I am an American, a “true American” even.
“Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.” - Abraham Lincoln
With tomorrow being the 4th of July (and with it being an election year) I keep seeing people talk about how they are “true Americans” and that others aren’t. Who exactly do these people think they are? What is the definition of an American - of a true American?
I believe that the people who are truly American are those who believe in, and live by, American principles - the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. In other words, people who adhere to the idea that all people (American or not) have undeniable, irremovable, inalienable Rights. The phrase was included by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
So, in the very document in which our forefathers called for our nation’s freedom, we stated the understanding that ALL men were given rights, “endowed by their creator.” Let’s pick this apart.
We can start with the unalienable Rights.
Life. The Right to Life. So, we all have the Right to live. Does that mean simply that we have the Right to protection if someone tries to kill us or kills someone we love? Hell no. And it’s not just about the controversies of doctor-assisted-suicide or abortion or the death penalty. Life is about so much more than the physical body we possess. The Right to Life is about the Right to experience, learn, and grow. To me, the Right to Life is about education, growing in your mental Life. It’s about the Right to practice any Religion or Faith that allows you to grow in spiritual Life. It’s about the Right to Healthcare, maintaining your physical Life. It’s about living your LIFE.
Liberty. The Right to Liberty. Give me liberty or give me death. - Patrick Henry, 1775. Liberty literally means “the state of being free” or rather having free will. Patrick Henry, wanting to begin the Revolutionary War and gain freedom from Britain, used this phrase to inspire his fellows to recognize that without free will, we have nothing. Free will means having the ability to make decisions for yourself. Free will is, as Henry argues, equivalent to life because if it is taken away, we are but drones - machinery in a factory producing filth and killing the Earth. The Right to Liberty is the Right to Expression - to speak, to dress, to dance, to write freely. It’s the Right to Assembly and Association. It’s is a woman’s Right to choose, not only in regards to abortion, but to all her healthcare needs. It’s about the Right of any person to have a mind and use it.
the Pursuit of Happiness. The Right to pursuing Happiness. No, it’s not just a sad and adorable movie with Will and Jaden Smith. Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Unarguably, this is vague - people have different views on what creates such a state. If you ask me, though, it’s pretty basic. This Right is the Right to equal-opportunity employment. You can say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly contributes to the states of well-being and contentment. People have the Right to equal-opportunity regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and so on. This is also the Right to equal-opportunity marriage - to finding a partner, loving them, and being recognized for it regardless of other people’s opinions about the union. And if you ask me, it’s the Right to having a dog (so long as you treat them right) - none of my other pursuits have ever brought me as much contentment and well-being.
All men are created equal. We all. ALL. ALL. get a slice of this pie. It doesn’t matter what your prejudices or opinions are. WE ALL GET THESE RIGHTS.
Endowed by their creator. Thomas Jefferson didn’t say God, but even if he did, who is to say he was talking about your God? Your God may not be mine. Mine may not be his or hers. IT DOESN’T MATTER. IT’S NOT YOUR BUSINESS. P.S. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. He thought Jesus was a great moral teacher, but not the son of God… or in his view, the son of A god. Sorry.
And just so we’re clear, inalienable. They CANNOT be taken away. So, when you say that two men can’t marry one another, you’re keeping Rights from those men, which were granted to ALL by a divine presence in the world. I don’t know about you, but I try not to mess with Higher Power like that.
So, IMO to be an American - a “true American”, is to allow others to have the things that ALL MEN have the Right to pursue. LIFE. LIBERTY. HAPPINESS.
To celebrate the holiday, how about opening your minds a little to the idea that none of us are any different. We all have the same basic needs and the same inalienable Rights.
Oh, and by the way, many countries have adopted this Lockean tripartite motto: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” in France; “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” in Germany; “life, liberty, and prosperity” in Australia; “life, liberty, security of the person” in Canada.
Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. ~Mark Twain
HAPPY 4TH OF JULY, AMERICA.
Marina Abramovic and Ulay
Death Self, 1977
This performance consisted of the two artists seated in front of each other, connected at the mouth. They took in each other’s breaths until all of their available oxygen had been used up. The performance lasted only 17 minutes, resulting in both artists collapsing unconscious to the floor, having filled their lungs with carbon dioxide. This personal piece explored the idea of an individual’s ability to absorb the life of another person, exchanging and destroying it. (Wikipedia)
“Some day you will look at your friend, and he will seem to you to be a little out of drawing, or you won’t like his tone of colour, or something. You will bitterly reproach him in your own heart, and seriously think that he has behaved very badly to you. The next time he calls, you will be perfectly cold and indifferent. It will be a great pity, for it will alter you. What you have told me is quite a romance, a romance of art one might call it, and the worst of having a romance of any kind is that it leaves one so unromantic.”
“Harry, don’t talk like that. As long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me. You can’t feel what I feel. You change too often.”
“Ah, my dear Basil, that is exactly why I can feel it. Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.”
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
..That’s what I’ve decided life is. Everything is so damn complicated; I never even know which way is up anymore. I’m so filled with emotions that I just want to lie in bed. I’m happy, I’m sad, I’m new, I’m old, I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m confident, I’m scared shitless. It’s ridiculous. And complicated. I feel empty because it’s too confusing to feel anything else.
So much has happened recently. And by recently, I mean using a number of measuring sticks - this week, this month, this year. I’ve changed a thousand-times over from the sulking girl I was at this time last year and yet, I don’t always feel it. Like I said, it’s complicated.
Facing the prospect of relocation in just 2 short months, while at the same time being unsure of where I’ll be if I’ll even be anywhere new at all… It’s complicated. I can’t wait to be somewhere new. I can’t wait for a new adventure. I can’t wait to put North Carolina in my rearview mirror, to put so much of this old life behind me. And yet, I’m terrified of it.