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My America and what it means to me

Updated on November 18, 2015

What it means to be an American

Sure many countries are older than the United States of America and many have a longer history but there are differences with us.

When the Pilgrims first landed in America in the early 1600’s they came for religious freedom. They were a hardy bunch but many died in the winters that followed and there was much malnutrition since they did not know how to grow crops. Some kindly Indians who befriended them showed them how to use dead fishes put in the soil to help establish humus. It worked and people were able to eat. Then they received new seeds from the Indians to plant new crops and eventually things improved.

More and more settlers came for the same reason: freedom. In their case it was religious freedom. Settlements were all along the East coast as no one knew the extent of the land going West and it would be a long time before people knew America went all the way West to California. The true Americans were the Indians who were there but everyone else immigrated and colonies were established mainly British ones and later immigrants arrived from many European countries.

Moving ahead to 1776, America had a revolution against the British. Remember people in the 13 colonies were essentially subjects of Great Britain under the King but they all thought of themselves as American subjects of the King. When the issue of declaring independence came up, it was over taxation by the King and no representation for Americans in Parliament to have a voice in those taxes. The cry words were No taxation without representation—although some few were thinking far ahead. At first people declaring independence were not sure what type of government they even wanted. Surely the 13 colonies did not think of themselves as the United States of America yet. They were separate and wanted their own control over their lives with no strong leader as they had enough of the King. So they would be States but not necessarily united except as to independence which was reflected in the Articles of Confederation.

Luckily as things would happen the framers of the future Constitution realized to move forward and have a great country the people needed to unite and have a central government and provide laws for all the people. That then become the United States Constitution but only after it was agreed that there would be a Bill of Rights to add provisions to protect the right of the people which embodied the ideas of liberty, freedom and the right to speak and not be arbitrarily punished for your beliefs.

There were definitely things not include in the document and it was not perfect. African Americans did not get the rights they deserved nor women but understanding that to get 13 individual colonies to form states and agree to the constitution required compromises and one some of the new states had economies that depended on slaves so they did not get their freedom yet. It was not perfect but a compromise so a country could be formed because they needed all of the colonies which were now the new States to agree to it.

Women had to wait many years to get their rights even to vote. African-Americans waited many years to achieve equality and even today the country is in turmoil over it as I will discuss later. As the country became bigger and more industrious, protection had to be added for children who were then working in mines and sweat shops and this came later as well as did certain inherent rights for workers. All this took an evolution of time and things progressed positively although slowly as the country grew and expanded.

People came in droves to America. Some like the Irish came because of the potato famine in their country and the lack of food. Some came because of religious intolerance and many came because of political oppression. They all shared two things: they wanted freedom which America offered and they wanted to get ahead. There was no vibrant country better than America which was innovating and not stuck in the old ways. Everyone wanted to come here and were welcomed.

America was a marvelous place with millions of Europeans coming in during the 1800’s and early 1900s. Everyone living here today with the exception of American Indians can trace their forefathers back to some other country. In my case all four of my grandparents came from Europe and my mother arrived here at the age of eight. They all landed in New York and went to Ellis Island to be processed and then became part of the melting pot in New York. There were the Polish, the Irish, the Jews, the Italians and the Germans all living in tenements and trying to carve out a better life. No one spoke English but they all want to learn and become good Americans and they adopted English and took jobs and thrived. Adults even went to night school to learn to speak our language as they wanted to fit in with everyone and not stand out alone.

They all understood the way to succeed was learning the English language, getting an education and working hard. A slacker would not fit in with the young America. With time, many of the hard-working immigrant class in New York moved to other places as they went upward in society.

Think back to the marvels these people would experience since the founding of our country. Oil, central heating and air-conditioning, automobiles, airplanes, telephones, medical cures, and then eventually computers, TV, and the rest were just a few of he marvels to come all invented here

There was always an upward movement of innovation: Silent films became talkies, then color, Technicolor, Cinemascope and eventually movies on VHS, in the store and on your iPhone as well as the movie theater.

Same happened with the party line telephone which was coin-operated to the cell phones of today. The airplane and travel by automobile were also other examples of continuous improvement and innovation.

As a child, polio scared all young people during the summer. President Franklin Roosevelt got it as an adult and it did not segregate between color, age or sex. Then the cures came and eventually polio was wiped out except in parts of the world too backward to appreciate the huge significance of ending this crippling disease.

On the political front most people don't even remember George Washington as the first president. He had such profound admiration by the people at the time that if he wanted he could have stayed in power longer than the two terms he had. People would've accepted him as Emperor or King. However Washington truly believed in freedom and democracy and set us on the right course.

There's no question that the latest election is bringing out some of the worst characters running for president. Voters seem attracted to people as though they are reality TV stars and are not really looking at the big picture. Narrow interest groups control vast sums of money to influence people's votes. Where are the good people to stand up to them and demand we do the right thing? The values of our founding fathers and the people who fought hard for our rights have been replaced. Those wanting control on issues the majority of people do not really support seek ways to get around majority rule.

As for racial issues, sadly things are moving backwards. it is impossible to have a real dialogue because people are at both ends of the spectrum on the issue not in the middle. Many Blacks feel they are due something for the many years of slavery and segregation and Liberals believe they deserve more help. Conservatives on the other hand feel it has gone too far. People chant "black lives matter". Of course they do but in Chicago the vast majority of killings of black people, especially teens are done by other blacks, mainly members of gangs. Black Residents don't want to cooperate with the police but blame them for not doing more. Of course it does not help when you add to the mix a small segment of bad cops.

This sensational killing of individual black people by police that cause riots is mentioned repeatedly. In the case of Ferguson however, the facts show Michael Brown was actually a 275 pound 19-year-old who robbed a store owned by another minority with his friend and was clearly seen on the video shoving the store owner. The police officer who shot him was cleared of the offense as it developed the friend was lying when he claimed Michael Brown had his hands up or was shot in the back. Many of the witnesses were not witnesses at all. It was repeatedly questioned about the motivation of the police officer but no one questioned whether Brown looked like a linebacker on a football team and didn't seem to respect authority would actually meekly surrender to a policeman if he was a bully or confront him? This question could not be asked because you were either on one end of the spectrum or the other. It did not help that the President came out squarely in favor of Brown before all of the facts came out and further inflamed the matter. When he was cleared, the President never bothered to address the nation again to state that.

What followed then were protests which then developed into riots because some protesters wanted to stir up trouble and part of the city was burned down and looted. Black people burning down black stores in black neighborhoods. Why? How can this help them?

As for gangs, it is argued kids go into gangs because they lack opportunity. However in reality, many do it because of breakdown in the family unit. There is an emphasis on having babies without being married or any ability to support them and going on public welfare. This remark would be considered inflammatory but recently two unwed young mothers left their children with an eight-year-old who killed one of the babies while the mothers went out night clubbing. Husbands are not involved because they don't marry and there is no one to guide their children who need help especially at a young age other than a grandma. It is no wonder they look to a gang for companionship and authority. While it is even popular people in Hollywood to have babies without being married, the difference is they can afford to raise the kids and I doubt their intention was to have a baby just to abandon it or not nurture them.

So we can't have a dialogue about this inflammatory issue or many others in America today. When I was a young child, I recall two bullies – – one of each sex. Later in life the boy became a prominent judge. The girl became a clinical psychiatrist who also wrote several books. In high school one boy was always looked down at as being a troubled person while later in life he won and lost and won again a fortune as he became a millionaire. The road forward is never certain but it can happen if you try.

Yet with all of this negativism there is no better place than America. You don't go to jail for writing this and people won't normally behead you. Today's immigrants have changed. While many of course want the freedom and desire to get ahead, some are not interested in learning or adopting any of our customs. Why then did they come here? The Boston terrorists or the Army major or some of the others who killed Americans rebelled against the very freedom we offer. The young kids who want to leave here to join ISIS as they are brainwashed are all sharing in American values. We are not perfect and are still evolving. Of course we want immigrants to come to the United States because we are all the product of immigration. What we don't want are people coming here to say we want you to be like we were in our native land that we were escaping from.

Why would members of Al Qaeda or Isis want the world turned back centuries? It is shocking to see terrorists destroying everything from antiquity trying to bring us back in time. That was done centuries ago with the destruction of the library in Alexandria. Destroying knowledge to pretend it does not exist is both tragic and wrong. If that was their goal why do they use phones to speak, vehicles to get around, airplanes to go from country to country, and of course the Internet and every modern convenience they so abhor when they want to rid the world of them. Do they prefer to be nomads in a desert on camel? Do they want to bring back illness, plague and constant violence?

To be an American is to want to be free and be able to try to get ahead. We don't want to look back: we want to look forward always hoping for a better future. We want to keep hoping for a better future as we keep developing products in business that will be needed in the years to come. We don't want someone coming here telling us they hate our culture or preaching in houses of worship that there should be a jihad against us. We are proud Americans in the land of the free and home of the brave.

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