Who is an American?

Bridging the silos of a diverse cultural landscape:

“I Wish This President Would Learn How to Be An American”

 John Sununu appeared on CNN July 17, and apologized for his phrasing that he wished Obama, “would learn how to be an American.” But he didn’t back down from the general attack on Obama’s job creation record. “I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have used those words,” he said. “I’m apologizing for those words, I shouldn’t have used them.”

The apology is a good step in the direction of civility. However, the initial emotional statement brings up an interesting question as we move beyond partisan politics to the heart of the matter.  Who is an American?

Is an American one who has a flag or wears a flag pen? Is it one who votes for the Grand Old Party or the Democratic Party? Is it the one who has the largest audience on talk radio or is it the conglomerates that control network TV news? Is it the 99 percenters or the Tea Party? Ethnically speaking, is an American someone that doesn’t have a hyphenated cultural designation (i.e., Native – American, African – American, Mexican – American, Asian – American) vs. the Anglo who is never referred to as a European – American.

Religiously speaking, is an American only a Christian vs. other religions? Or within the Christian faith, are Americans only those of certain denominations or doctrines? Polarization with its defining rhetoric can be an exasperating obstacle of freedom of any nation desiring to be free. This kind of division will destroy a nation. The bible says:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” Galatians 5:15 The Message (MSG)

 Freedom has always been a complex issue of this nation in light ofE pluribus unum” which means, “Out of many, one.”  The freedom of those different factions overriding the liberties of others has been a constant concern. For example, the original Native Americans that inhabited this land, fell victim to the so-called Manifest Destiny of the Anglo Americans seeking their freedom from British tyranny.

We must recoil from the “King maker mentality” of not just majority rule but majority overwhelms, humiliates and takes the spoils of all others. And not just a literal majority, but the so-called moral majority, which stands on the premise of some divine superiority. One of the biggest xenophobic feelings of the some in the dominant culture/ethnic group is that their historic treatment of ethnic minorities will be reciprocated upon themselves as the demographics of America changes.

Xenophobia rises. Never disappearing, it recedes from prominence, and makes frequent unwelcome returns. Unlike the proverbial unwanted guest who merely stays too long, xenophobia terrifies the host with the possibility that it will never leave, and forever ruin the act of hosting, sheltering, and giving sanctuary. Close the doors, give no shelter, tear down the sanctuary: this is what the majority desires.”  Ronald R. Sundstrom is an associate professor of philosophy and African American studies at the University of San Francisco

 Christ’s true followers on all sides of the ethnic/cultural divide must not fall into the trap of defining Americans by xenophobic impressions. We first must remember that we are one nation Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all, not of the authority of the constitution only, but that of God himself allowing all people including Americans, to take part in “Building the Bridge Together” over the ethnic/ cultural divide

 Kevin Robinson, Executive Director of Accord1

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