I was born in America. That makes me to be a natural born American. The roots of my family are English-French. I am an English-French American. Some how the phrase English-French American does not do justice to my heritage. Regardless of whom were the immigrants who migrated to America, as a part of my family tree, the most important legacy they gave me was the opportunity to be born free in America. Because of this, as an American, I feel a deep gratitude to having had that opportunity since my entire destiny depended upon it. I feel a deep loyalty to my heritage - a democracy, frail and imperfect as it might be - the freedom to seek the pursuit of happiness and personal fulfilment. I am no true believer. I realize that the system is flawed and stands in need of great improvements. Nevertheless, I am proud to be an American first, and everything else after that.
I make no apologies for the failings of America - of its past or its present. As I remember the history of America, it is one of progress, from the throes of tyranny to the wide open portals of growth and opportunity to all who will choose to take advantage of what America has to offer. No democracy has lasted as long as we have, in spite of the fact that we came from many divergent backgrounds, politically, socially and religiously. The emerging form of our way of life, from the womb of the revolution, has given hope, not only to us - Americans - but to the world. American is not the promised land. America is like heaven. I do not speak grandiose when I say America is like heaven. What is so beautiful about our "heaven" is that it is continually under construction. More then ever, I realize the necessity to preserve our evolution, less we should corrupt the process and progress - so as to take it for granted. Preserving our system and way of life is important to the survival of America - the land of the free and the home of the brave.
As a patriot, I remember those days when I was a kid, standing along side of the street, watching the parade go by on the fourth of July. I can still recall the emotions I felt because of what I saw and heard. The most impressive memory is seeing the men carrying the flag - the band playing patriotic music. As the flag passed by, everyone placed his right hand over his heart as a salute to "Old Glory." As I remember those experiences, I say to myself: "I am glad to be an American."
The symbols of patriotism are very powerful and moving, particularly, things like the flag, the uniforms and the music. Then I realized that the symbols and loyalty to America, its freedom and way of life, are also expressed in words. The singing of the national anthem at football games is still a thriller, sometime, even more then the game itself. Then I thought about the label I had attached to myself to define my origin - English-French American. I suddenly became aware that there was something inappropriate about that phrase - English-French American. I woke up to realizing that I was placing more value upon where I had come from, rather then placing the importance upon where I am and my relationship to that state of being. It was a rude awakening to realize that I was giving more allegiance to my roots and its traditions, then I was to the precious possession I have - being an American. I realized if I had personally come here from a foreign country and became an American citizen, which meant I gave my total allegiance to this country, then my loyalty is to America. The longer I would be here the more I would blend into America - its culture and traditions. For instance, the United States Constitution, was written by our founding fathers of this great country. As a citizen or when I become a citizen, the founding fathers of this country and the constitution become my founding fathers and my constitution. They become my heritage. Having memories of past experiences in another country is well and good for reminiscing. However, when one decides to commit himself to an oath of loyalty to the United States of America, and become a citizen. Then it is time to break with the past and begin the process of being a citizen in this country with all of one's heart. Our pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, speaks of "....indivisible ....one nation ..." Many people want to see America as the promised land. They willing and ready to come here and partake of its fruit. Many times they come without citizenship. But it is a fact, one cannot have it both ways. If you are going to be an American, then be an American first and foremost, in this state of mind all other allegiance will be set aside.
It is the ethnic labels that are discouraging social and national unity - one nation. Let's give the attention of loyalty to where it belongs. Let's change our ethnic labels to a reference that will support our primary commitment and loyalty to America. Change the reference to clearly indicate where we are coming from in regard to our identity as an American citizen. Let the phrases of the past be revised to indicate our association with the homeland - America!
We can change the ethnic labels, such as my label - English-French American to American English-French, change African American to American African, change Chinese American to American Chinese and so on . Ideally, we could drop the ethnic label and just be Americans.
Copyright 2001 Fred M. Fariss All Rights Reserved