“I am an American”

Feb 262007
Authors: Nick Hemenway

Let me ask you a question: Do we live in the greatest country in the world? To me, the answer is an emphatic YES!

Although small adjustments need to be made from time to time, the United States is the greatest country in the world. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there is no other country on earth I would rather pledge my allegiance to. But sadly, I feel I am one of a dying breed.

One of the love letters I received regarding my column last week, written by Mark Lanning, said I am privileged to be white because I can refer to myself simply as an American, unlike others who must identify themselves as African-American or Asian-American or some other hyphenated name.

After my usual chuckle at my letters, I realized this was a perfect example of how we as a nation are missing the mark.

When we meet someone for the first time, we usually ask what their name is, not “Are you an American, or are you an Asian-American?” Although it seems like a silly example, we don’t ask this because it is unnecessary.

I mentioned last week that my heritage is largely Swedish. In my family, we embrace this lineage. We even have the occasional Sm/rg/sbord, including a few brave souls partaking in some Inlagd sill (which is pickled herring to you and me). At the same time, if someone were to ask me if I were a Swedish-American, I would say no. I am an American.

When my relatives came to the United States years ago, they realized the only way they would make it in this new world was to adopt the American way of life as their own. They learned the language, they learned the culture, and they made a new life for themselves in this great land of opportunity.

Unfortunately, in recent times, immigrants to the United States have not made similar attempts to assimilate.

In what my homeboy Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., refers to as the “cult of multiculturalism,” we as Americans are taught to forget our similarities as a nation in favor of segregating ourselves into ethnic and racial clusters.

These days, many immigrants to the United States, especially illegal immigrants, are not accepting America as their own. Many come here to take a run at the American dream, but they don’t give America the credit.

For me, this theory was solidified last spring, amidst intense immigration debate in Congress, when “Mexican-Americans” protested the streets of cities across the country, with large demonstrations taking place in Denver.

I couldn’t ignore the irony of seeing thousands of people marching down the street proclaiming their place in America, while at the same time chanting in Spanish and waving the Mexican flag!

While it is important to know and love your family’s heritage, the foundation of an American identity cannot be lost. In order to survive as the superpower of the world, we must unite under one banner.

From a common language to a mutual respect for our laws and sovereignty, the almost extinct ideal of the American spirit must be preserved. Among all the things that we may disagree on, our allegiance should not be one of them.

Nick Hemenway is a senior mechanical engineering major. His column appears every Tuesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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