What is an American? | Teen Ink

What is an American?

November 20, 2014
By MoonBean PLATINUM, Lafayette, Colorado
MoonBean PLATINUM, Lafayette, Colorado
39 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be a girl with a mind, a woman with attitude, and a lady with class." ~Unknown


How would you label yourself? Would you be “pretty,” or “smart,” or “kind and gentle?” How about “American?” Which, of course, brings us to the question: What is an American? We are rebellious and headstrong, William Bradford says in his novel Of Plymouth Plantation. Not outright, of course, but he does talk about the wilderness and what we faced when we first stepped onto our soil. We simply refused to die out. In this way, Americans are headstrong, rebellious, people. In some ways, we are more bad than good. As well as being headstrong and rebellious, we are also blind. We attack anyone who dares to stand up against us, even if that means we attack our own people. This is exemplified in the Iroquois Constitution by the Onondaga Council of Chiefs- those Americans simply wanted peace, but we decided to give them a mass slaughter instead. Lastly, Americans are oblivious, which is proven in Maureen Dowd’s article “Liberties; Drill, Grill, and Chill.” We are sheltered from much of the world’s harsh reality- we are in a nearly inescapable American Bubble. An American is hundreds of things, all woven evenly together- at least, that’s what it seems. In reality, the bad side tends to dominate a little more...

 

An American is rebellious, brave, and headstrong. Many hundreds of years ago, we stood up against King George and just up and left because we weren’t satisfied with the way we were living. The first Americans sailed across the sea for however long it would take until they hit land. They were stubborn enough to believe that they would succeed, that they would find land, and they sure did! When the first Americans arrived on the Mayflower, one man- William Bradford- described the sight in his book Of Plymouth Plantation as “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men- and what multitudes there might be of what they know not.” All the Pilgrims wanted, after many harsh months at sea, was to be welcomed with open arms into warm homes with good food and a place to sleep. They got none of this, but did they fall to the ground and mope? No! We Americans pushed right on through and built whole towns! We rose like a phoenix from the ashes of oppression- and look where we are now. As goes the quote by Dr. Ian Malcolm,  “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” We were so consumed with expanding and spreading and living that it didn’t even occur to us that some things shouldn’t have been created- we just whipped them into existence. We saw the opportunity, and we seized it.

 

While Americans can be headstrong, which may be good in some situations, it can be bad in others, especially when we began to move West and spread out. However, this westward expansion showed that we can also be blind- we attacked the Native Americans, our own kind, and no one for years stopped and thought, “Hey, maybe I’m attacking the wrong people here.” The Onondaga Council of Chiefs wrote in the Iroquois Constitution that they planted “the Tree of Great Peace” so that everyone- the Whites and Native Americans- could live in harmony. They wanted to help the Europeans survive and teach them how to use the land. Sometimes, this worked well- like in the instance of the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were grateful to the Natives for teaching them how to work the land and as a result, a nice, peaceful banquet took place. Most of the time, however, the Native Americans weren't so lucky. The white people, as they moved westward, began a clash of cultures that is, in some ways, even still present today. They destroyed and moved in on what has once been Native American land. The Americans got into many skirmishes with our supposed “brothers,” resulting in many American deaths and even more Native deaths. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this was when a Native shot and killed a single US officer. And what did we Americans do? We shot and killed up to 300 Natives, some say. Overkill, to say the least. This day is a dark smear on our past: known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. But we Americans didn’t stop there. Oh, no. We took their land and food, forced them westward onto smaller and smaller pieces of land, and murdered them by the hundreds, even when all they wanted was peace.

 

An American is also, unfortunately, somewhat oblivious to their surroundings. I suppose this is also proved in paragraph two, but there are many more reasons why we are so. We live in a protective “bubble,” a place in which we can get anything we want with a metaphorical clap of the hands. Maureen Dowd’s article “Liberties; Drill, Grill, and Chill” states this perfectly: “We want big. We want fast. We want far. We want now.”  We are always striving for something that they can't have. Once we get something, all we want is the Something 2.0. We want a better version of it- one that's bigger, shinier, and sleeker; instead of a purring kitten, we want a snarling lion. We view most things as disposable- "Oh, that truck toy my son was playing with? It broke, so I'll just upgrade from The  Plain Truck to The Super Huge Enormous Shiny Big Wheeled Fantastic Truck With Authentic Truck Sounds." No biggie. However, Americans must realize that things will run out. In our heads is stuck the belief that everything lasts forever; unfortunately, this is the exact opposite. Wake up and smell the burgers, people! Reality check: Nothing. Lasts. Forever. Sure, it may last days, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, even, but it will eventually run out. One such example of our stubborn obliviousness is a discussion from Tumblr. One person posted “Imagine if trees gave off WiFi signals. We'd be planting so many, and we'd probably save the planet too.” Another person puts forward this frank sentence: “Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe.”


An American is many things, and not all of them are good. We have had some dark times in our past. If we don’t get slapped back to our senses, we very well may have many more dark times coming. However, if some of us can come to our senses, we’ll have the capability to change, most likely for the better. If this can happen, we will no longer be the stubborn, blind, and oblivious people; we’ll be the kind, good, amazing people, and perhaps one day we will be able to swiftly and simply tell anyone who asks what an American truly is.



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