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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

American exceptionalism through diversity and heritage

<ommonly known that human beings, due to our inherently social natures, enjoy being a part of groups larger than ourselves. Through these groups, we find basic comfort, safety, and joy. Being a part of a tribe allows us to face adversities head-on, as we know that an ample support system exists that ensures we do not have to struggle alone. At the most basic level, such a role is fulfilled by our individual families, by those who are expected to both love us unconditionally and structure their lives according to our needs. Beyond family, society gives us friends, peers, and coworkers, all different groups that fill different niches that complement each other and add order to our lives.

All of the aforementioned structures and groups interact with us on a daily basis, and we very easily see the tangible benefits we acquire from such relationships. Yet, there is another binding web that holds us together, a force that gives us easy identifying power while remaining, for the most part, glossed over and ignored. That force is national identity, and for most of us on this campus, that means American identity.
For the longest time, I struggled with what “being American” truly meant and entailed. I knew it meant more than just having a United-States-issued passport with the hologrammed transcript of “The Star Spangled Banner” and the glittering bold image of the bald eagle. If I was to continue to feel pride towards my country, I needed to understand it more.

Growing up in a Latino household, my customs and traditions were unavoidably different from those of my closest friends in my Connecticut town. In my house, football was replaced by soccer, tamales were consumed on Christmas Eve, and Spanish was the only language permeating through the corridors. Yet, I have never felt out of place in the land of hot dogs and Superbowl Sunday. I went to school, made many friends, complained about the work, and played video games. Every Veterans’ Day, my family and I would pay tribute to our country’s brave heroes by attending the town parades, and every Fourth of July we would enjoy the luminous fireworks displays. Never did I doubt my standing in the national community, nor did I question the steadfast acceptance I felt from others who were different from me.

America has been, and always will be, an integral part of my identity. I realize now that what makes America a great nation is the fact that there is, in fact, no one way of being an American. We all choose how to manifest our own national identities in different ways. Being American means acknowledging all that we have inherited from the great generations that preceded us. It means remembering the sacrifices made by young men and women all over the world for our own safety and freedom or for the safety and freedom of others, which are represented by our collective memories of Iwo Jima, Vietnam, and the streets of Fallujah. It means striving to protect the ideals enshrined in our founding documents, to keep the spirit of liberty and equality alive and to continue to push it forward. America, therefore, is also symbolized by struggle and, at times, scalding discord for the greater good, as epitomized by the Civil Rights Movement, war protests, and other demonstrations that have allowed us, as a country, to question our own moral foundations and build a better nation in the process.

 Being proud of one’s nation doesn’t mean providing its leaders with a carte blanche to act in any way it sees fit, nor does it mean condoning deplorable actions made in the name of its citizenry. True pride shows itself in the relentless questioning of policy, in the constant drive to remind whatever demagogues may be in power that they cannot act unperturbed without paying heed to our calls for justice and righteousness. To show our love of country, we must stand up to those who seek to sacrifice its fundamental values for their own twisted and egotistical reasons.

Given the current state of affairs that our nation is struggling through, it is understandably harder to proclaim a love for this country, but we cannot allow ourselves to fall into that trap. We must always recognize that the United States, as a nation, is far more than any man could ever hope to be, that its strength in tolerance and virtue is indomitable, and that the goodness of its people will inevitably prevail, no matter how long it may take to get there.

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