducted this holiday. On their departure, the citizens continued with this tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Majority of the population during the founding of the America were farmers (Jacoby, 59). As a result, they celebrated the harvest season. The holiday that has developed to be known as Thanksgiving. Harvest was however not just a culture that was brought in by the settlers. The Native Americans also did celebrate the harvest season. The concept of celebrating the harvest season wasnt new to them, and it was easy for them to adopt. The Africans were also familiar with the idea of celebrating the harvest season.

In their struggle for survival in the harsh environment, the single uniting factor was its fight for survival. (Hochschild, 22) Shows that it was easier to survive united than as an individual. This is the unity that had guided them in times of grief and hardship. Through unity, they were able to transverse the vast American States in search of opportunities.

American society was founded on diversity; its hard to create patriotism because to have patriotism the country needed an identity. Americanism is founded upon the freedom to every citizen and their right to achieve their goals. The idea of freedom is what attracted a lot of people from different backgrounds into the new world. Most of them originated from areas that were ruled by Monarchs. Americanism was founded upon giving the power to the people. Letting the people choose their leaders.

Some of the cultural practices like dance and clothing havent changed much. The dress cord in America has hardly changed from the earliest days of the country. Each of the cultures that make up the American society has managed to maintain a huge part of their original dressing cord. However, there are some such as African American dressing cord that was almost completely eroded because of slavery. As per (Blanchard, 15) A slave was required by the slave master to dress as the slave master deems fit. Hence as the generations passed the dress code became more similar to those of whites.

The history of America is riddled with tragedy. But Americanism involves identifying the importance of this history. The earliest Americans trying to make a living from the land. The wars that forged the nation (De Crevecoeur, 7). Americans take great pride in their history and ideology. They identify the roles played by the events of the past. In a diverse society such as that of America, one is certain to find extremes. It is almost impossible to find a common agreement on a particular issue. Being able to tolerate those who offer conflicting views to yours is what brought the rise to Americanism.

All those cultures put into one place seemed to be a recipe for disaster. But over time the dream of the founding fathers has provided a common ground for the different groups to settle their differences. It can even be argued that America wouldnt be the same in the absence of all the different groups that it consists of. The immigrant culture is what makes the nation great. The rest of the world viewed diversity as liability America instead viewed it as a strength. Adding uniformity to all these races gave them superiority because they were united by their dream for a better life.


Americanism is a work in progress. It keeps on evolving with time. The earliest Americans could not have imagined a society like the one seen today. We look back at the earliest American culture and spot a lot of mistakes. Mistakes that have been rectified to create the better present. Learning from the current mistakes creates a better American culture for future generations.

Work Cited

Glazer, Nathan, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York City. Vol. 13. Cambridge, MA: mit Press, 1963.

Jacoby, Tamar. Reinventing the melting pot: The new immigrants and what it means to be American. Basic Books, 2009.

Blanchard, Peter. "Pan Americanism and Slavery in the Era of Latin American Independence." Beyond the Ideal: Pan-Americanism in InterAmerican Affairs, edited by David Sheinin. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger (2000): 9-18.

Hochschild, Jennifer L. Facing up to the American dream: Race, class, and the soul of the nation. Princeton University Press, 1996.

De Crevecoeur, J. Hector St John. Letters from an American Farmer; And, Sketches of Eighteenth-century America. Penguin, 1981.


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