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Don Anderson

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I need help with a dilemma: What does it mean to be American? And Why does it work?

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Up-date to thread’s scope: (July 10th)

Thanks for all the comments, they have been very helpful.
I have sorted out my feeling on being American, it maybe a jumbled mess but it is working for me. And to avoid rehashing what has been said I’ll leave it at that.

But the large diversity of views here, and within America’s culture, politics, values, heritages, etc. I have to ask;

Why does it work?

By most standards we are a highly dysfunctional group, and should be a failed society.
But here we are a great nation, and by most logic that should not be the case.
Yes we are the home of the free and the brave, but also home of tyrants, cowards, passive, aggressive, moral and immoral and I could go on and on forever.

Americans are often labeled as racist and intolerant, if that was true we would not have more nationalities and different cultures than any other country in the world.
Being American is a lessen tolerance and that is something we can’t experience in heaven, but I feel the lessen goes deeper than that.


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Is American where you live, or is American a belief in freedom and liberty for all?

Firstly let me state I believe we are here to learn from experience that we can’t have in heaven. And recently I have had two events in my life that have me confused as to the lesion I should be learning from them.

My Background: I’m just an average lower-middleclass Midwest American.

Experience 1: I have been researching my ancestry for about a year now, and I feel pride with my findings. So far my ancestors range from English noble that came to America in 1633, to peasant framer and serving maid from Prussia (Germany) in 1820. No slave owners, only union army soldiers, fought for America in the war for independence, etc.

Experience 2: Many people throughout the world, now are fighting and/or protesting for freedom and libe

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    Jun 27 2013: Dear Don,
    How about trying not to "should" on yourself?

    We are multi sensory, multi dimensional human beings, with many thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. We can believe in several different ideas at the same time, so it doesn't have to feel conflicted. For example, I am against war, and I support those people who have courageously fought wars....often for freedom.

    Do you think/feel you can continue having pride in your heritage, while not having pride for some other behaviors that may also be part of your heritage? I am proud of my father for example, for fighting in WWII. I am not proud of him for his abusive behavior with his family. We can be clear about the behaviors that we are proud of, and those we are not proud of.....make any sense?
    • Jun 27 2013: Colleen, I have concluded that you must be far wiser than I am, seriously, because i usually agree and disagree with your comments.

      I completely agree that we can be ashamed of some behaviors and proud of others.

      But right now our bombs are killing citizens of Pakistan, our purported ally. Some of those victims are innocent bystanders, some are children. If a Pakistani were to ask me what it means to me to be an American, I would hope to have a better answer than conflicted thoughts and feelings, but I cannot, even after a great deal of thought. I admire the confidence with which Pat Gilbert can describe what it means to him. Perhaps that is the true meaning of being an American, continuing to believe in the ideals that our government seems to be bent on destroying. To me, that answer seems too easy and too self serving. I think a Pakistani, even an educated Pakistani, familiar with our history, would find it confusing at best and perhaps sadly naive.

      Considering the current situation in this country, I think this question deserves serious deliberation by all Americans. Perhaps the answer will point to a better path. Pat Gilbert's answer certainly does.
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        Jun 27 2013: Barry,
        I do not think even for a second that I am wiser than you. It seems like we are often on the same page, in my perception.

        I am not proud of killing people....especially innocent people. I certainly do not agree with all the decisions our government makes, nor am I often very proud of our government. That being said, I am proud of those who are willing to put their lives on the line for their/our country.

        In my travels through other countries, people always seem friendly and loving to me and traveling companions, and they often express something very different about our government. In my experience, however, people in other countries clearly separate individuals from our government's decisions. There have been plenty of times that I feel embarrassed by decisions my government has made, and it is not a mystery to me why the US is not a favorite among the world population.
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      Jun 27 2013: Thanks Colleen,
      Your post does make a lot of sense, and putting into context of a person’s good/bad behaviors is a train of thought I’m going to take.
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        Jun 27 2013: Don,
        To follow up on Barry's comment, we can also consider a governments good/bad behaviors? Do we judge all the people in a country based on the decisions a government makes?

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