“I am proud to be an American.”
You shouldn’t be.
Before you freak, let me tell you what I’m not talking about.
You can be glad you’re an American. You can be grateful you’re an American. You can love America
and what it stands for. You can greatly respect and admire its accomplishments, and its freedoms.
You can proudly advocate and propound and be willing to fight and die for those values. In some cases, you can be rightfully proud of what you’ve done for
These are all well, good and proper, and I would never suggest that is bad.
But if that’s what you truly mean, that’s what you should say. None of the above means the same as the literal words “proud to be an American.”
Pride connotes some element of personal achievement. You can be proud of your achievements, or symbols of that achievement. You
can be proud of your descendants because you had something to do with their upbringing.
But what did you have to do to be an American rather than, say, a Mongolian?
There’s a nineteenth century joke about an Irish immigrant being asked, “Why weren’t you born
in America?” He replied, “I wanted to, but my mother wouldn’t let me.”
First-generation immigrants are the only ones with even a possible claim to pride, which is exactly the opposite of conventional
thinking. At least they had to consciously do something to be Americans, a lot more than anyone now living ever did to get one of their
ancestors on the Mayflower.
We all come from immigrants. Some just took an earlier boat.
Even Native Americans are immigrants. OK, they didn’t wait for the boat; they walked across the Bering Strait Bridge instead.
I bet when they did, though, the woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers were saying to themselves, “There goes the neighborhood.”
No matter how early or late your ancestors got over here, you didn’t get them over here, so how can you claim credit for it?
What Some Really Mean By That
A lot of people think the following:
America is a great country.
I am an American.
Therefore, I am great.
For those of you who really mean that when you say, “I’m proud to be an American,” you’re not praising America. You’re praising yourself.
Besides, it’s silly. Just being an American bestows no greatness or superiority upon you. One episode of Jerry Springer should tell you that.
America may give you the chance to become great, but America does not and cannot make you great.
America was founded for the most part by people who wanted to get the hell away from people who thought that they were the only great or superior ones just because of their birth.
They wanted a place where they could earn the right to be great and superior, and not be constrained by a society based on ancestor worship. They wanted to be their own ancestors.
Outside of a few generations’ worth of trust-fund kids here and there, and some social societies dedicated to descendants of early boat-takers, that’s pretty much what we have today.
America is what you make out of it, not what you can get out of it.