What does it mean to be an American?
This is an article I wrote for another media outlet, but I thought it would work because of our upcoming series, “Jesus, the Ultimate Politician”, coming May 19th.
I write this article in an international airport. I write this article embracing the naive, perhaps slightly narcissistic, assumption that “American” means United State of American, and we forget the relationship with Canadians, Mexicans, and other Latinos in Central America who all have lives and humanity in other American areas. I write this article while observing international people in America, remembering my time serving and enjoying six different countries. I write this article while remembering working with members of the Sioux tribe in Mission, SD, mentoring college athletes from all over the world in my dorm during undergrad, and hosting high school and college students into the diverse inner-city of Nashville, TN. I write this article while holding tight to my formal academic education that taught me about the roots of “American” history digging deep into religious structures.
My mind is currently like a multi-ingredient intellectual Blizzard, with all of the ingredients passionately fighting to get me to notice their individuality. The primary ingredient of Sioux, and other Native Americans, gets transformed by all of the little pieces of European immigrants from the past several centuries. Those new pieces, once so potent, now dwindle in influence as chunks from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East begin to change the structure of this ever-changing Blizzard.
Like The Campfire, The Brownie Dough, Royal Oreo, and so many other delicious Blizzards, should we we also have a catchy name for the cultural Blizzard that describes what it means to be an American? Should centuries of negative and positive innovations, battles, relationships, and heartaches experience the summation by two to three words? A mixed treat by the name People of Passionate Purpose highlights the people who led innovation and revolution but overlooks individuals who have, for years, been taught of their inability to succeed, embracing an apathetic lifestyle. A mixed treat by the name Compassionate Christian Comrades embraces a traditional reality that doesn’t exist and may have never actually existed in Americans as a populous. The traditional one-sighted, sometimes legalistic, perspective forgets that the forefathers of this great land paved a place of religious freedom, entirely. In this analogy of a mixed treat, this is where lactose intolerant comes into the equation. Sometimes embracing what we thought was the foundation of our country makes others sick because of either transformation or misinterpretation over the years.
Honor, pride, trust, passion, innovation, craftiness, loyalty, and many other traits (negative and positive) are just a few of the chunks that dive through the filter of event and time orientation, shame and honor cultures, efficiency and hospitality focus, and many other unique principles that allow elements to get blurred into one great mixture. When enjoyed appropriately, the mixture tastes so pleasant. The problem is though, we treat this mixture as the main course instead of the dessert. The main course is that of humanity. We must embrace humans as humans before we enjoy the treat of individuality. Eating any dessert in place of the main course does not lead to a pleasant bed time.
What does it mean to be American: It means you are an individual flavor in a complex mixed treat. One question is, will those observing the treat known as American culture taste your flavor? The other question is, will you focus too much on the treat and forget that the real importance is humanity?