TED Conversations

Don Anderson


This conversation is closed.

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

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.


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


Closing Statement from Don Anderson

I just noticed that when I added the up-date at the top it cutoff some at the bottom.
Basically Experience 2 was feeling shame for the current America and how all the founding values gone, and asked how to address the confecting feelings.
I have concluded that I can feel pride for upholding the founding values of America, and as I witness its fail I should feel sadness instead of shame. And find comfort in that like the Roman Empire it values will live on thought out the world, even though it exists in name only.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 8 2013: To Do Anderson:

    Please recheck your facts.I have great doubts that your noble English ancestors who arrived in 1663 did not own slaves.It was the practice of the day that most ,if not all, English nobleman ( including the so -called founding fathers --what a moral dilemma for or nation) in the 16th,17th,18th did own African slaves and or had indentured Irish servants ; as well as had usurped ,or simply put, stolen land from the Native Peoples.That explains why most Americans of English ancestry would have had a stock of ill-gotten loot of land and free labor on which they built the economic activities of agriculture,small scale industries ( e.g Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had large tracts of land and a small nail-making venture ; both based on free labor and free land which he owned and or added from his marriage--George Washington also ,I read in William C F Pierce.YOUR LOTTERY TICKET that George Washington was a Commissioner Of The Lottery where the winning prize was free African Slaves). And these stock of wealth was passed down inter-generational for many years.
    The economy in general benefited from such an immoral arrangement.But those people of early English nobleman or common ancestry ( from the colonial and later days) directly would up to present were at birth privileged and benefited from ill-gotten land and labor factors in their property assets.

    It is not clear if in your particular case the same was true from that part of your ancestry.
    Again; my point is to acknowledge what had generally happened in history and what was the norm . We should acknowledge the brutality and exploitation that occurred in our tortured history We should therefore not wonder that a large part of the landed gentry and the earlier barons of industry, mining,transportation and agricultural plantations would be people of English ancestry .And; on the other hand the opposite prevails in The Native Peoples and in African American population sector
    • thumb
      Jul 8 2013: There may be a yet an undiscovered slave owner, most were Missouri farmers and many fought for the union army. My English noble ancestor that came to America in 1633, was John Neville and he was a planter. You can Google “John Neville born in 1612” for the full story.

      My guess is that he was not the oldest son, like my another ancestor David Traill, son of “William Traill 1650” from Scotland.
      Although William was not nobility he did have a nice estate, and as normal in that time it all went to the oldest son and David came the America to make his way. I also have an ancestor sent the America in bondage for being a supporter of King James II.

      So even though there where American slave owners, most were not exploiters, brutal and/or slave owners.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.