Cutting Edge Magazine
The United States, once known as the melting pot, is fast becoming gravy with lumps. If you were asked, “Why are you an American?” how would you answer? Are you an American because you were born in America? Maybe you’re an American because you’re a Christian? Some may say that we are Americans because of our form of government or the political party we belong to. But by these things Americans are not made, though popularly recognized.
Any news from an international broadcast will always refer to our country as the “United States.” Even here at home, from classrooms to churches to the mainstream media, we usually refer to our own country as the “United States.” America is the United States. The preamble to our Constitution calls us as much, but the popular term for our nation was altogether different until this century. When early Americans referred to “America,” they said, “Union.”
What is the difference between the “United States” and “Union.” Nothing, I suppose, in terms of our form of government. But everything in terms of the psychology of a nation.
When early Americans, from the Founding Fathers to citizens, and successive leaders through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used the term “Union,” there was an attitude that some unseen force of will, or agreement had formed an indissoluble bond between more than states and territories—but the actual people themselves. Though the heritage of each citizen differed, from English to French, German to Spanish, or any other nationality, each person was an American, part of a union of peoples under some commonality. What is that commonality?
In 1991 commonality is hard to find. With few exceptions, every community is divided into camps. In larger cities, prejudices form invisible fortress walls that define cultural territories. Every city has its Hispanic quarter, it white upper-class boundaries, its congregated Blacks, and even Indians. Larger cities like New York and San Francisco have Asian, Japanese, Russian, and Arab quarters. In each division of each community, subcultures are maintained. In the name of “heritage” cultural differences are actually accentuated. From simple things such as foods to the more complex : history, ideology, politics, and religious practice. When carried to their exclusionary extreme, these become lumps in the gravy. There are few “Americans” anymore, there are Mexican Americans, and African Americans, and Arab Americans, and every other “American” that can be made but the lone “American.” They are divided into “communities,” the Black community, the Hispanic community, there are even communities based not upon race, but sex, lifestyle, and political thought—the Women’s movement, the Gay community, the Christian community.
So, what makes you an American?
When Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay made their case for the formation of one federal, political entity, they did it based upon several well-known ideas, not the least of which was the pre-exiting cultural union of the American people. A culture that existed prior to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution itself.
John Jay, when building the case for one American nation, one union of American people, had this to say in the Federalist Papers: ‘With equal pleasure I have often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people… speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence.”
What the Fathers called “Inequality,” what Abraham Lincoln called “Sectionalism.” What some have referred to as “Nationalism,” is now known, with its variances, as “Multiculturalism.” It is esteemed as positive in education, necessary for global citizens and encompassing all the good of the world’s cultures, religions and histories. Yet, its extremities could have made the American Revolution of no effect, separated the nation permanently over slavery, made fascism viable in the thirties and forties, and it offers civil rights a chance to tum in on itself.
We have digressed from a melting pot to gravy with lumps. Multiculturalism is really cultural separatism—a reverse racism. It is foreign to the historical American ideal.
Preserving individual heritage isn’t such a bad idea, but America is not about holding to our ancestry at the expense of all else. America is supposed to embody something greater than our bloodlines, ancestries, and love of cultural differences. America is to be a single nation of varied peoples united by a common idea and set of values best espoused in the famous line: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Ancestry has value, but how we conduct ourselves is of much greater importance.