Most of us have some idea of what we consider American but when someone uses the word un-American, what does that mean?
As far as what is American, apple pie comes to mind. But if I don’t like apple pie, does that mean I’m un-American?
Baseball, at least the kind we play in this country unlike any other country would also be considered by a lot of people to be American. Personally, I don’t care anything about baseball or even football, but most of my fellow citizens wouldn’t consider me to be un-American, just not a sports fan.
But what about politics; why do some conservatives use this word toward those who may not share their views? Would “un-American” be used toward someone that is considered unpatriotic? I’m not really a very patriotic person; I have more of a world view so I might be considered un-American by some of those on the right. Still, I feel pride when I hear the Star Spangled Banner and I proudly put my hand across my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, which means I’m still proud of the country I live in.
There are times I have felt ashamed of my country though, especially when President George W. Bush resided in the White House. There were things that he and his administration did that I personally felt were un-American, such as torturing foreign prisoners to glean information from them. To me, it just really didn’t matter if it was effective or not, there are some things I feel should be beneath the standards of what is American and what is right and wrong.
I also felt starting a war preemptively was also wrong and un-American, which is also something the Bush Administration did. Along with that, secretly spying on Americans without a warrant was also un-American in my books.
Having a different opinion is not un-American I believe, though many have been judged to be un-American because they saw things in a different light than some conservative points of view. Instead, I think having free thought is very American as it shows our sense of independence, which is what liberty is all about.
Some consider this a Christian nation and it’s true that the majority of citizens since its founding are Christians but some even consider those who are not Christians to be un-American. This is not true either, as our country was also founded on a set of principles set forth in our Constitution and one of those is Freedom of Religion. That would say to me that it would be un-American to insist that someone be a Christian to be American. To also impose one’s religion onto another would also be un-American.
Un-American to me is also to deny liberty to any of our citizens, or even denying someone equal treatment under the law. Gay people are denied the right in most of our states the right to marry. This again comes from the fact that some of our more conservative citizens, especially evangelicals feel being gay is wrong and so they believe our laws and even our Constitution should reflect their views. This is to me un-American as it is imposing one group of citizen’s religion onto another group of citizens.
It is American to protect the rights of minorities in this country. When it is proven that certain minorities of our citizens are denied the same equal rights and treatment under the law as others, then it is up to the protectors of our Constitution, which is the president, the Congress and the judicial branch of our government to step forward and rectify that minority’s rights under our Constitution.
I also believe it is un-American to try and amend our Constitution so that it discriminates against certain minorities, though they are Muslim, Hispanics or gay people. Yet we have some who would try and do that and thereby using our own Constitution that gives us our rights and liberties, to deny liberty and rights to other citizens.
What defines what is American and un-American is a simple as understanding that American is about freedom and equality for all. It isn’t un-American to be different and to think different than others. It is also very American to protest, and it doesn’t matter if you’re protesting as a Tea Party member, Occupy Wall Street member or as a union member or any other citizen for whatever reason, just as long as you don’t intrude upon other citizen’s rights in doing so.
Just because a politician or a political pundit calls someone un-American because they disagree with their views, doesn’t make them un-American. In fact, it really is un-American to call someone un-American just because they disagree with you.
It seems the word un-American is tossed around a great deal nowadays, but it means nothing except that the one who is tossing it around is obviously in the mindset that they are more American because of they believe at least, that they’re in the majority and their views represent what American means.
What is American is diversity, and it becomes more so the more we become an enlightened country and we put away our prejudice and instead, open the door to freedom and equality for all. Then only un-American applies to those who would deny rights and equal treatment for everyone and also those who would allow their prejudice to infringe on the rights of others. For after all, Americanism is about freedom for all of its citizens as that’s what many of our braver citizens throughout our history have fought and died for.
I believe American should be determined by how we treat each other and the rest of the world. If we are proud of our country, they let us hold our heads high and show unity instead of strife, and understanding instead of prejudice.
There will come a time when we will need to stand united, as that’s what has pulled us through some of the most trying times of our history. When that time comes again, it won’t matter one bit for whom that fellow citizen is who is helping pull you out of a burning building to save your life or fighting beside you against a common enemy. No, it won’t matter one bit if it is a gay person, a Muslim, a Jew, an African American, Hispanic or even a liberal or conservative; only that they’re as American as you are.